Thoughts on Our Shattered Constitution


 Note: Little has changed since I wrote this, except that England has now become a soft totalitarian police state. SIG

Thoughts on Our Shattered Constitution
by Sean Gabb
(Published in a Conservative Party journal in March 1997)

One of John Major’s favourite themes at the moment – and what may be his favourite during the election campaign proper – is how Labour cannot be trusted with the Constitution. According to him, that Party is filled with student radicals who are itching to change a work of ages that they are incapable of understanding.

Of course, he may for once be right. But I deny what he takes as the obvious corollary – that the Constitution is safe in Tory hands. Anyone who cannot see that it has been transformed since 1979 has as shaky an understanding of our system of government as those Christians who think morality is a polite word for sex. There has been no assembly for Scotland and Wales, not any changes in the House of Lords. Even so, local government – an institution older than Parliament itself, and an institution specifically praised for its autonomy and its effect on individual character by de Toqueville – has been destroyed. It is the same with many Common Law protections of life, liberty and property. In 1986, the ancient principle, that we are innocent until proven guilty, was compromised in the name of the “War on Drugs”; and it has been progressively abolished ever since. Today, our property can be confiscated without trial; in a widening range of offences, we are obliged to prove innocence; our insistence that the prosecution should make out its case without our help can now be used in evidence against us. There are promises of “sex tourism” laws that will place us under the jurisdiction of the British State wherever in the world we may be. There is talk of identity cards.

Then there is the Police Bill, an astonishingly nasty piece of legislation. Before it was heavily amended in the Lords last month, it proposed that the police should be able to break into our homes without first obtaining a warrant or asking our permission, and once there to photocopy documents, remove property, and plant listening devices – and that all evidence so obtained should be fully admissible in court. The justification for this great hole in the Constitution was that it might be very useful to catch drug dealers and money launderers and people using London as a base for their terrorist activities abroad – that is, an insignificant minority of people mostly doing things that ought not to be illegal. As if this were not feeble enough, we were told next that the police had in fact been burgling and bugging people’s homes for decades, and that the Bill would only “regularise” this practice. As for safeguards, the Bill promised nothing of any legal force – a retrospective review tribunal that would have no power to order criminal prosecutions. Instead, we were told to rely on the honesty and competence of our police and elected politicians.

Luckily for us, the Judges were not impressed. They got up a revolt in the House of Lords that restored the need to obtain a warrant; and the Lord Chief Justice announced about as formally as a Judge can out of court that any entry and search without a warrant was and always had been illegal. This should not be seen as the end of the Bill. It still contains a mass of evil – chiefly concerned with the setting up a criminal register that is objectionable in itself, and that will fit very neatly into an identity card scheme, just as soon as this can be forced on us.

With any luck, the Government will fall before the Police Bill can get through the Commons – preferably before several others can get through as well. But if this happens, we shall be granted only a brief stay of execution. John Major is not a conservative in any reasonable sense of the word. His Party is filled with the sweepings of public life. As former members of that Party, it is natural for us to dwell on its present imperfections. But our anger at the nonsense these people spray at us should not blind us to the fact that our entire political class is rotten to the core. What Michael Howard fails to do will be done by Jack Straw. What he fails to do will be done by his successor – and so on all the way to the totalitarian police state that England is already coming to resemble.

How to avoid this? Some recommend armed violence. I prefer the gentler means of abolishing democracy. Let us clear the elected ones out of the Commons and replace them with an assembly of citizens chosen by lot. If the woman behind the delicatessen counter in my local Asda cannot be more patriotic than John Major, or less universally worthless than David Mellor, the country really is finished.

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14 responses to “Thoughts on Our Shattered Constitution

  1. A Parliament chosen by lot would be interesting. If someone says “most people are idiots – they should not be in charge” how can such a person trust the people to elect those who are in charge (unless elections are not really a choice……).

    I am reminded of the line attributed to William Buckley “I would rather be ruled by the first 50 names in the telephone directory, than by the people they elect”.

    Elections are won on IMAGE – that is not a good thing as far as policy is concerned.

    And, even on policy, people will vote for someone to do things that they (if asked directly) would not do.

  2. ‘[the Conservative] Party is filled with the sweepings of public life.’

    What a devastating comment.

  3. Well, I’ve been arguing for some time that a useful reform of the Lords would be to have it fully or partially appointed by lottery. Mind you I’ve also been arguing for some time that a useful reform of the Commons would be to crucify the lot of them along the verges of the M25.

