How Britain invented freedom - and why we need to save it now

British prime ministers today have powers like monarchs, and EU laws sideline primary legislation — let's repatriate our revolution

23 November 2013

9:00 AM

23 November 2013

9:00 AM

The single most common reaction I get from Americans when they learn that we’re placing our newspapers under our politicians is: ‘Y’all need a Bill of Rights’. You can see their point. Absolute freedom of expression used to distinguish the English-speaking peoples from the run of nations. The restrictions which even other western democracies applied — prohibitions on Nazi symbols, for example — were inconceivable in the Anglosphere.

Over the past quarter of a century, that has changed. Anglophone democracies now regularly prosecute people for saying the wrong thing, usually on grounds of putative insult to some minority group. We have become accustomed, in Britain, to people being arrested for handing out Bible verses that might upset gay people, or for saying things that are presumed to offend Muslims. Australia recently prosecuted a columnist for writing that many Aboriginal activists were not in any meaningful sense of indigenous descent. Canada appears to have whole government agencies dedicated to persecuting Mark Steyn. After a few years of hate crimes prosecutions, formal press regulation seems like a natural step. Only in the United States, where restrictions on free speech are constitutionally forbidden, does it remain unthinkable.

‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ says the First Amendment to the US Constitution. (The Bill of Rights is made up of the first ten Amendments, proposed en bloc by James Madison.) Such language brooks no argument. The American legislature could not do what the House of Commons is now doing.

So what about a British Bill of Rights? Well, here’s the thing: we already have one. Our Bill of Rights inspired the American revolutionaries. As Churchill put it in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, ‘The Declaration [of Independence] was in the main a restatement of the principles which had animated the Whig struggle against the later Stuarts and the English Revolution of 1688.’

Indeed it was, often in the most literal way: the right of petition, the prohibition of standing armies, the supremacy of the legislature, the protection of common law and jury trials, the right to bear arms — all were copied from England’s revolutionary settlement.

Some of the clauses were reproduced without amendment. Here is our Bill of Rights on criminal justice: ‘Excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.’ And here is the US Constitution: ‘Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.’

There is, though, an important difference. While Americans regularly cite their Bill of Rights, we have almost forgotten ours. I still get angry when I think of Nick Clegg’s toe-curling reference to ‘some law dating from 1689’. I know Spectator readers will have greater crimes to lay at the door of the Lib Dem leader, but that’s the one I find unpardonable. It ought to disqualify him as leader of the party that pretends to descent from Fox and Burke, Palmerston and Gladstone.

The Glorious Revolution earned its epithet for a reason. The supremacy of the elected representative over the government official, of the citizen over the state, took on constitutional force for the first time on our planet. Lord Macaulay ended his History of England with an encomium which, 165 years later, still bears quoting at length:

The Declaration of Right, though it made nothing law which had not been law before, contained the germ of the law which gave religious freedom to the Dissenter, of the law which secured the independence of the judges, of the law which limited the duration of Parliaments, of the law which placed the liberty of the press under the protection of juries, of the law which prohibited the slave trade, of the law which abolished the sacramental test, of the law which relieved the Roman Catholics from civil disabilities, of the law which reformed the representative system, of every good law which has been passed during a hundred and sixty years, of every good law which may hereafter, in the course of ages, be found necessary to promote the public weal, and to satisfy the demands of public opinion.

‘Some law’, indeed.

The Bill of Rights came to be understood differently on the two sides of the Atlantic. In Great Britain, it was seen as a guarantor of parliamentary sovereignty; Americans were drawn instead to the idea that it placed a series of rights above both Crown and Parliament. That difference was to have vast consequences in the 1770s.

I never used to think so, but 15 years in elected office have convinced me that the Americans had — and have — the right of it. The model we were taught at school no longer works. Parliamentary sovereignty, the theory ran, was a substitute for a written constitution. Instead of contracting out the defence of liberty to a supreme court, the British made it everyone’s business. And — this was delivered as the clincher — our system worked. Unlike other European states, we never fell to dictatorship or revolution; we never voted for fascists or communists; we remained free.

That theory held throughout the 19th century, and well into the 20th. But it no longer holds today. Politics has been professionalised, and MPs have no career structure other than through their parties. Almost every backbencher wants to be a frontbencher, making the House of Commons supine on all but exceptional occasions.

By a quirk of history, British prime ministers have inherited, more or less intact, the powers attached to 18th-century monarchs. Under Crown Prerogative, they can make peace or war, appoint bishops, dole out honours, command the state machine.

It’s this last that matters. The unelected parts of the government — the Food Standards Agency, the DVLA, the Health and Safety Executive, the Care Quality Commission and the rest — can act almost without democratic supervision. The people who directly benefit from state spending don’t have to answer, except in the most elliptical sense, to the MPs who represent taxpayers.

Elsewhere, the powers of a head of government are clearly delineated. If François Hollande wanted to dismiss half his senators, there would be a lengthy process of constitutional amendment. Tony Blair could refashion our Upper House more or less on a whim.

We now have neither the protection of a vigilant Parliament nor that of a written constitution. That places us, in constitutional terms, uncomfortably close to Saudi Arabia.

What should we do? Part of the answer is to strengthen Parliament. And, enormously to its credit, the present government is doing precisely that, allowing committees to be elected and introducing mechanisms for motions to be put before the Commons by popular petition. David Cameron has kept the promise he made in opposition to put Parliament in charge of major foreign policy questions and, after the vote on Syria, it is impossible to imagine a future ministry ordering a major military intervention without parliamentary approval.


Possibly the most significant change of all, though, is one that the Conservatives have made unilaterally and quietly, without legislation: in constituency after constituency, they are transferring candidate selection from party activists to open meetings. Three safe seats in my region — Tonbridge, Wealden and North East Hampshire — have organised open meetings to choose their next members. MPs chosen by primaries will, I suspect, be commensurately readier to defy their whips.

All this is encouraging. Still, some explicit limitation of government power might be in order, too. Our 1689 Bill of Rights retains statutory force, but we appear to have given up on the first of its clauses: ‘The pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal.’

These days, we are largely governed through statutory instruments and executive orders — not least to facilitate the implementation of EU law. The sidelining of primary legislation is a breach of the spirit, and arguably also of the letter, of that clause.

Three hundred and twenty-five years, almost to the day, after the Glorious Revolution, the time has come to strengthen the Bill of Rights. We don’t need a new dispensation. We just need to update the 1689 legislation. I have a properly Burkeian respect for long-established laws — and, indeed, a properly Burkeian reverence for the Bill of Rights (‘that ancient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty’, he called it). But Edmund Burke himself would surely nowadays hold that the Bill of Rights has too much to say about keeping Catholics out of power, and too little about personal freedom.

I like to think that the great man would propose adapting that charter to our own age, adding explicit statements of Anglosphere liberties: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of religion and worship, freedom of contract and employment, and freedom from oppressive, arbitrary or punitive taxation. An amended Bill of Rights should guarantee the equality of all citizens before the law, regardless of ethnicity or sex, and enshrine the supremacy of Parliament over foreign institutions and law-codes — thereby making EU directives and regulations advisory until there was explicit domestic implementing legislation.

Burke, prophetic Irish seer that he was, understood, as few contemporaries did, that the American revolutionaries were not rejecting but asserting their British birthright. ‘English privileges have made America all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all it can be,’ he told the House of Commons in 1775. How aptly those words apply to England itself, and the rest of the Anglosphere, today. It’s time to repatriate our revolution.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters, by Daniel Hannan, will be published by Head of Zeus on 25 November.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • crosscop

    “Absolute freedom of expression used to distinguish the English-speaking peoples from the run of nations.”
    Says the man who voted to have Marine Le Pen prosecuted for using her freedom of expression when she described the Muslim colonisation of France as being like an occupation.

    • sarahsmith232

      ‘the man’, him? Hannan? He should be ashamed. Also, he conveniently ignores America’s defamation laws. People get stung for insane amounts of money, so not anywhere near as free as he likes to make out. They also have hate crime laws there too.

      • crosscop

        He also voted against the labelling of halal slaughtered meat. He doesn’t actually appear to be on our side, does he?

        • Richard_LTFC

          He usually appears to be on our side, but labelling halal meat might upset New Zealand, as the main exporter of halal meat, and NZ’s sixth-form-socialist, limousine-liberal, child-abuser-friendly regime. For reasons known only to Dan Hannan, he likes them.

          • evangelical

            Because inevitably Britain is an imperialist metropole and has to favor the quirks of their colonies. The fact you dont put two and two together shows either the success of propaganda to hide imperialism of the UK or you domt understand ”free trade imperialism”.

        • sarahsmith232

          Personally, I really don’t understand why he’s still bothering with this country. He obviously prefers, actually, he idolises America. I really need to keep myself more up on these Euro things as well, I hope Marine Le Pen succeeds in her ambition to destroy the EU from within, presumably with no help from the likes of Hannon.

      • Don Wells

        Defamation laws apply only to false statements. “Truth” is an absolute defense to all defamation actions.

