Wednesday, 29 March 2017

I am dying, Europe, dying

I've just done a swathe of English things.

I don't normally watch telly at 9am but this is Hue and Cry, the Ealing comedy/adventure from 1947, a love-letter to bombed-out London. Street kids in hand-me-downs outwit the powerful enemy. The population is lean; sugar and meat still rationed; the NHS unborn.

The kids escape along sewer tunnels without waders. Amid the odd fist-fight, the film celebrates kindness, inclusion and defence of the weak. You know, those values we're chucking down the sewer.

I set out for the anti-Brexit march. A Christian is proselytising on the bus: 'Egypt means house of bondage,' he says. Babylon. But there are very few police needed on this demo.

In Park Lane we wait calmly for an hour and a half while coaches from the provinces disgorge polite campaigners. Damn, I've forgotten my Soho House membership card. I'd rather be a member of the EU though. I'm with a friend whose work is endangered by Brexit. He designs MRI scanners. Nah, we don't need those any more. We protest along Piccadilly, nip in to use the loos in a club off St James's, and end up in front of the speeches in Parliament Square. Gallant losers. Numbers are estimated at between 25,000 to 100,000.

I walk up Bond Street, past some contemptuous demo-chic. 

I turn to the best bit in The Times, the obituary column. Lucky Gordon is dead. He became a building block in the end of deference when his face was slashed by a jealous lover of Christine Keeler. What could expose the tribal English more than the Profumo affair - aristocracy, cruelty, hypocrisy, sex, money, drugs, Soho, Notting Hill, a fall guy driven to suicide - and the disapproving prism of a restricted childhood through which I uncomprehendingly read the gloating reports in Beaverbrook's Daily Express. 

I'm going to the RSC (kept alive by taxpayers, punters and corporate sponsors, all of whom will take a harsher view of their spend after Brexit).

I swot up by reading Plutarch's life of Julius Caesar: 'Writer after writer had entered the bitter controversy. Britain was just a name and a legend, they said; the island did not exist and never had existed. Now Caesar attempted to conquer it, and advanced the Roman Empire beyond the bounds of the human world. He sailed twice to the island from the opposite shore in Gaul, and in a long sequence of battles he did more damage to the enemy than good to his own men, for there was nothing worth taking from a people of such wretched poverty.'

I'm in denial. Brexit won't happen.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Supreme Court: ICLR OU mooting competition grand final

My safe word is remain.

That’s how I was going to begin this post when I thought that the case behind today's competition was R v Brown (Operation Spanner), about consent to sado-masochistic acts which incur actual bodily harm. I was polishing an analogy with Brexit.

But I hadn’t read the brief properly so I prepared for the wrong case. Are barristers’ nightmares made of this? Plus being bombarded by what Lady Hale cheerfully calls horrible questions? Quick, what’s the test for calculating the measure of damages in contract? What’s the test for direct discrimination? What are the facts of Schnorbus v Land Hessen?

Lady Hale is judging the ICLR Open University Law Society mooting competition. The level of nerves looks normal – even starry QCs can blush or address Lady Hale as ‘my Lord’, so the four finalists have nothing to worry about on that score.

Jacqueline Roque by Picasso

This court is not judgmental about looks but the Erin-O’Connor/Jacqueline-Roque-looking finalist can come back and model for Picasso.

The moot question involves a gay wedding, religious convictions and a contract to supply photography and catering.

I am pathetically relieved to see that I know a little about two of the authorities mentioned in the notes – Preddy v Bull, which I sat in on here as Bull v Hall, and Gough v the UK concerning the Naked Rambler, two of whose appearances I attended at Winchester Crown Court.

Top tip for contestants: if there’s a microphone, it’s your friend, so know where it is. Old hands take time to adjust a desk mike if necessary.

Another tip: criteria plural, criterion singular. That gets clocked here. Along with everything else.

And a final tip for life from Lady Hale: ‘When you realise you’re on to a loser, you move on to the next point.’

After giving what is in effect a tutorial, she compliments the finalists on standing up to her interrogation very well. ‘I must be a natural sadist,’ says Lady Hale.