Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Supreme Court: Article 50 - miserere mei, deus


‘Today the Supreme Court will rule on whether the government needs military consent to begin the Brexit process.’

That kicked off the Radio 3 news bulletin at 6.30am today. I checked it on iPlayer. He really said military and not parliamentary. Valid until the end of February: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08bblrh  

Well, it's a thought, isn't it. And anyone can make a mistake. Including an electorate. And an electoral college. Trump and Brexit have normalised waking up in a panic.

Each day I give oracular significance to whatever is playing on Radio 3 when I switch it on. Today it’s Allegri's Miserere for the service of shadows, the Tenebrae. One by one the candles go out. Music to echo through toxic particulates after the end of the world.


Facts are useful at times like these. And at all other times.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.

On with the motley. Sheep and goats - wool vest, cashmere jumper, mohair wrap (there’ll be a wait outside in the cold). Daily grief. Pencil sharpener.

A woman from the crowd-funded grassroots People's Challenge group, some of whom are in the queue, wishes she could go back to before 24 June when she wasn't interested in politics and didn't have to give media interviews.

Because UK Supreme Court judges are blessedly not chosen for their political allegiance, we don’t know what the ruling will be. The sightlines in the packed courtroom are terrible for a short person, but for connoisseurs of tension the atmosphere is a collector’s item.

Lord Neuberger briskly reads out a summary of the judgment. You know what it is by now. No intake of breath, no gasp of surprise. The mischief-makers wanted the full Monty – a nod to the devolved powers and a court case in Europe – but the grown-ups are content with the outcome.









There’s an orderly press pack outside. ‘Have we got anyone bigger than Jeremy Wright?’ a television journalist asks his telephone, referring to the Attorney-General. The previous AG, Dominic Grieve QC MP, is strolling around in a nice beige coat looking pleased. Despite Radio 3 there are no tanks on Parliament Square and Big Ben has not yet struck 13 although it's shaping up that way across the pond.




As Laura Kuenssberg is being filmed, Gina Miller – poised and radiant but not triumphing – walks past with her entourage. Kuenssberg hastily finishes then sprints after her in clicky heels.


A ‎German journalist, polished and prosperous-looking, does a measured piece to camera out of my earshot, but I don't think my schoolgirl German would have been up to it. The British pack pay him no attention. 

Maybe they should.









Lincoln turns his back on it all











Coda: Nightmares collide on Friday when the member for Maidenhead meets Mr Trump. In preparation, here is the correct way to grab a pussy, demonstrated by American ballet students posing as the White Cat and Puss in Boots in Petipa's Sleeping Beauty.






Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The UK Supreme Court Yearbook: an amateur writes

Amazon is offering a mint condition Jackie Annual 1976 for £2,912.91. I was not allowed to read Jackie on grounds of financial, moral and intellectual austerity, but stolen glances suggested it was weak on coverage of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. Spotters will be relieved to hear that The UK Supreme Court Yearbook Volume 7 (2016) is just £90 with free worldwide shipping.

I am reviewing it not as a lawyer but as a tax-paying dilettante. So let’s start with a daft social media meme: ‘Grab your nearest book, and open it to page 117. What's the second sentence you see? What does it mean about your 2017?’

Here goes. ‘The door was opened by the colonel, and one of the other defendants immediately shot him dead.’ It means that 2017 is the same as all my other sentient years, a copy-editing exercise, so I’m going to say leave out the comma and the adverb.

Change gear – we’ve landed in a masterly analysis of joint enterprise following the Supreme Court judgments in Jogee and Ruddock written by Julian Knowles QC, who led for Ruddock and acknowledges the support he received from Associate Professor Matthew Dyson, Dr James Mehigan, Matthew Blower and Jessica Jones. Anyone interested in joint enterprise – student, academic, lawyer, journalist, politician, campaigner – would gain from studying this learned, humane and approachable text. 
Jogee, 28 October 2015

Knowles’s essay is in the Commentaries and reflections section, which starts with Lord Neuberger on Judicial innovation in the UK Supreme Court. The daily assaults of Brexit news and the unwelcome fragility of the Union (I’m a headbanging remoaner, get over it) provide a shudder-making backdrop to the quest for openness, accessibility and inclusivity in his article.

