Monday, 5 April 2010

The Shadow Home Secretary and the Shadow Attorney-General

Chris Grayling. (I only fairly recently realised he is not the same person as A.C. Grayling.) He seems a bit accident-prone -- only a few months ago he put his foot in it about some announcement or other.

The fuss about gay couples at Bed and breakfasts (see e.g. Peter Tatchell here) seems a little bit manufactured to me, and I write as a former gay rights campaigner myself. He made an unwise passing remark in private, which doesn't mean that in office he would try to change the law back to allow the kind of discrimination being talked about.

In practice, who would actually want to stay at a B&B run by a proprietor who was hostile? I detect a certain lack of commonsense floating around in all this.

By and large, Grayling is a clever and mostly reasonable fellow. When he was shadow transport secretary he seemed unusually well-informed.

This storm in a teacup has been given a lot of publicity, while something that to me is more important is being ignored, if we are going to start analysing the suitability or otherwise of Cameron's would-be ministers. I speak of Edward Garnier. No, me neither, but he is the Shadow Attorney-General. According to the latest Private Eye, he is also a libel lawyer and he has come to the defence of his chum, the disgraceful Mr Justice Eady, the judge who keeps upholding scandalous "libel tourism" claims, and who I am delighted to see has been overturned by the Court of Appeal in the Simon Singh case. This is a case that was crucial for freedom of speech in Britain.

The Eye also reports that Garnier was hand in glove with Carter-Ruck over the even more scandalous Trafigura affair, in which Carter-Ruck, unbelievably, were trying in all seriousness to put an injunction on the reporting of Parliament.

Edward Garnier is reported to have vigorously defended the status quo as regards the libel law, and he added that he has earned his living and paid his mortgage thanks to it, as if that were some kind of justification.

Are we to have an Attorney-General who believes that freedom of speech should be compromised by monstrously unreasonable libel actions? This seems to be a matter of much greater significance than bigoted bed-and-breakfast proprietors, yet none of the mainstream press has reported a word about it yet.


RJGraham said...

The B&B thing is actually quite an important stage in the move from giving us rights to giving us equality. Whether or not you'd like to stay in such a hostile atmosphere is immaterial: there came a point in very recent history when the law said that signs reading "no blacks" had to be removed. It takes time, but if you remove the signs, the attitudes behind them follow.

This dreadful woman in effect had a sign saying "no gays". That will not do. She may hide behind deeply felt religious belief, but that fig leaf covers only a tiny part of her underlying attitudes - the same attitudes that would let her put a "no blacks" sign up if she could. The drive for equality doesn't let her put up that sign, and it now requires her to be the one to take action: she must either let anyone stay at her B&B or she must close her B&B. This is A Good Thing. Let her close her B&B and retreat behind her moth-eaten figleaf.

As for the loathsome Shadowy Attorney General, well, yes, of course he's a two-face bit of scum. He's a Tory MP. They have not changed, as a part or as individuals. In fact, they're further to the right than they've ever been as a party, but they too have a moth-eaten figleaf: Cameron.

This "keep the status quo because it makes me a bazillionaire" attitude is endemic in this current rotten Parliament. The LibDems sponsored an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill in the Lords that removes the right of fair dealing (so no more newspaper clippings or YouTube videos on our websites) and makes the courts the first, rather than the last, port of call for copyright disputes, therefore reserving copyright entirely for big business and rich people.

I wrote, politely, to the two LibDem peers in question about this. One doesn't have email and appears not to use the internet at all (he's the LD spokesman for the internet in the Lords). The other's email was redirect to his day job email address, at a law firm specialising in providing IP advice to big business. His interest was not declared when moving the amendment.

Neither replied. And that's the end of my time in the Liberal Democrats, who clearly are neither.

Kif said...

I think this rather misses the point. It surely does not matter how significant the B&B story is, as long as it helps damage the Tories. We want thgem to put their foot in it and it be spotlighted. All helps us to get the hung parliament that we need!

peezedtee said...

Yeah but that's short-term party-political tactics. I was writing about the principle of the thing. My main point was that Cameron is not being put on the spot about whether he agrees with his shadow attorney-general, whose stance appears to be contrary to the stated wish of the Tories to clean up the libel-law scandal.

David said...

I definitely agree regarding Garnier. Could you tell me which issue of private eye, and in which section it was printed? I think it was issue 1259 in the called to ordure section, but I don’t have access to it at the moment.

So the Conservatives have lined up the most corrupt attorney general possible, and have these ridiculous policies including letting parents run schools (I know some parents; this is ridiculous) and big society.

In contrast, Labour have spent the past few years ignoring all the scientific advice they have received, from dodging badger culls to prevent the spread of bovine tb for fear of the ‘you can’t kill the cute badgers’ outcry, to ignoring the ACMD and then claiming to be following scientific evidence.

Which begs the question, would I rather see a party in power who ignore scientific advice and do what they think is politically the best for them, or gamble on a party whose manifesto promises are so bizarre one can at least admire them if any of them actually happens?

In my honest opinion,

peezedtee said...

Yes it was Eye 1259 but in the "Libel News" section on page 7.