        • crosscop

          When Geert Wilders was accused of hate speech, he told the court that he had merely been stating the truth. The judge told him that “the truth was no defence.” That was in Holland, of course.

          • zee

            Here in Canada, our Supreme Court has made the same ruling 🙁

          • sarahsmith232

            Why, oh why, have we all collectively gone mad? WHY

          • “the truth was no defence.”

            I think that the same is true in the UK.

            Malice – even if the truth is being told – can make you liable to pay damages.

          • sarahsmith232

            I used to want to leave the country, I now just want to leave the planet.

          • Daniel Maris

            It’s the same here. That is the law.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Same applies in France were you to say that it was the Soviets that murdered those Polish officers in Katyn Forest in 1940 rather than the Nazis, even though Gorbachev admitted it decades later. Because everything decided in Nuremberg is written in stone and to assert differently is Holocaust denial. So under French jurisprudence the truth is no defence. Keep this in mind when deciding your host nation.

        • sarahsmith232

          Your wrong on that, it it’s proved that the person has been defamed they’re in line for a payout. The defamation is the truth of the accusation, if that’s proved then it stands. So an insult that can be proved to have defamed a person is grounds for a payout.

          • Don Wells

            I’m not wrong on that. By definition a statement cannot be “defamatory” if it is true. All defendants in defamation lawsuits can use “truth” as a defense. Of course the statement at issue in the case must be true for that defense to work. Also, in North Carolina, where I have practiced law for 13 years, not all types of “insults” give rise to a defamation action. In many cases the plaintiffs have to show actual damages, which can be quite difficult if not impossible.

          • Jambo25

            I thought that there was another defence in US law. The so-called ‘Absence of Malice’ where even if the defendant states an untruth malicious intent has to be shown.

    • Rush_is_Right

      In fairness to Dan, he ALWAYS votes to remove immunity from MEPs, on the principle that they don’t need or deserve it. And it’s a fair point IMO.

      • crosscop

        That is a fair point. Which other MEPs, though? How many times are we talking about?
        BTW – I see they have not prosecuted Marine Le Pen. I wish they would but don’t think they would dare to, now – they know her popularity would soar and she’d also wipe the floor with them.

    • Baron

      You too hard on the man, crosscop. The sharpness and depth of his analytical dissection of the key issues both in the above and the WSJ piece is beyond question. How one proceeds from there is another matter. Why then be so judgmental on someone who’s in the same boat as you, most of us here?

      • crosscop

        Bugger his “analytical dissection.” When he comes out and condemns his leader for repeatedly lying that it has nothing to do with Islam whenever Muslims commit atrocities, I might change my opinion of him.
        When he condemns his leader for stating that Muslims should take up senior posts in our society – including our armed forces – I might change my opinion of him.
        When he condemns his leader for stating that we should integrate into the Asian way of life rather than the other way round, I might change my opinion of him.
        Until then, I regard him as just another quisling Tory politician. He’s definitely not in the same boat as me. If he was, I’d chuck him overboard to make room for somebody who is actually of some use.

        • Baron

          Get real, crosscop, we have around 3mn of the followers of Allah here, more will pop out even if we curtail the number of newcomers, they are here to stay, a common sense tells you we better get used to it.

          Why should British Muslims, if they deserve it, not get promoted ‘including armed forces’? Thousands of them enlisted in our Indian Army in the 19th century, when troubles flared up further East, the Sikhs refused to board the ships they did, took orders from infidel officers, killed other Muslims.

          More recently, in the WW1, around 400,000 of them fought with us, some bravely, one of them, the sepoy Khudadan Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1914.

          Look, barking at the Koran is barking at the wrong oak. The Koran, the hadiths, the ritual of banging heads five times a day towards Mecca are the same today as they were in the past. What has changed in the past fifty years or so is two things. The Muslim rulers have been getting far too rich because of our insatiable appetite for oil, the cash rekindled their dreams of a new Caliphate, and we in the West have lost self confidence in our culture, the result of the poison spread by the ‘the white-race-is-the-cancer-in-human-history’ crowd, the Saids, Sontags, Alinskys…

          If you want to kick anyone kick those who got us into this shite, not Hannan who wants to get us out of it.

          • crosscop

            Times have changed, Baron. The more Muslims we have in the armed forces, the more likely we get a Fort Hood.
            By the way – common sense says we’d be better deporting them not that “we better get used to it.” Their beliefs are at least as nasty as those of the Nazis and they are invading us on a daily basis. Get used to it? I don’t think it’s ever possible to get used to being colonised.

        • sarahsmith232

          Ha! Brilliant post. Well done.

        • SirGalahadT

          Christian / Muslim
          Left / Right
          Black / White

          Just some of the ways the elite divide us

          We stand no chance unless we wake up and see who the real enemy is – Governments and the elites who control them and mind-control us


  • vvputout

    Yes, we must make a choice. Assuming the Scots reject independence but devo-max is the way forward (with an English Assembly), a constitutional convention will be required.

    The options on the Bill of Rights issue seem to be twofold. Either remain a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and keep the Human Rights Act or, this being my preference, leave the Convention and enact our own Bill of Rights based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, this last being widely accepted as the model for the 21st century.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Why have we forgotten our Bill of Rights?

    What a stupid question denying the obvious

    Because your dishonest statist leader only used it as a ploy to con real supporters of such ideas to vote for him. Seriously Hannan when are you going to grow a spine and stand up for what you believe in and leave that rotten dishonest broken party that you are a member of?

    Everytime you publish an article like this (however worthy it might be) under these circumstances it just makes you look more and more (using the American parlance) like a schmuck!

  • Glenn54321

    Because no one is getting shot… yet.

  • Bill Thomas

    The underlying point in Mr Hannan’s article is that virtually no one in the United Kingdom has the slightest knowledge of – or interest in – history, especially our own history. Certainly none of the current “leaders” of political partes. (I suggest that Miliband looks at the ETU vote-rigging by communists saga in 1959-1961, for example).

    At my prep school in 1953 I was taught that the cornerstones of our democracy were Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1688, the Reform Acts and the Parliament Act 1911. I’ll bet anyone a shilling that no 12 year-old today would have heard of – let alone be taught about – any of these.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Too true. And I have a suspicion that the absence of teaching is deliberate.

    • Ricky Strong

      Spot on.

      And personified by the fact that the only statue you will find on that momentous spot in Runnymede is one sponsored by the United States; whom it seems have far more respect for the Magna Carta than our own ruling ‘elite’.

    • Richard_LTFC

      The problem has spread to most of the Anglosphere.

      In February of this year, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that true statements and sincerely-held beliefs can both still be prosecuted as ‘hate speech.’

      The regime in New Zealand has been caught breaking the law, and not for the first time, has blamed the law and promised to “tighten up the legislation”

      In the US, Nancy Pelosi said about the “Obamacare” bill, “We have to pass (the bill) so that you can know what’s in it,” – not the words of an educated legislator.

      In the turgid exchange below, a wanna-be politician with three law degrees echoes Clegg and says that Sir Edward Coke’s idea of the regime being subject to the Law is “dated,” – a view that is understandably popular among today’s ignorant establishment, but far from compatible with the thought processes of anyone who values education

  • keith

    he is part of the system that keeps the UK in the EU he knows there wont be REFERENDUM in 2017 because his friend Dave will not be in power, but i guess he can go on with his snout in the EU trough, making the odd speech were he spouts anti EU drivel while doing little to stop the new laws coming our way because he is part of the establishment that sees our future in Europe

  • David Webb

    Daniel, the posters who post on your Telegraph blog, including me, have not forgotten the Bill of Rights at all. You haven’t explained why the courts refuse to uphold the Bill of Rights – even though it has been judged in the Appeal Court as unrepealable except by express language (which means its provisions cannot be impliedly repealed). We have the right to bear arms and use them in self-defence – but the judges substitute their personal preference for the law. What about – this is a biggie, so I expect you to resile immediately from your support the 1688 Bill of Rights – the part of that law that says that no fine or forfeiture may be levied without a court case. HMRC fines? Pur-lease…. they are not a judicial body. BUT every judge in the land lives off the taxes, and they know they are not to uphold laws that cut off their gravy train.

    • Paul_Wesson

      Wrong. Only Protestants have the right to bear arms ‘according to the law’. The law does not allow that right any more and therefore we don’t have it. Take a gun out for a walk and try your defence based on your misinterpretation of the BoR and see what happens.

      Laws J. was judge of first instance and not in the Court of Appeal. He did say that you cannot impliedly repeal constitutional statutes, but again try to get this past the CofA and see what happens. I reckon Laws J was wrong in any event.

      Nothing in the Bill of Rights says no fine or forfeiture without a court case. People tried this argument over parking tickets and lost. As long as there is a final appeal to the court system the penalties are allowed.

  • OPLucas

    I’m a lefty and I more or less support what you say here, Hannan. Perhaps it’s because I like to think of myself as one of the few remaining lefties who draws inspiration from the Levellers and the Chartists, and characters like Tom Paine, Rosa Luxemburg, and William Hazlitt.

