Admiring Fawkes on Parliament and Courts; Libertarian Party Manifesto for Home Affairs Pt. 2
The Libertarian Policies on Laws and Courts. In this article, we shall be covering the Home Affairs policies of the UK Libertarian Party. In this part, we discuss laws, Parliamentary Privilege, and the court system.
Here are the five sections so far (as articles complete, links to each section shall be added):
2. Law and courts
Due to the denseness of this manifesto, I shall be dividing it into five parts, and releasing them over the month. In each part, I shall look at 7 policies in each section (as so many of their ideas are so small I cannot write anything about them, or so vague I don’t understand what they want to do). Here is the vague and vaguely Big Brother-esque tagline:
Part Two: Laws and Courts
Policy 8: No more Crown Prosecution Service, Now use Elected Magistrates
The question is, why do we have non-elected officials in our judicial system? Is it because politicians are horribly corrupt? Is it because our political system is famously broken, and having elected officials will quickly move towards Labour Party prosecutors here and Conservative Party judges there? I look forward to when a case involving an immigrant is “fairly” handled by a member of the Brexit party. Is it because what is popular is not always right, and we need judges and prosecutors who are able to tell the government and tell the people that this man or woman is innocent or guilty? Even if it makes them unpopular? Without fear of losing their job? And having them elected means we will have a judiciary who doesn’t follow the rule of law, but the rule of popular?
The job of the Crown Prosecution Service is to prosecute or not prosecute; do you want these decision made by a non-quite politician? There is an argument for it reflecting society; if we need a more worker-friendly legal system, a Labour Party prosecutor would hunt down the companies; a Green Party Prosecutor would hunt down polluters, and so on. However, imagine if the applications of the laws was as efficient as the government which is supposed to write them?
Democracies don’t hire the best or most capable; they hire the most popular. We are about to have Boris Johnson; do you want Boris Johnson to handle a rape case? I wouldn’t.
The idea of democratising the legal system is something that sounds good, but means that you haven’t considered why we haven’t already done so, and why so few countries do so.
Policy 9: All new laws must be made against a Constitution
Policy 10: We will strengthen protections for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Property Rights
I completely agree with the majority of this. The condition of our basic human rights in the United Kingdom is getting worn away.
Let me pick the U.S. First Amendment: Freedom of Speech is dying, when the police arrest people for hurtful tweets (Johnson, 2019). Soon, internet websites the government deems as ‘harmful but not… illegal’ will be kept or removed from the U.K. by some government official (gov.uk, 2019b). Criticism of immigration policies will lead to arrests (Brooks, 2019). A man was arrested and fined for teaching his dog the Nazi salute (BBC, 2018). And when people cannot use their voices, then they will turn to other means.
How about Freedom of the Press? In the United Kingdom, under Section 40 of Data Protection Bill, forces publishers to pay both sides of a legal case, unless they sign up with a government approved regulator, and they will face ‘exemplary fines’ unless they will sign up. Of course, the government said it will repeal this…but it still hasn’t. (Parliament, 2018). There are also cases of journalists being arrested and now trying to flee to the U.S. for safety for live-streaming on issues of immigrant crime, normally sentenced with a fine, against government restrictions on the media reporting on three cases covered by this journalist (Quinn, 2019). In North Ireland, journalists Birney and McCaffrey were investigating the police, and when they got hold of documents the police didn’t like, they were arrested (BBC, 2019).
The Right to Privacy? The government has given the authorities the right to collect all of your data, and many members do not require a warrant to see them. It makes it mandatory for the Internet Service Provider to keep those records for them. These companies can encrypt their data, but must unlock it for the government (gov.uk, 2016).
The Right to Assemble? If you protest against the Chinese President visiting the United Kingdom, you will find your house being raided and yourself arrested (Walker, 2015).
Our rights are absolutely being eroded; the British government has shown tendencies towards authoritarianism, and Libertarian thought is a necessary counter to that thinking that we should all adopt as at least a check. Otherwise, our freedoms will be so slowly eroded like rain on a mountain.
Policy 11: Decriminalise sexual activity between adults
Again, I would have liked them to specify what is illegal that shouldn’t be. A quick look at the Sexual Offences Act (2003) seems to criminalise acts that most people would deem wrong; rape, sexual assault, child rape.
I imagine that they are discussing the prostitution issues, incest and possibly bestiality and necrophilia? The policy is too vague; almost nothing between two consenting adults that is actually illegal unless it involves danger, other crime, or someone who cannot consent.
This policy is too vague to mean anything.
Policy 12: All new legislation, laws, or regulation shall be tested against the terms of the Constitution and if in violation, rejected
I am actually in support of a Constitution of the United Kingdom; but under the current system of the United Kingdom, we cannot have a Constitution.
“No Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change” (Parliament, 2019).
It is part of our political system and tradition that situations change and laws can change with it; there is only a vague reference to powers within the Constitution in the Libertarian Manifesto on it, but nothing massively binding.