Lord Neuberger concludes with a gentle reminder to our elected masters: ‘…the Government is proposing to make available a large sum of money to overhaul both the physical and the electronic infrastructure of the courts. There will be fewer but larger and more modern court buildings throughout the UK, and the antiquated and fissiparous IT systems in the courts will be replaced by a modern system.’ Let’s hope. But fissiparous is the current word for the kingdom too.

What a shower. We're all doomed
The next section, The protection of human rights by the UK Supreme Court symposium, includes a fascinating discourse on opacity/transparency by Kirsty Brimelow QC, Into the dark: rights, security and the courtroom.

For ‘rare in camera cases and exceptional departures from open justice’ Brimelow suggests ‘allowing designated members of the press to inspect any secret material. Otherwise, they are arguing for an unknown. Undoubtedly, this leads to speculation which may be more damaging than the actual material sought to be withheld’.

But who would want to be in charge of designating members of the press, given the dwindling number of trained legal reporters, some inexcusable coverage of the Divisional Court Article 50 judgment, the once great Daily Telegraph’s recent invention of the Supreme Court Justice ‘Lord Hudges’ [sic] and casual misreporting of facts in cases attended by yours truly? Not to mention the wholesale sacking of sub-editors who could have caught journalists’ growing inability to restrain predictive text. ‘Geniality’ instead of ‘genealogy’ (Telegraph again, misquoting counsel in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council case Pringle). Dear me, is anyone awake?

Starry QCs contribute to the following sections, Thematic analyses of the 2015-16 legal year and The 2015-16 legal year in overview, which range alphabetically from administrative law and judicial review to restitution and unjust enrichment. They provide an authoritative crib for anyone who needs to swot up on their specialism, which is everyone. 

Miller in the Supreme Court
At the time of going to press, Article 50 had not reached the Supreme Court. Lord Millett PC QC examines the Divisional Court’s decision in Miller, while Dominic Grieve QC MP elegantly disses Brexit. The Supreme Court’s case load, he writes, ‘could perhaps act as a salutary reminder for politicians of some of the complex issues with which we are going to have to grapple. One also starts to feel sorry for the Court, which spends its time trying to clarify existing law only to have it all turned upside down before its eyes.’  My sole contact with this great mind has been to warn him off the salt and vinegar crisps. I thought he’d prefer lightly salted, on no evidence at all.

The Yearbook ends with statistics for Wisden types. Whizzing back to the beginning, we have an introduction by Daniel Clarry and Christopher Sargeant, joint editors-in-chief of the Yearbook series, Judicial panel selection in the UK Supreme Court: bigger bench, more authority? This is followed by a foreword by Robert French, the just-retired Chief Justice of Australia: Australia and the United Kingdom: a bit like family, much in common but a lot of difference.

I know you can write a better review, because you have legal training and stuff. Please do.

The frontispiece, drawn by me, features Colin Edelman QC and his natty tailoring in Versloot Dredging BV v HDI Gerling Industrie Versicherung AG. I am very touched that instead of being reproduced on ordinary run-of-book stock it has been allowed some posh coated paper, and the colour reproduction is faithful to the original. This is a high quality number.

For details, please see https://www.ukscy.org.uk/


Monday, 2 January 2017

Satanic yoga

'What's satanic about it?' I ask. The reply comes later.

Yoga in Black, described unofficially if not on the website as satanic, recoils from modish body fascism in stark white-walled crucibles.

Instead, it is uncompetitive in kind lighting with a soundtrack described as dark ambient, doom metal, drone and Gothic rock.

The finer distinctions elude me but the main thing is that the music isn't loud - you can hear the teacher speaking quietly.

The theme is acceptance and for those who know their chakras it's a variation of Dru yoga. There's plenty of movement and it all looks achievable, unlike the contortionist stuff of the fanatics.




I barely notice the soft-sell paganism. Then I have a hellish four hours with a flat tyre in the cold, dark and rain. 

Just as I am thoughtfully examining the gel-filled pee bags kept in the glove box, someone emerges from the nearest house with several bags of post-festivity rubbish and recycling. 

This denotes a life of civic virtue and social contact, rather than an axe-man in drag, so I ask to use the lavatory. And when the repair man turns up, I take up the sainted Lucia's offer of refuge with her family for the hour it takes him to fix the tyre.

She says I look 'overwhelmed', not 'demonically possessed', please note. A bossy Dachsund called Colin teaches me a ball game. This is the closest I get to a family Christmas.

More pictures if you scroll down.