    We need open primaries, an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech, proportional representation, a republic, a referendum on the EU (which, as I understand it, is a hand job parlor for bankers and corporatists), and, finally, a serious review of the crown prerogative.

    • Richard_LTFC

      Regarding the EU and the transfer of sovereignty required for membership, the Bill of Rights states, ” I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.”

      It is illegal. And since the economic arguments for remaining in the EU disappeared long ago, we are fully justified in suspecting wholly or partly criminal motives behind our continued membership.

      • Paul_Wesson


        The Bill of Rights states no such thing.

        You are selectively taking a part of the Oath of Supremacy and pretending that it is law.

        The Oath of Supremacy, which replaced the one in the Test Acts and the Clarendon Code, was given by all men over 21 who were appointed to public office. Since the emancipation of the Catholics in the 1830s it is no longer required.

        If you read the wording you will see that it relates only to ‘ecclesiastical or spiritual’ powers and does not therefore relate to secular powers. It was about kicking the Roman Catholics after the expulsion of James II, who had allowed total freedom of religion so that he could appoint Roman Catholics to positions of influence that had been barred to them since the Reformation. The writer of the Bill of Rights (John Somers) was seeking to allow Dissenters, as well as Anglicans, to hold public office and drafted the oath accordingly; he sought to exclude Roman Catholics. The foreign prince or prelate is, specifically, the Pope in Rome.

        Seriously, citing a defunct oath from the Bill of Rights, which can and has been amended and overruled by Parliament, is no way of getting us out of the EU. No lawyer has ever argued this spurious case and none will.

        • Richard_LTFC

          That nonsense could have been taken straight from the World According to Pierre Trudeau.
          If you get a Ladybird Book of Law and Other Tricky Subjects for Christmas, you might want to study the underlying Common Law principle, one which has been violated by illegal legislation from parliament and illegal acts by the executive (costing many lives) on several occasions.
          Do you even know the one I mean?
          I doubt it.
          You might also research the meaning of the word jurisdiction, which seems to have been too long and difficult for you to imbibe when you tried to read the Oath of Supremacy.

          The fact that you even think the Oath is or can be ‘defunct’ merely proves you haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Due to the bloodshed and suffering caused by those who share your mindset, it was deemed necessary for the Oath to re-affirm and set down the Law, and the Law has no ‘best before’ date.

          Ask your parents for help, and then tell us why the following is apparently news to you:

          Foreign jurisdiction over our country is not illegal because it is forbidden by the Bill of Rights Oath of Supremacy.

          It is forbidden by the Bill of Rights Oath of Supremacy because it is illegal.

          You may not remember, but one of the arguments put forward for Common Market membership was that no-one had any reason to fear a political union, as this would be obviously (to most) illegal.

          If you don’t know that EU membership is incompatible with the Common Law, then we have to save space and discuss what you DO know.

          Once we tackle the origins of this persistent disease, one which drove most of the previous century’s atrocities, we will make real progress.

          • Paul_Wesson

            I’m a non-practising barrister with 3 degrees in law, including a LLM in constitutional politics, law and theory. I am a constitutional specialist and have given advice on constitutional matters in 16 countries across 4 continents. Do tell me your qualifications.

          • Richard_LTFC

            “I’m a non-practising barrister with 3 degrees in law,”

            – Did any of them come with long trousers?

            i’ll congratulate you on mercifully replacing several lines of stupidity with a five-line avoidance of a very simple question.

            I’ll repeat the simple question, so simple that even a non-practising barrister with 3 degrees in law, including a LLM in constitutional politics, law and theory, who has acted as a constitutional specialist and given advice on constitutional matters in 16 countries across 4 continents can answer it:

            Are you ready?

            Name the underlying Common Law principle, the one which has been violated by illegal legislation from parliament and illegal acts by the executive (costing many lives) on several occasions, behind the Bill of Rights Oath of Supremacy.

            It has crossed the Atlantic, so there is no excuse for your failure to name it.

            You must be aware that the total ignorance of the Law demonstrated by Anthony Blair and Barack Obama has triggered a widespread suspicion that western legal training is as productive an idiot-factory as the rest of western education, so if you do not wish to strengthen that suspicion further, answer the question.

            Moreover, before your exams, you should have received the same advice I received before mine: the schoolboy tactic of answering a different question, in the hope that the examiner will kindly overlook the failure to read the given question, gets you zero marks.

            So, again, please, pretty please: be a dear, a darling, me old mucka, me old china plate, and answer the question.

          • Paul_Wesson

            Parliament is sovereign and has passed no illegal laws.

            You have no legal training otherwise you would know that.

          • Richard_LTFC

            Oh dear, that is a very poor evasion of the question, Mr Wesson. Of course, you have had no legal training worthy of the name, and the fact that you “boasted” of having reams of useless certificates from our notorious (around the world, I’m afraid) idiot factory of an “education” system merely amplifies my point, not yours.

            Your perverse interpretation of Parliamentary Sovereignty is not new, of course – it is part of the disease I referred to above, and it is why the great Sir Edward Coke felt it necessary to state the following:

            “in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void; for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void.”

            Not only do you think Parliament can violate the Common Law, but you admit that you are unable to NAME the Common Law principle which should outlaw an attack on Syria, for example, and yet you think you know better than Coke?

            Your view – the Law is what the regime says it is – is consistent with Communism, Fascism, and many other odious -isms, and the reason we have not suffered under the yoke of such maniacs is that your view has been incompatible with our Law since at least 1215.

            “The Great Charter therefore is not in our sense of the word a legislative or constitutional instrument. It is an agreed statement of what the law is…
            … its importance lay not in details but in the broad affirmation of the principle that there is a law to which the Crown itself is subject. Rex non debet esse sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege—the king should not be below man, but below God and the law. This at least is clear. He has his sphere of action, within which he is free from human control. If he steps outside it he must be brought back…”

            Sir Winston Churchill, History of the English-Speaking Peoples, preface.

            Great man, Churchill. Sir Edward Coke was one of the greatest of all, and was partly the inspiration of the American War of Independence. Then there’s Alfred the Great and the Great Charter, of course.

            Great men, with great minds, who did great things.

            Are you, by any chance, the Paul Wesson who observed elections in Nato-friendly regimes and stood for Parliament in 2010, finishing behind the Monster Raving Loony Party with 166 votes?

          • Paul_Wesson

            Citing Coke is misguided I’m afraid. The law has moved on from his day. The common law does not ‘control’ Parliament these days and Parliament, which is the monarch, HoL and HoC combined, remains sovereign. The doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty is now a pillar of the common law.

            Churchill is of course right,’ … its importance lay not in details but in the broad affirmation of the principle that there is a law to which the Crown itself is subject.’ MC 1215, which was never enforced, was an affirmation of the principle that the Crown could be subject to a law. A read of what was said in MC 1215 will show you the partisan nature of the document that protected a handful of Barons, clerics and freemen to the detriment of the villeins, serfs, named Norman knights, women and Jews. England was under the power of the Pope at the time, as were all kingdoms in western Christendom, and Innocent III told John to ignore MC 1215.

            You are wrong. The world does accept my education and values my certificates – I can get work in most countries on the basis of them. I think the Inns of Court and University of London are well respected worldwide and our alumni are in influential positions everywhere.

            I am indeed the Paul Wesson you think you know – I’m not certain that Russia, Belarus or Sudan are NATO friendly regimes, but you are obviously not informed as to what I have done. I have been on 10 ballot papers, including the Witney constituency ballot in 2010. To be fair I was stranded in Sudan by the volcanic ash cloud (see my Youtube election address from Khartoum) and didn’t even manage to get all of my leaflets out before the election, let alone campaign properly. If you really know me you will know I have also won elections and held public office for 9 years.

            I guess you are either a member of the incongruously named British Constitution Group (people who know little or nothing of our constitutional law) or a ‘Freeman’ on the land (people who know even less and think MC 1215 is current law).

            People like you are a real menace as you convince the gullible and weak that you know more than you do. I’ve seen the same quotes put forward over and over again. You haven’t read all of Coke and you haven’t read all of Churchill, but use quotes provided to you by others. Try thinking for yourself one day. You don’t recognise legal qualifications held by 60,000 practising lawyers in our country, yet society goes to them every day of the week to represent them in courts and to process their paperwork. I’ve helped lots of people, pro bono, with court work because they think I know what I’m doing. Has anyone ever asked you to represent them?

          • Richard_LTFC

            First sentence: “Citing Coke is misguided I’m afraid. The law has moved on from his day.”

            – That’s what George III thought. You certainly know nothing about the Common Law. It is based on reason, truth, justice – it therefore cannot have a “best before” date.

            I am glad that you have earned enough to insulate yourself from reality, given your distaste for it (and it’s mutual, matey, make no mistake), and it would be a nice ego boost if I alone – a fellow victim of our “education” system – had exposed your ignorance on my own. But I didn’t.