  4. Edward Spalton

    I think that there is a great deal going for hereditaries. My grandfather, I think, would have agreed with the Lord Willoughby de Broke of 1910, defending the hereditary principle against the evils of Lloyd George & Co. He said it worked very well for his foxhounds and worked quite well in the House of Lords.
    My grandfather dressed his pony and trap in Conservative colours for the “Peers v People” election of that year and was pelted through the streets of Liberal Derby. I haven’t recently checked the figures but believe England voted by a majority for the Conservatives in this election, which was won for the Liberals by the votes of Irish Nationalist MPs, then still sitting at Westminster and so the Irish had their revenge with the Parliament Act.

  5. Edward Spalton – quite so.

  6. I think that a man ought not to decide to “enter Parliament” until he has done something extraordinary and worthwhile, in a general universal sense.

    This would of course exclude anything resulting directly from a “degree in politics” or something similar like the Oxford PPE school, which would be automatically shut down. Or anything with the word “studies” in it, or indeed of more than two words in the degree title, if that.

    Since most people who have not gone into “the public sector” do not achieve extraordinarity until their mid-50s or later, there would be an age-bar at say 55: I think the Roman senate had something similar. Below that, and you’re toast: above it, and you might be in for consideration.

    Enoch Powell would of course have made it by 30 or 35, since by then I think he was a Brigadier General, having already been a classics professor and linguist. I’d forgive that public-sector-stuff because of the times he was working in. Bad wars and stuff.

  7. Norbert of Nottingham

    Is there is a saint one can pray to who might induce Paul M. to take a vow of silence? St Tedius of Ventisacco? Or could he be harnessed to power the National Grid? Paul, that is, not St Tedius.

    One of the things often overlooked in discussion of police states is how much fun they are for a certain psychology, or certain set of psychologies. Sadists who side with the state get much more chance to exercise their sadistic impulses. What a shame David Miliband, son of Ralph the Marxist, is taking his “extraordinary talents and intellect” ((c) P. Mandelson & J. Straw) overseas and not staying to defend our liberties with Ed.

  8. Norbert of fakename.

    If you mean me by “Paul M.” I have not written anything critical on this thread (not that it is any of your business if I did decide to write something critical) in fact I have been supportive.

  9. Norbert of Nottingham

    It is the quantity and frequency, not the content, Mr Marx. And btw, the next time you try spinning your “the Black community in the US were landing on the moon, splitting the atom, perfecting nuclear fusion etc before whites — the source of all evil — created the welfare state and ruined it all for them”, try looking at the crime statistics for the two groups before the welfare state. That way, you’ll know exactly how you’re being dishonest, rather than just being dishonest on general principle. The only difference between you “Conservatives” and the Marxist Labour/LibDem lot are the honesty with which you express your intentions of destroying the U.K., and the speed you intend to operate at.

  10. “Norbert” as usual you are lying.

    • Edward Spalton

      “Go for gold and get the Duke” . This was one slogan used by those campaigning for the Reform Bill of 1832 which the Duke of Wellington, as Prime Minister, opposed. People turned up at the Bank of England, demanding coin for their notes. They just kept going by the expedient of paying out in sixpences.

      The Cyprus bank heist suggested an idea. If everybody in the UK with money on deposit turned up and drew out enough cash to last them for (say) two months, it could well bring the system to its knees. The interest is hardly worth having and quantitative easing is plundering the value anyway. It is a reasonable precaution to take against the banks being closed for a week or two whilst the government plunders the depositors.

      The Reform Bill started the trend towards mass democracy. Judging by the results, perhaps the Duke had a point. After his first cabinet meeting he is said to have remarked “it was the queerest thing you ever saw in your life. I gave them my orders and they wished to stay to discuss them” – almost certainly apocryphal but would have been nice if true.

  11. Edward Spalton – I can not think of any good arguments against what you say here.

    But then I am supposed to believe that the man who split the atom was black (not that it would have made the slightest difference had he been black – as, for example, Dr Carson, the retireing head of brain surgery at John Hopkins, is).

    As for the Bank of England – I wish it had never been created (back in 1694). But then I also wish that James II had done a Henry IV (of France) in reverse – and converted to the Anglican Church (whilst still maintaining a policy of toleration for Catholics in Britain and IRELAND).

    But Paul can wish for the Moon and Stars – he is not going to get them.

    What do we do here and now?

    I do not know – and (I repeat) I can not think of any good arguments against what you suggest.

    The “QE” and the housing scams (which appear to be some sort of copy of the American Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – when I am forced to agree with something Putin’s boy Max Keiser says, then I am upset, indeed undone) have pushed me to despair.

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