This isn’t the U.S. with a varied collection of de-centralised states and checks and balances; the U.K. Parliamentary system is designed to be powerful and effective, to get laws passed. Get that majority, hold the majority, and you can get anything through the House of Commons; this was the key to Tony Blair’s power.
It is, from my reading, simply impossible to bind future Parliaments to.
Policy 13: Revoke Parliamentary Privilege
Parliamentary Privilege has two parts; one is Freedom of Speech. Two is the right for Parliament to manage its own affairs.
The first one is the most important. Parliament can discuss anything without fear of prosecution, from slander, defamation, and general restrictions on speech (Parliamentary Privilege CM 8318; 2012). Let me explain why this is important. Let’s say a law is made that no-one can insult anyone who has Royal blood, and Parliament does not have Parliamentary privilege. Let’s say the Prime Minister is of royal blood. This Prime Minister decides to pass an Emergency Powers Act, that the country needs him to assume power. If you criticise him, it is against the law and you are removed from office. No one can speak against him. We return to a monarchy.
It’s a silly example, but it highlights exactly why we need a Parliament who can say anything, even things against the law or nasty. It is vital that free speech is kept as much as possible, especially at the only places that can limit government powers (if only temporarily), which is the government itself. If we bind the governments hands, then we reduce the ability to pass laws that we may need; although the Libertarian argument is that government is never the solution, so it may be by design.
The second privilege is that of Exclusive Cognisance (Parliamentary Privilege CM 8318; 2012). This is the law that Parliament can handle its own affairs to the running of Parliament, as long as it is in regards to the running of Parliament.
So Parliament cannot ignore fire safety laws; these do not interfere with the running of Parliament. Nor can they, I don’t know, say it’s okay for them to break the law. No, that sends MPs to jail (R v Chaytor and others (Appellants), 2010). But it means that they can, for example, put members onto a committee without giving them voting privileges even if it’s not part of the rules. It ensures the running of a government that may face unusual situations and must react quickly; for example, imagine if the Germans blitzkrieg across Europe and we need to assemble an impromptu war council without Parliamentary permission.
I see no real benefit for removing these laws; outside of the running of Parliament, government officials have no legal benefit above the people and can, and have been, arrested for breaking laws even using their Parliamentary position as it does not have anything to do with their Parliamentary duties. It sounds nice but has no benefits.
Policy 14: We will restrict ‘financial sieges’ in legal battles against opponents
How? It’s a serious problem, but how? Libertarians are against people working for free, but to stop increasing legal costs, will they force the lawyers to stop demanding payment above a certain level?
Alternatively, will the government subsidise lawyers above a certain cost? That money comes from taxation, which is bad in the Libertarian school of thought.
Will they force all courts to end in a day? Will they remove the ability to claim legal costs at the end of a court case? Price control of legal personal?
A single sentence that doesn’t explain anything of how they intend to enforce this. Just a soundbite and nothing more.
The ideas about the workings of the legal system, and the workings of Parliament seem flawed. The manifestos of the Libertarians thus far have had the following problems; lots of fluff, and no explanations. Just one sentence bullets of manifestos, with no explanation of how they would work, nor how the Libertarians intend to do it. Some ideas seem to have already happened, or would cripple the British system if put into place.
They admit in their Manifesto section that they took the Manifesto from the Swiss and the U.S.; using language of the many ‘states’ of Britain (at best, England, Scotland, Wales, N.I.; 4?), whereas the U.S. has 50 of them. It explains why so many of the policies don’t work in the system (as we have a system of not binding our future governments, but the U.S. already has under the Constitution), and a reliance on checks and balances (whereas a government in the U.K. must have a majority and once it has it, can’t really be stopped).
The ideas just are not applicable to the United Kingdom. There is a universality in Libertarian thought; the same perspective that is confused that the world hasn’t flooded to democracy as it is clearly the superior system.
If economic policies are not correctly used, and instead make people more unemployed for the sole benefit of increasing our economic prosperity, we have a rise in nationalism and populism (which is the opposite of what the Libertarians want). If we have a people who feel that the legal and political system does not work for them but against them, we shall have a rise in populism and nationalism. We have already seen the British people turn away from parties who have failed them. Finally, regardless of how good your ideas are in theory, if they cannot be sold to the electorate through a media which shall likely despise them due to the anti-left wing bias of Libertarian ideas, they’ll never win. The Libertarians so far tick all four of these boxes.
The Libertarian Party seems to be so focused on the theory that they would throw out the baby with the bathwater, and then set fire to the house to prove a point. I am reminded of the bloody mindedness of the Communists, so convinced their idea would work if they were just given another chance, regardless of the reality of the situation.
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Please feel free to read any of the sources yourself for a deeper understanding of the events or topics mentioned in this article. This is a running biography; as the five parts are written, each article will include the full bibliography thus far.
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