            Unluckily for you, I have access to one of the finest legal minds in the Anglosphere, because I am married to its owner. When at school, she was the top pupil in her country, and now, having qualified as a lawyer, she likes to explain the Common Law in her fifth language, whereas you are unable to imbibe in your first.

            I had my suspicions, after your first post, that you were one of those lawyers whom she loves to cite as the inevitable result of the UK having one of the worst education systems in the world, but I’m a lowly engineer. I showed her words of wisdom and she spotted you as a 24-carat hand-pump straight away, matey, so I can deride your deliberate and disturbing ignorance with authority.

            “I guess you are either a member of the incongruously named British Constitution Group”

            All three words in their title would put me off, but guesses from over-emotional Internet users are inevitably spectacularly wrong.

            Yes, “lawyers” like yourself, who know nothing of the Law, are frequently employed, as are “bankers” who think sub-prime mortgages are AAA-grade investments, climate “scientists” who think CAGW is scientific theory, and politicians whose ignorance of history compels them to repeat their predecessors’ mistakes.

            That is the problem. Got it yet?

            How well is the country and the west in general doing, as a result?

            Take your time, mate.

          • Paul_Wesson

            The common law is based on that law which is not statute law and is common to the country. It is not necessarily based on reason, truth or justice, although that would be ideal.

            I have never said that common law has a best before date, but the whole point is that it is not immutable but changes with the circumstances. Statute law can and does replace common law; there are statutes that are quite specific in repealing all common law within the remit of the area the statute covers so that case law relates only to the new legislation and not historical documents.

            Not only can case law be repealed specifically but the doctrine of implied repeal means that old statutes are automatically repealed by new laws even where not specific (Laws J dissenting). The doctrine of desuetude also means that laws no longer applied can become defunct by non usage.

            Your partner might be a great legal brain who speaks 5 languages, but she is still wrong. The UK has no unified education system and so cannot have the worst system in the world – you are aware that Scotland and Northern Ireland have different systems aren’t you? Not only do they have different systems of education, but also different legal systems.

            I do not know if you are a lowly engineer or not. My partner is likewise an engineer by training, but would be hurt if she was called lowly. What you are not is an expert on the law, nor the education systems of the world.

            If the education systems in our country were as bad as you make out then colleges from my university would not be considered to be amongst the top ones in the world. Six of the world’s top universities are in the UK.

            Disparaging the world’s top universities and research institutes is a cheap shot. We are nowhere neat the worst in the world in any of the constituent parts of the UK, although in many aspects the comprehensive system has let down large sections of our community. Hundreds of thousands of students come from other countries to study in our universities at great personal expense; this couldn’t happen in a failing system.

            Your partner, if she were truly a great legal brain would acknowledge the fact that lawyers in the constituent part of the UK do know about the law. I know substantial amounts about the law of this and many other countries (their constitutions and electoral laws at least) and am well able to interpret those laws.

            You, and your partner if she believes what she says, are both wrong about the oaths contained in the Bill of Rights. Somers drafted them as sample oaths based on the oaths required for the Test Acts and the Clarendon Code. I’m definitely right on this issue. I’ve researched the area widely and written on it. The oaths are not ‘law’ as such and have fallen into desuetude since they are no longer required to be cited by people taking up public office, their original purpose.

            If your partner is a great legal brain then she will know that ‘ecclesiastical and spiritual’ do not relate to secular matters. The oath of supremacy relates to the church and is designed to exclude Papists. That’s what Somers intended when he wrote it. The point of the Bill of Rights was to exclude Roman Catholics from positions of power and from the succession. The BoR even allowed Protestants the right to bear arms within the law, but not Roman Catholics. The fear was that the Roman Catholics would arm and try to seize power again, as they did under James II in Ireland later in 1689.

            Personally I think you are making stuff up as you go along. Coke is dated. Churchill was not a lawyer. The Bill of Rights is extant, but the oaths are not. You are wrong about the education systems in the UK, which are among the best in the world. I doubt your partner is the great legal mind you say she is, otherwise she would know, as I do, that the common law is not immutable and is susceptible to change by statute (all common law lawyers agree that).

          • Tom M

            Come on Richard, I haven’t all night to wait. I’m enjoying this. Two lawyers arguing a point of law and I’m not paying. Great stuff.

          • Paul_Wesson

            There’s another lawyer arguing?

          • Richard_LTFC

            The other lawyer and the lowly engineer live in the real world, where we’re often busy, and Mr Wesson still cannot name the Common Law principle which would forbid the recent proposed attack on Syria.
            Not a crime, but today’s widespread narcissism prevents the ‘experts’ from ever saying, “I don’t know.”

            Reality trumps your emotion-driven fantasies, Mr Wesson.

            Coke cannot be ‘outdated,’ of course. He has been been proved right and your kind have been proved wrong.

            If government had followed Coke and obeyed the Law, we would not be shackled to the EU corpse, mothers would not have their rights violated and their children illegally put into abusive state care, we would not have the illegal hate speech / crime laws, and we would not have entered the disastrous and illegal foreign interventions from Yugoslavia to Libya.

            Over to Dan Hannan: “The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.”

            A naïve and poorly-educated public sector worker claiming that Coke isn’t down with the kids is a weak response, to be over-polite.

            Reality trumps emotion.

            As for your lack of a decent education, you seem to confirm it four (4) times here:

            “Your partner might be a great legal brain who speaks 5 languages, but she is still wrong. The UK has no unified education system and so cannot have the worst system in the world,”

            Would you like to explain or remove all four? Or do you need me to humiliate you further and do it for you?

            By your criteria, incidentally, the University of New South Wales is excellent, since the Masters Degree in Engineering it gave to Gerald Shirtcliff was recognised and led to him obtaining a good job with an attractive salary.

            The fact that his understanding of engineering, like your understanding of the Common Law, was never adequately tested doesn’t matter, in your world.

            You merely post misguided nonsense, but Mr Shirtliff was entrusted with supervising construction of Christchurch’s CTV building. The results were not funny.

            Reality trumps emotion, and far too many people have died because of educationally-subnormal clowns believing otherwise.

            Yours is a demonstrably ridiculous ideology, Paul. Drop it.

          • Paul_Wesson

            I think you are the emotional one.

            You argue that all University of London degrees are effectively worthless on the basis of a totally unrelated story. Mr Shirtcliff, who was responsible for the CTV cock-up, stole a colleague’s identity and with it his engineering qualifications. The qualifications were good, but the person who used them was a fraudster and had not got the training he claimed. This, as an amazing non sequitur, does not invalidate the education systems in England. You really should do your research.

            I’ll let you have your moment of glory and say that I cannot identify a common law principal that prevented a UK attack on Syria. I am certain that had Parliament voted for such an attack then one would have taken place since Parliament is sovereign (I’m sure Coke says that also). Do tell me, which principal of common law have you identified and why didn’t any of the UK’s lawyers, including the law officers, tell the PM? It seems odd that all common law lawyers have missed something you as a car mechanic, or whatever, have picked up on (if you had an engineering degree or other higher qualification I’m sure we would have heard about it by now).

            Incidentally, I find it amazing that your great legal mind (really?), who has studied the Bill of Rights, has not read:

            ‘And that the Oathes hereafter mentioned be taken by all Persons of whome the Oathes of Allegiance and Supremacy might be required by Law instead of them And that the said Oathes of Allegiance and Supremacy be abrogated.’

            That is to say, the oaths are oaths and not the law. Oaths were subsequently taken under ‘An Act for the Abrogating of the Oathes of Supremacy and Allegiance and Appointing other Oathes.’ This was one of the first statutes of William and Mary’s reign.

            Now, call me picky, but the Oath of Allegiance, in the BoR, states:

            ‘I A B doe sincerely promise and sweare That I will be faithfull and beare true Allegiance to their Majestyes King William and Queene Mary Soe helpe me God.’

            King William was a Dutch Prince with a French aristocratic title – a foreign prince if you ask me. His claim to the throne was through marriage and he had not a drop of English blood in him.

            So all holders of public office were swearing allegiance to a foreign prince, and have done so up until the emancipation of the Catholics and beyond (all those German monarchs were also foreign princes) William was not a prelate obviously.

            The oath of supremacy, in full:

            ‘I A B doe sweare That I doe from my Heart Abhorr, Detest and Abjure as Impious and Hereticall this damnable Doctrine and Position That Princes Excommunicated or Deprived by the Pope or any Authority of the See of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their Subjects or any other whatsoever. And I doe declare That noe Forreigne Prince Person Prelate, State or Potentate hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction Power Superiority Preeminence or Authoritie Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme Soe helpe me God.’

            To me that looks like a dig at the Roman Catholic church and the Pope, a foreign prince or prelate with pretended ecclesiastical or spiritual preeminence. It is an oath. It is taken by those who had to swear oaths – public office holders – and is nothing whatsoever to do with our being in the EU or not. You, and your great legal mind, clearly cannot read nor understand basic English, let alone complex legal terms.

            Reality, in this case, trumps your, and your partner’s, collective ignorance. I suspect that your partner’s great legal mind is not supported by any educational qualification from any legal institution in the common law world. I doubt you have a higher educational qualification of any sort.

            You are, in my opinion, one of the nutcases who claims to be a freeman on the land (no such beast recognised in law), or is a supporter of Brian Gerrish and the Common Purpose cult or a subscriber to any one of a dozen similar groups. You all argue that those who possess higher qualifications are poorly educated and that the education system that produces all of our doctors and accountants and engineers is, despite the high ratings in international tables and the flood of overseas students, the poorest in the world, as if people are queuing to go to Chad or Burma. You, with no academic qualifications and married, seemingly, to an anonymous person with no academic qualifications, claim a superiority in knowledge that you clearly lack. Your legal genius hasn’t even got the wit to read a statute from end to end, let alone understand it.

          • Richard_LTFC

            “The qualifications were good, but the person who used them was a fraudster,”

            – Wrong, thanks to an apparent inability to read. The qualification I named was awarded to the fraudster; he got through the university’s admission process with other, stolen qualifications.

            The following suggests you are just a frivolous and unpleasant individual:

            “I suspect that your partner’s great legal mind is not supported by any educational qualification from any legal institution in the common law world. I doubt you have a higher educational qualification of any sort.”

            So your tactic, as you do not like the arguments and facts I presented, is to shout “liar.”


            How strong are your suspicions? I do not know, but it is possible that you lack integrity and have employed the tactic out of impotent frustration at losing an argument, and furthermore, you might be the kind of narcissist who is too cowardly to withdraw a false claim.

            In reality, as usual, you are wrong, Although – I repeat – i consider my higher education qualification (HND in Communications Engineering – no, I haven’t kept the certificate, but my lovely “university” could no doubt confirm it) as worthless as yours.

            I have no desire to supply my or my wife’s personal details (wife, not “partner”) to some Internet user, especially one who wishes to be a politician, but I do not like letting people get away with telling lies about my wife.


            Put your money where your keyboard is, so to speak.

            On supply of proof that your “suspicions” are false, how about £50,000 from you to us (on confirmation of my wife’s Law Degree) and £50,000 from you to a charity, the charity being chosen by the Spectator editor?

            Plus £35 for my HND – it would be finally worth something, if only to prove you wrong twice.

            If you have any integrity whatsoever, barrister (with 3 degrees in law) and constitutional specialist, you will admit your suspicions were misguided, or you will stand by your accusations and agree to a reliable third party overseeing the transfer of the above funds.

            If you’re honest, of course, you obviously do not think there is any chance of you having to shell out any money whatsoever.

          • Paul_Wesson

            Ah, now you have lost the argument. You ignore my invitation to provide the common law principle that you demand I provide. You don’t answer any of the points about the Bill of Rights, where everyone can see your arguments are specious to say the least.

            Note, non-practising barrister; very important as I cannot claim to have practised, although the paper qualification still leads to employment. The practical knowledge I have accrued is more important.

            £100K from me, but nothing from you if you’re not being truthful? You expect me to join a one way wager? I don’t even know your name so you can get any old biddy with a LLB to pretend to be your wife. Tell me your name before we go further.

          • Richard_LTFC

            Before anything, we’ll deal with the slurs you posted in place of an argument. I am amused by your deluded “suspicions” of my membership of various organisations, but involving someone’s wife in your petulant bile was disgraceful.

            “You expect me to join a one way wager? I don’t even know your name so you can get any old biddy with a LLB to pretend to be your wife. Tell me your name before we go further.”

            My name is Richard de Lacy, at various times a communications engineer, cable-monkey, translator, electrician, proof-reader, editor, teacher of English, but overall, a victim of the same awful education system responsible for your outpourings, and complete nobody, i.e. not the Richard de Lacy, translator of Urdu / Hindi, writer of guide books etc, which the Internet searches produce.

            Disqus defeated my attempts to register under my actual name, but an IP address check can confirm that I am (or use the same computer as) my Telegraph account under my real name (ex http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100239978/labour-has-had-the-better-week-look-at-the-opinion-polls/)

            “…before we go further.”

            We’ll go as far as your integrity allows. If you renege on this one, sir, you are a liar and a coward.

            The reason we get frustrated by you “trolls,” or whatever the correct nerd-word is for your ilk, is your evasiveness.
            I posted one (1) simple question and it took you well over two (2) days to address that question. Look at the volume of content you have used in place of an answer.

            Why do you think that is wise or conducive to debate?

            (Edit: the answer, by the way, is An Englishman’s Home is his Castle, which should have been obvious, given that I told you it crossed the Atlantic (the Castle Doctrine) and mentioned Coke in the clues)

          • Richard_LTFC

            Having perused your blog, I notice many references to those organisations to which you suspect / suggest I belong, above, but none of the insanity you’ve inflicted on the readers here (comprising you, me, and the over-worked Spectator moderator, I imagine).

            There are posts on recent court cases, however, which leads me to paraphrase my questioning of your tactics.

            Regarding your strategy of “I suggest / suspect that…” to introduce an untrue allegation (in your case, my membership(s) of numerous organisations which seem to irk you, or the non-existence of my useless HND or my wife’s NZ law degree):

            During your scrutiny of court cases, you must have noticed that it is the strategy of a practising (often CPS) barrister who is floundering, usually because the case is not a strong one.
            The qualification of an untruth with the timid “I suspect / I suggest” just makes it a cowardly untruth.
            The barrister has an excuse, of course, when earning a crust by defending a weak case which suddenly becomes much weaker, but why did you resort to it here?

            And there are many excuses for posting something ill-thought-out or daft, such as your replay to “…the UK having one of the worst education systems in the world,” which we must deal with here:

            You substituted ‘partner’ for ‘wife’ – not only is that pure PC-Tourette’s, but using the word partner about a lawyer suggests the lawyer is a partner in a law firm – totally unnecessary; you then removed “one of” from “one of the worst” and seemed unaware that ‘system’ as in ‘method’ can certainly be used in the singular for the entire western education system, when all its varied institutions share the same method (putting emotional, ideological and political concerns above imparting facts and checking understanding). I’d add a fourth – saying a person can ‘be’ a brain, great, or otherwise, is unnecessarily weird; why not possess, have, boast, own…?

            In short, four reasons in one part of one sentence begged and invited derision of your English-language skills, yet you cannot fathom why I deride our country’s education record.

            We all produce silliness at some time, when we are busy, tired, emotional, “tired and emotional” or whatever, but if you post something as daft as that, you have to accept the derision. It’s your own bloody fault, matey.

            Bill of Rights
            If a foreign prince, William II, becomes the rightful king of England, he is subject to English Law – unlike a foreign prince and therefore no longer a ‘foreign prince’ – no DNA test for “English blood” (however that could be determined) is needed.
            It was argument, for which I should applaud you, but it is not convincing.

            Foreign students:
            For many, it is easier to obtain qualifications from a western “university” for the reasons I’ve already stated.

            And again, where is the real-life, demonstrable “progress” from deciding Coke is “dated” and that demonstrably educationally-subnormal performing monkey Tony Blair, recipient of a very expensive “education” should preside over the adoption of hate speech legislation (no more equality before the law)?

          • Richard_LTFC

            And, to link Dan Hannan’s blog (which mentions Mark Steyn) to your orgasmic praise of papers from the west’s “education” system.

            If you cannot answer this, don’t bother denying the “educationally-subnormal” charge anywhere, anytime:

            Why does Mark Steyn have a finer legal mind than so many QCs? Steyn’s arguments in court did more than anyone to force Canada to repeal section 13.

            Here’s his credentials:

            “”Education is the biggest single structural defect in the United States. No country needs to send a majority (never mind “all,” as is President Obama’s ambition) of its children to college, and no country should: not every child has the aptitude to benefit from college, and not every child who has wants to go, or needs to. For most who wind up there, college is a waste of time, and money, and life. Hacks pretend to teach, slackers pretend to learn, and employers pretend it’s a qualification. Full disclosure: I never went to college, which is why my critics usually preface their dissections with a reference to “the uneducated” or “the unlettered Mark Steyn.” Guilty as charged: no letters on me. But I was doing ancient Greek in high school and Latin by middle school, not because I was “gifted” but because that’s just the way it was back then. I long ago gave up marveling at how little American education asks of its inmates,”

            He didn’t even waste three years of his life in an idiot-factory, which makes him three years’ smarter than me, and a lot smarter than you.

            How did this man achieve more in the legal field than you and your three bits of paper will ever achieve, when he was up against qualified QCs like the late Jennifer Lynch?

            I wonder whether the bookies would give me generous odds on your superb, too-good-for-English, greater-than-Edward-Coke brain being unable to explain to us lowly mortals from the great unwashed just how an uppity oik like Steyn humiliated your fellow paper-waving pinheads.

          • Paul_Wesson

            In most cases where the unqualified take on the qualified it is no contest the other way, believe me I’ve sat in a lot. There will be exceptions to any rule and Mark Steyn might well be one. He clearly has the capacity to work hard to learn new skills and challenges, as many of us do. I am not seeking to justify the western education ‘system’ as it is not unified. I do not think sending everyone to university is a good idea and many degrees are wasted.

            Many people without degrees do well in other fields and fare considerably better than those with degrees. I know lots of successful non-graduates. My millionaire brother abandoned being a bank clerk to become a successful businessman in Europe; he is a tough businessman and has a strong portfolio of businesses and properties.

            The reason I argue the areas of law that I do is that they have been the source of work for me over many years. My LLM was a recent addition (only awarded this year) as I compete for work against people who have 3 or 4 degrees as well as being polyglot. One of my papers for my LLM was ‘The Bill of Rights 1689; Restoration of Rights or a new Constitution’. I have read widely of the source material and background history, including Filmer, Tyrrell, Sydney and, of course, Locke. I understand why it was written, by Somers,in the way it was and exactly why the oaths were added (see the Test Acts and Clarendon Code). The oaths are not law and Somers, who later became Lord Chancellor, did not intend them to be so. That is a historical fact that is completely unassailable.

            I do not know which areas of law your wife has focussed on, but the particular area is my speciality.

            Coke remains dated. His understanding of the law predated the Civil War and the Bill of Rights. Magna Carta (the one he referred to was 1297) has been largely repealed as have parts of his Petition of Right, although obviously much of what was written has been amended and included in newer statutes. Coke knew nothing of the EU (lucky man) and would not have appreciated the changes that membership has wrought. Coke would have been unaware of the concept of Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens not visiting Parliament, the effective transfer of the Royal Prerogative to the PM, the Acts of Union, the changes to the succession by various laws etc etc. How would he know that obstantes are void, and yet they are. Coke was a genius, but he was a man for his time and most of what he says is no longer relevant.

          • Richard_LTFC

            That’s last post is much better, Paul. Thank you. You will find yourself on flimsy ground if you try to defend the western education system, because no-one with any knowledge of it denies what i’ve posted (and many say far, far worse – if you are interested, since you’re in England, seek out the private opinions of non-British teachers about their British colleagues and superiors).

            Of course, even I don’t claim that we should still be able to shag a nun if we pay three quid each to the bishop and the king, let alone adhere to all later laws. What astonishes us of the great unwashed in general is the tendency of today’s legislators, politicians, scientists, practising barristers, judges, “educators” is their appalling English and failure to understand the very nature of their jobs – Canada’s supreme court, the US Senate, the UEA, the UN, the EU – you know full well that one could fill an entire website with proof that many of these people should not be allowed out of the house.

            My point on Coke, and why I cited “Castle,” is that Coke was not out of date when over a century later a lot of those who fought the War of Independence were still inspired by him, yet the “international tribunals” you name … What is your view? If I had written a satire in 1950, based on the Hague tribunals, the critics would call it farce and not satire.

          • Paul_Wesson

            Ah, now we’re going to agree on some things if we’re not careful. I’m totally unhappy about the EU and our masters in Brussels and the UN, a great idea, is a complete mess with PC oafs from small countries screwing around all day and every day. The US is a democracy for the plutocrats such that, at national level, ordinary people are excluded to a greater extent than in any modern European country (although Putin seems to be having a good go).

            Another of my recent papers was on Nuremberg, a fascinating insight into victor’s justice. For the Soviets to charge the Nazis with Katyn was taking the proverbial. The eastern provinces were being ethnically cleansed of Germans, with rapes and massacres being commonplace (as many as 5 million Germans raped, 2 million murdered after May 8th 1945) whilst the senior Nazis were being tried for exactly the same offences. Irony was lost on Comrade Nikitchenko, the untrained judge of Stalin;s show trials who had Zinoviev shot and who sat at Nuremberg; he even gave a dissenting judgment because 3 Nazis were acquitted.

            Half of the judges in the ECHR are political appointees with no legal training, western or eastern.

            I don’t think the education system in the different parts of the UK are the disasters you make out, but I was appalled at the lack of objectivity of many academics and students when I did my LLM. My first degree, between 1975 and 1979, was more demanding of objectivity and original thought than some of my recent lecturers, one of whom tried to convince me that the Charter of the Forest gave ordinary people rights (nearly all women, all villeins and all serfs dipped out on that one). I had some excellent professors, but a couple were doing more harm than good to those less experienced than I.

          • Richard_LTFC

            Yes, I apologise for the abuse and I accept defeat on the Oath of Supremacy. I am afraid I also jumped to a baseless conclusion and decided you had gone native, like William Hague at the FCO. I got a little infuriated at the suggestions of an agenda; it reminds me of those Labour / Tory voters who react to any criticism by accusing you of being an agent for the other. No excuse, though, so another apology is in order.

            You cannot be a typical politician if you’re putting that much effort into exposing the Nuremberg pantomime, and it is courageous of you to cover the hideous mass expulsions of ethnic Germans. I think post-war Germany’s absorption of the survivors was one of the great achievements of the era, compared to the political use of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh or Palestine.

            I also picked the wrong example for an illegal (according to me, but not the judiciary) law, although a desire for Tories and Labour to appear tough on fine-dodgers should never have been accepted as a reason for ditching An Englishman’s home is his Castle. The various ‘hate speech / crime’ legislation, also introduced in Russia and Canada, as you know, trample on the principle of equality before the law, and “illegal” is the only printable word I can find which fits. So limited English skills, possibly.

            Regarding the Katyn forest murders, you might find this interesting. From the wartime diary (Berlin Diaries) of Lithuanian refugee, Marie Vassiltchikova, who worked as a translator in the Information Department of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The only free version I can find on the Internet is a Russian translation, from my paper copy:
            Sunday, 24th of October, 1943

            I have a new urgent assignment: the translation of the captions for a large number of photographs of the remains of some 4,000 Polish officersfound murdered by the Soviets in Katyn forest near Smolensk. The mind boggles.

            This is all very hush-hush. I have seen the confidential report sent by von Papen, the German ambassador in Ankara. He had authorised a member of his staff to become chummy with a Polish diplomatic representative in Turkey who, in his turn, is a friend of Steve Early, President Roosevelt’s special representative there. Roosevelt has expressed the wish to receive the full, unadulterated story – a thing he is, apparently, unable to do in the States because his entourage (Morgenthau?) intercept and suppress any report unfavourable to the Soviet Union.

            The translation must be ready in two days. i feel very strange when i think that my prose will land on President Roosevelt’s desk in less than a week. What a responsibility! it is also hard work. but above all, the detailed evidence that has come to light is harrowing.

            I do not know if the report reached Roosevelt

          • Richard_LTFC

            And to return to qualifications:

            “In most cases where the unqualified take on the qualified it is no contest the other way, believe me I’ve sat in a lot. There will be exceptions to any rule and Mark Steyn might well be one.”

            Mark Steyn had very little time to prepare for his prosecution, and I would suggest the reason for this exception was that the learned, qualified ladies and gentlemen adopted a position opposed to common sense. Thus Steyn was able to humiliate them to such an extent that politics demanded a repeal of the legislation.

            Steyn’s position was that rights and laws are restrictions on the regime, by dint of, inter alia, Magna Carta, whereas Canada’s most esteemed jurists argued, like the UN and Trudeau, that rights and laws are gifts from the regime, to be amended and withdrawn at their whim.

            Taking your points on board, as they say, from now on, in Internet discussions, I’ll describe such legislation as “total bollocks” rather than “illegal.”

          • Paul_Wesson

            Thank you for being so gracious.

            I’m passionate about some areas of law, particularly some of our constitutional laws where people make many assumptions not based on the real history.

            I dread June 2015 when the media will behave as if Magna Carta was some sort of English convention on human rights, rather than a bunch of thuggish barons holding an equally thuggish king at sword point and making him seal a document that transferred power from him to them. Few people have read the document and few realise that it names people to be removed from office, that it discriminates against Jews (and any other money lenders) and isn’t helpful to women other than a few noble widows. The English speaking serfs and villeins don’t get a look in. MC wasn’t even written in a language that the common man could understand, but as few could read or write it didn’t really matter.

          • Richard_LTFC

            One of my kinfolk, John de Lacy, was one of those thuggish barons, and yet I agree with all of that. I felt the urge to say so because there is a strange tendency among some of Norman descent (Field Marshall Montgomery, when he was a lad) to adopt an almost touchy-feely view of our ancestors,

            Of course, 2015 will also bring us the 200th anniversary of Waterloo and the 70th anniversary of VE Day, and both of those should calm things down a bit, especially while our continental neighbours will be living through the reality brought them by the financially-illiterates’ cunning plan, the euro.

            The lesson I would infer from all three is that when silly little boys get excited by their exalted status and play grown-ups’ games, they will invariably lose, but it is not always the most kind and pleasant sorts who put them in their place

            It will not be long before a significant percentage of our deluded MPs, QCs, or even the learned Roland Freislers on our benches require the services of the system they’ve created, and need some obese and risk-averse police officers to do battle on their behalf against those who have no reason to care which “crime” – a real one, or one of the c.3,500 new ones – they are committing, or how “inappropriate” is their behaviour.

          • Paul_Wesson

            Does anybody even know all of the new crimes? Some of them are so complex and obscure that most will never know if they are breaking them or not.

          • Richard_LTFC

            Well, stealing the baby from the womb of a visitor to the country is a crime, as is denying the mother proper legal representation, but since our political and judicial establishment is peopled by educationally-subnormal staff, many of whom have never been near a comprehensive, by the way, it is highly unlikely that anyone will be punished for this crime.

            As Anthony Daniels points out, today many law-abiding people fear the authorities, while few criminals have any need to do so. Crime, Law, Justice and their associated adjectives and adverbs now have different meanings in the real world than they do in the establishment bubble

            Daniels makes a strong case that many of the establishment are closer to displaying collective insanity rather than mere groupthink,

            As both you and I have useless certificates of obedience from the same dated system which produced our uneducated regime, we can partly console ourselves that our American cousins have it even worse.

            Their ‘qualified’ legal professionals created this little scenario:


            “Dated” is the right word – Barroso, Obama, Leveson, Pelosi, Cameron, Blair, Harman, Miliband, Clegg et al are not merely educationally-subnormal; their ideas were marinated in the spoilt-brat ideology of 1968

          • Paul_Wesson

            Ah, the Moscow resident Richard de Lacy, from Luton (hence LTFC). HND from University of Bedfordshire (Luton College of Higher Education?). No wonder you think our education system is awful. It is still not awful because one antipodean fraudster got a degree; perhaps someone did his work for him.

            I have 3 recent searches from Moscow. 2 from Beeline using IE 6.0, Win XP with a resolution of 1280×1024. I guess they are you at home. The Yandex browser 1.7 used from Lealta Limited was you or the missus checking in from work. Is the ‘phone number +74956442250 the company office or registered address – Novoposelkovaya st,125363 Moscow

            The maxim you cite, used by Coke, but not actually originally from his work, is irrelevant to war in Syria or anywhere else, which is why I wouldn’t have picked up on it. The maxim only applies to acts that would be legal outside the home. The law doesn’t allow illegality in the home as we all know, otherwise we could murder the kids with impunity.

            The volume of content I have used in debate is to direct you at the correct law. It is evidently wasted.

            I included your wife as you invoked her first as the ‘authority’ on your legal stance. I’m sorry if I am wrong and she really does have a degree from NZ, but your interpretation of the Bill of Rights is so specious as to suggest there is something wrong with your understanding of the English language.

            An oath is an oath and not law. There is no argument.

          • Richard_LTFC

            Ah, so you are too cowardly to put your money where your mouth is, and you admit your sniping was the empty BS of a failed politician

            Glad you mentioned English-language problems – my wife’s input was too laugh at your description of Coke as “dated” and she, like the European teachers who work in our education system, and the UK teachers who escape it, confirm it is a joke.

            Many of your ‘foreign students’ believe it is easier to pass the exams in the west – are you going to pretend to “know” otherwise?

            And for the third time, regarding English-language problems, I have to repeat this:

            Don’t be shy, sonny:

            You substituted ‘partner’ for ‘wife’ – not only is that pure PC-Tourette’s, but using the word partner about a lawyer suggests the lawyer is a partner in a law firm – totally unnecessary; you then removed “one of” from “one of the worst” and seemed unaware that ‘system’ as in ‘method’ can certainly be used in the singular for the entire western education system, when all its varied institutions share the same method (putting emotional, ideological and political concerns above imparting facts and checking understanding). I’d add a fourth – saying a person can ‘be’ a brain, great, or otherwise, is unnecessarily weird; why not possess, have, boast, own…?

            In short, four reasons in one part of one sentence begged and invited derision of your English-language skills, yet you cannot fathom why I deride our country’s education record.


          • Paul_Wesson

            ‘Failed’ – but I’ve been elected twice and returned unopposed once. I have 9 years of elected service to my credit. I guess you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘failure’.

            I’ve just explained why Coke is dated. It’s easy. The laws he knew have nearly all been repealed. He knew nothing of what we know today about the Civil War, the Commonwealth, the Bill of Rights, the Acts of Union etc etc. How does Coke guide us on Scottish independence?

            Coke was a commentator. He wrote what he believed the law to be at his time. It is not the law now. We are not bound by Coke (nor any other legal commentators of the past). We can cite him to our heart’s content, but he is still not current and new writers have come to the fore. I’d go for Dicey on constitutional law ahead of Coke any day of the week.

            The oath of supremacy is not current. It relates only to Popes. You really are twisting words to suit your meaning, but you are wrong and no judge will support you.

            An Englishman’s house is his castle doesn’t even apply in England these days and certainly cannot be translated to Syria. There isn’t an international tribunal that will accept such a specious argument. You need to have read international law, as I have, to understand that. I don’t say that the invasion of Syria would be lawful, far from it, but a dated English common law maxim that doesn’t even apply to TV licensing inspectors is not an argument.

            I don’t think you have any authority for your proposition that many foreign students think it is easier to pass degrees in England other than hearsay and apocryphal stories, like the one of a NZ degree awarded to a fraudster invalidates all western education. You need proper research to make that statement and you lack it.

            Frankly most of what you say is apocryphal, unsupported by evidence and is emotional claptrap. Your understanding of English is awful. You contrive arguments based on ridiculous assumptions that a schoolboy could demolish. I’m fed up with your trolling. back in your box until you can support what you say with real evidence.

          • Stephen W. Houghton

            Parliamentary sovereignty is a 19th century invention. “Even the King is beneath God and the Law.” is the true rule of the common law.

          • Paul_Wesson

            See: Sir Edward Coke, Fourth Institute, p.36 starting from: ‘The power and jurisdiction of Parliament is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. …. so the constitution of England will in time lose its liberty, will perish: it will perish whenever the legislative power shall become more corrupt than the executive.’

            Coke believed in the sovereignty of Parliament in the 17th century. You are completely and utterly wrong if you think Parliamentary sovereignty is a 19th century invention.

            You should see also Blackstone’s Commentaries, pp160-161 and cf De Republican Anglorum: A Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, by Sir Thomas Smith, 1583.

  • Liberius Cato

    The Anglosphere is running out of time, and soon faces a choice between individualism and freedom, or the same kind of dreary, arbitrary bureaucratic despotism that rules the rest of the developed world while pretending at democracy. The erosion of the institutions and legal protections against the kind of power that our current politicians are wielding, in direct contravention of our written laws, is not a thing that could have happened by accident or neglect alone. While those are factors, we are beginning to see a pattern of who benefits, and that is something that never existed before, at least here. Political classes have emerged in both of our countries that covet the powers their contemporaries in other countries have, and often make a lot of noise about “Progress” and “modernization”, but what they really mean is to remove all of the impediments to power from our systems. To what end? Power for its own sake, like your writer Orwell predicted.

  • Colonel Mustard

    To appreciate the scorn with which the 1689 Bill of Rights is treated by “our” Parliament read the 2009 briefing note:-


    Who are Aileen Walker, Oonagh Gay and Lucinda Maer to be able to determine the fate of our Bill of Rights?
    Surely as a Conservative MEP, Mr Hannan, you can do more to raise the issue of the illegal abrogation of the 1689 Bill than writing an article in the Spectator?

    • dalai guevara

      Colonel, the paper you care to refer to outlines matters of fact. Nothing is ever set in stone, especially when it’s “uncodified”. That is the nature of our backbone – that is not a conundrum, that is an opportunity.

  • Magnus Sandvik

    I think the reason for this change is political apathy on the part of the population. People feel more comfortable in the blanket of authoritarianism thinking “if I do nothing wrong I have nothing to fear”, instead of fighting for the rights our forefathers died to get us.

  • global city

    I don’t agree Magnus. It is our politicians that are content to go along with the ‘Europeanisation’ of our law and practices. Clegg sees constitutional disputes as ‘arcane'(whilst obsessing about the House of Lords!). Too few modern politicians understand the uniqueness of what the UK developed over the centuries, assuming that all the good stuff is just ‘western’. As we lose power to the EU institutions they may come to ask were old assumptions have gone, but by then it will be too late.

    MPs’ should be given lessons in the basics of Common Law, Magna cart, Habeus Corpus …..etc

    • Paul_Wesson

      Which Magna Carta? Which Habeas Corpus? Which elements of the common law?

      • global city

        Call me thick, but I don’t really understand the point! I am not suggesting that they all become lawyers or constitutional specialists, rather they just need to be reminded that our sense of liberty and individual freedoms are derived from different sources than those on the Continent.

        • Paul_Wesson

          Actually there are fundamental differences between Scotland, Northern Ireland and England & Wales.

          Scotland and the continent have a lot in common.

          It is important that people understand that Magna Carta 1215 was nothing about freedoms for anyone other than a handful of wealthy men, but the principle of an agreement between the King and others was significant. MC 1215 was never the law of England, being signed under duress and rejected immediately by John with the consent of the Pope, Innocent III. Only Magna Carta 1297, sealed by the teenage Edward II whilst Edward I was checking on his French possessions, is partially in force. It is an irony that people refer to MC without realising that it was sealed (never signed) by a bisexual French teenager.

          As there were a number of Magnae Cartae, so there were several Habeas Corpores. PACE is not a bad law for enshrining the right to be brought before a court in pretty quick time.

          The common law just means that law which is common to the whole kingdom. It can be overruled by statute and indeed statutes have been specifically written to consolidate common law rules. Most MPs who have served on the committee stage of bills will know that there are specific clauses that repeal the common law. Parliament is sovereign after all.

          We do not have a written nor codified constitution, as all MPs will know. Our rights, as such, are either enshrined in statutes or in the remaining constitutional conventions. They can be removed at any time by a new statute, and have been on many occasions.

          • global city

            I don’t think that anyone I have ever heard or read mention Magna Carta understood it to be a full Bill of Rights for the Common man in it’s self. That, the others that you mention and more, are foundational contributions.

            It is easy to unpick the significance of most of these things, but if we spend too much time on the technical aspects, or the minutiae then we are in danger of keeping grasp of some fundamental notions that we hold dear.

            We are were we are, and I am not too sure if I’m happy about where we’re headed…. that was my point I suppose.

          • Paul_Wesson

            MC 1215 was never enforced and there is no case law based on it. MC 1216 followed; a lot of the Baronial powers were removed. MC 1297 is the only MC still on the statute books (see: legislation.gov.uk) ; only clauses i, ix and xxix remain.

            People genuinely misunderstand the nature of MC 1215. There was no mention of individual rights. I guess, from your comments, that you have never read any of the laws you refer to.

            We are indeed where we are and we do not know where we’re heading, but citing laws that have been repealed, have fallen into desuetude or have been amended out of all recognition will not advance our cause.

          • global city

            You are right, but I am not alone in trying to articulate the issue in some ‘broad sweep of history’ way.


            However it is done, we need to get across to our elected representatives just what they are losing.

  • Dave R

    Hannan is more optimistic of American freedoms of speech than I.

    • orsonhinds

      Familiarity breeds contempt.

  • thorhasgardson

    The Second American Revolution includes Great Britain this time around.

    “We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

  • Farmer_Joe

    Mr. Hannan underestimates the degree to which the American Bill of Rights has been eroded. The ninth and tenth amendments, designed to preserve the autonomy of the states, are effectively dead. The fourth amendment, designed to prevent illegal search and seizure is a shell of its former self, having been gutted by asset forfeiture laws (a by-product of the war on drugs) that do not require due process for the seizure of property. The first amendment – freedom of speech, the press, assembly, etc. has proven ineffective as a defense against Christians attempting to proselytize in majority Muslim areas (e.g. Dearborn, Michigan), or attempting to promote conservative causes on college campuses. The second amendment, protecting the right to keep and bear arms has been placed under all manner of restrictions, rendering it provisional at best.

    It’s even worse when one steps away from the purely governmental aspect of the Bill of Rights. The spirit of it is almost entirely gone. Any criticism of President Obama is generally shouted down as racist. In many places, people would ban guns entirely if they could. Many feminists would do away with the right of due process for the purpose of prosecuting rapes. Almost any public expression of (judeo-christian) faith is seen by many as offensive. And for that matter, offensiveness itself is increasingly used as a trump card, with frighteningly effective results.

    As much as I like Mr. Hannan’s enthusiasm for our institutions, I fear that his regard for them is less warranted than he thinks.

  • evangelical

    Britain is a fascist nation and it is directly related to Godlessness. If you want more freedom seek Christ, not law.

    • trapezium

      It’s been tried, and it didn’t work. Good laws protect people; mere belief in Christ doesn’t.

  • evangelical

    Britain cannot have free speech as long as it supresses the Gospel in favor of Islamists and atheists. This corruption then infects all other organs of society.

    • Agrippina

      We should follow Angola’s example and ban islam and close the mosques. Angolan govt have said that it is a ‘cult’ and runs counter to its customs and culture, a christian country.

  • Steven Barr

    The problem with having an American style constitution and Bill of Rights is that leftist lawyers use it for means it was never intended for such as allowing abortion and banning the death penalty.
    Plus the US is well on its way to becoming a police state itself so it hasn’t made much difference.
    The biggest threat to our freedom in my view is “democracy”. If the majority want something then it’s fine no matter how oppressive it might be

    • evangelical

      The biggest threat to freedom is the mindset of slavery. It doesnt matter how many institutions or laws you have if people do not individually defend freedom then it is lost to a collective who allow tyranny.

  • gekkobear

    ” While Americans regularly cite their Bill of Rights, we have almost forgotten ours.”

    Well yes, but sadly and importantly; also “no”.

    Ask an American what is in the bill of rights… they’ll mostly get free speech, and free press, and right to bear arms; and maybe no cruel/unusual punishment, right to avoid self-incrimination, speedy trial, no warrantless searches, and right for a jury trial. But anything beyond that is certainly lost (and I doubt you’d get a list that long from any single person).

    Sure some of the rest has fallen out of practice (like the 3rd, I haven’t see troops forcibly quartered in private homes attempted anywhere in recent times).

    But if you want to be disappointed; ask 100 Americans what the 9th and 10th Amendments are, or even a synopsis of what they mean and what they limit.

    Amendment IX – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
    construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Amendment X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
    nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
    respectively, or to the people.

    How many powers are not delegated to the United States Government by the Constitution, and have not been amended into the Constitution to indicate the change required; but still have been abrogated by the Federal Government as a power they control all the same?

    We’ve already lost those, and the rest get weakened as the government decides it wants/needs more power and control. The difference isn’t so much one of intent as one of time.

    You’re just further down the same road we’re on, and we’ll get there (to a point where the government has functionally no limitations on it’s power) soon enough.

  • Glenn Watson

    The professionization of elected representation is the ruinous core of both the constitutional republic of the United States and the parliamentary democracy of the UK. In the former, the executive is increasingly invoking the power of the crown, the most abhorant symbol in our country, while the Parliament has effectively usurped traditional monarchical powers to rule. Both, in practice, are anti-republican (small”r”), and therefor, anti – freedom.

  • Michael Zaman

    Britain needs a new Glorious Revolution. It’s a shame that such an important people throughout human events have purchased the European “Human Rights” non-sense that is actually an extension of tyranny. Brits might be next to the rest of Europe, but history, traditions, and contributions place them far superior to this Socialist/French/Communist European agenda. Brits ought to reconnect to their heritage. Come here to America and we can teach you The Rights of Englishman under the British Constituion. The American Revolution was caused because Brits forgot and abandoning the law. They have continued this pattern and it’s gotten worse with this European crap of placing qualifiers and exceptions on free speech or buying into to the scam of “positive rights”- yeah governmet shall not infringe on the right to freely trade in health care but you nor anyone on this planet has the right to be provided with free health care.

    Contstitutional issues to adress
    (1) Repeal and abolish any last European “rights” document. Don’t ever look at that joke of “rights” again it lowers IQ whenever I hear Europeans talking about human rights I can’t help but think how incompetent and ameature these people are. Talking about what material objects government owes you as a serious right makes me want to throw up. You’re not a slave you’re free you ought to enjoy the Liberty to aquire wealth.
    (2) Secure a”Bill of Rights”- I always thought the U.S. Bill of Rights was practically the same as the 1689 BOI. Well you need to look at these documents and look for which ones to keep and draft language. Keep it simple and straightforward and no “but” or any other exceptions. Yes free speech is practically unlimited people can say what they want otherwise what is the point in the first place? So yes Nazi praising and Holocaust denying is protected (I’m Jewish btw). Remember ONLY “negative rights” you are trying to right a past mistake and don’t become a slave to the French. I know this is not popular for you “peaceful” Europeans but I would reccomend a right to bear arms. I think the Bill of 1689 is pretty weak so that might suffice for your sensitivities. Although I’m not a big gun guy and don’t own one (I’m from California we’re not like that) I think it is an absolutely necessary right to prevent tyranny and for militia purposes. Every tyranny movement begins with taking people’s guns so this is an important right although not practical.
    (3) NO Parliament Sovereignty- As it stands now Brits are subjected to unchecked and at any moment absolute tyranny. There needs to be a Judiciary where cases concerning Acts of Parliament can be overruled on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.
    (4) Executive- There needs some form of independent executive authority. The Queen is not real so the “function” is bs. The Cabinet should suffice but I believe they should be forced to cease being members of the House once appointed to the Caninet. This is to create some seperation and independance. Doesn’t need to be to the extent of US Con law but some separation. The Executive ceases to have lawmaking powers. That is vested solely in the legislature.
    (5) Get rid of the Queen. A person with absolutely no power, skill, accomplishment is useless. No freedom loving people should be forced to have this queen as head of state which represents them. It’s also bad symbol to society. No freedom loving should care who your mom or dad is. Plus it’s really silly to have a monarch its sound like something that would fascinate a 5 year old girl.