Brexit: The Power-Grab And The Corruption Green Light
TruePublica Editor: There are two stories in The Times and Financial Times over the weekend that really should make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up in fear of what is coming down the road with this government.
The first from The Times is a piece about how it is when the public loses faith in their political leaders, and when gangsters and villains fill a void. The second from the Financial Times exposes just what the government of Boris Johnson is really planning. The two stories are inextricably linked.
Award-winning journalist Matthew Syed is a columnist for The Times. He connects in his article – “We fall into the arms of gangsters when we lose faith in our rulers” the level of corruption through cronyism and nepotism is the result of the ethical and moral void left wide open by the Conservative party since David Cameron came to power. Syed looks back in history to the 19th and early 20th centuries of Italy where political lawlessness eventually led to the rise of the Cosa Nostra and the Mafia. You might think this a stretch too far, but as Syed says – “Think of Italy before the emergence of the mafia, with its corrupt politicians, judges and public officials and powerful businessmen. Was this pre-mafia society governed by the rule of law, by due process? On the contrary, the law was routinely flouted through bribes, kickbacks and institutionalised graft.
This meant that many ordinary people could not enforce contracts into which they had entered and that it was difficult to do business knowing judges would take bungs in the event of a breach. The mafia emerged, according to Gambetta, to create a parallel form of extrajudicial contract enforcement — ordinamento giuridico. And in its early days, many members of the public felt this represented a fairer and less corrupt alternative to the official system.
This is what we are seeing right now – bribes, kickbacks and institutionalised graft. The pandemic exposed them because the scale of it escalated. Then there is all the latest investigations into dark-money interests, not just from Russia but the United States – both of whom are successfully thwarting British democracy and the rule of law for their own gain.
And history says so much about political systems and their failures. When people do not have confidence in the system or the state when the mechanisms of democracy or the rule of law are no longer trusted to deliver justice, people do what they have done for hundreds of years, they take the law into their own hands or do it through their proxies.
Sayed continues – “Hold this in mind as we shift from 19th-century Italy to 21st-century Britain and ask yourself this question: do I have confidence in our system to deliver due process and impartial justice? To make the question more concrete, think of David Cameron, who parlayed his political connections into an equity stake in Greensill Capital worth millions, in direct violation of the public interest — an episode that would not have looked out of place in Sicily.
Yet was the former prime minister fined, punished or otherwise sanctioned? On the contrary, a report by Nigel Boardman, the lawyer commissioned to investigate on behalf of the government, gave Cameron a clean bill of health. It is perhaps coincidence that, a few months later, Boardman was knighted for “services to the legal profession”. Cynics might suggest that this is the way the British establishment works today: one rule for them, another for us.”
The more you think about it, the more you come to realise what is happening all around us. Regulators who sit in judgment on giant corporations are routinely offered lucrative exit routes into these same companies, creating a cosy conspiracy against the public. The revolving door is spinning faster than ever. Investigations and tribunals that sit in judgment on the rich and powerful are so often just whitewashes and nothing happens. Bankers have ripped off the general public en-masse, crashed the economy and caused austerity – and yet how many were made responsible for their crimes?
It doesn’t stop there though. Now we find that six police forces are under investigation – because of corruption. What percentage of the general public thinks the Met police and Durham police are politically engaged and assisting with Downing Street’s shenanigans? I would suggest, that number is very high.
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Sayed goes one step further and links how public anger is spilling over via social media creating an atmosphere where constant cover-ups, stitch-ups and the way the system is gamed by the powerful in cahoots with expensive lawyers is depriving the nation of real justice. In this new arena, fought out mainly on Facebook and Twitter cancel culture and the culture wars are fostered by the very same people involved in those cover-ups and stitch-ups.
They point to a prime minister who is still in Downing Street despite serial rule-breaking. They point to Ghislaine Maxwell being sent to jail for 20 years while the powerful men who flew on Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” continue to sun themselves on their yachts, protected rather than punished by the rule of law. And this is why they go on the attack. Like vigilantes throughout history, they are taking justice into their own hands because they have lost confidence in the state. They are wielding algorithms rather than guns and flick-knives, but the logic is chillingly similar. Keyboard warriors are the mafiosi of the social media age, the creators of a digital ordinamento giuridico.
If the government continues to encourage corruption and criminality as they have done in the last few years – what does anyone think will happen in the next few years?
As Sayed points out – history teaches us those parallel legal systems – the mafia, warlordism, vigilantism – tend to adopt the worst characteristics of the institutions they replace. One scholar estimates that the mafia destroyed a staggering 16 per cent of GDP each year in Italy. And here we are, contracts worth billions shelled out to companies and individuals who become political donors.
Britain’s GDP is on course, as predicted by the ONS, to fall by 4 per cent per year for at least a decade – directly attributed to Brexit. Brexit was brought to us by the same forces that saw dark money, corporate and political extremism explode – because space was granted for them in the first place.
Taking all the aforementioned into account, now we come the FT’s article by QC Helena Kennedy. The article is entitled – “Warning: Britain’s new bill of rights is a cynical power grab.’ It is an incisive, no-nonsense piece that spells out the scale of intention by a government bent on power as it aims to become unaccountable for the crimes against democratic and judicial norms that it will soon commit.
Kennedy starts – “This government has already shown that it does not have much time for the law. Now it’s launching a new British bill of rights. But why? The bill keeps the same set of rights as those incorporated in the Human Rights Act and the UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. Here are a few ideas. We know from the wrangling over Brexit that ministers loathe transnational courts. And they have consistently shown their contempt for rules, whether on parliamentary conduct, national statutes or international law. They can impose Covid regulations one minute and breach them the next. They see the UK’s name on the UN’s Genocide Convention or the Refugee Convention and ignore it — as with the Rwanda deal, outsourcing the duty to provide sanctuary for those fleeing persecution. They sign a formal Brexit treaty then suggest unilaterally dismantling it. They make strong statements about eradicating bullying from parliament and, when a cabinet colleague is found to have been a chronic bully, it carries no consequences.”
Kennedy is seemingly unrestrained as she attacks what is soon to become the norm when the Bill of Rights gets the legislative thumbs-up. “The prime minister breaks the law and then waters down the ministerial code. It adds up to a concerted dismissal of constraint. At any other time, there would be uproar. Laws are now clearly for the little people, and this bill is another means of restraining judicial discretion and judicial oversight of government — fundamental to accountability in a democratic state.”
There is nothing innocent or in the national interest when curtailing judicial review means that ordinary people will soon have serious difficulty challenging government policy where it affects their lives.
This government, says Kennedy, is undermining what Britain used to stand up for. It is an outright power-grab by the powerful to subjugate those that have little ability to hold them and their actions to account. Kennedy asserts that – “at the heart of this assault is the division between lawyers who believe in the “living instrument doctrine” — that law has to live and breathe through generous interpretations of rights — and those who cling to the original meaning of a text. The latter comes from the US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia school of lawyering that insists upon what the drafters of the constitution or Founding Fathers had in mind, taking no account of changing norms and culture. It maroons society in a romance with the past. The current Human Rights Act requires our courts to interpret legislation compatibly with the European Convention of Human Rights, “so far as is possible”, but the new bill scraps the obligation.”
You can see the connection here. Scrapping legal obligations by the state is what happened with Wade V’s Roe and look what happened. The rights of millions of women in America were removed in a single knockout punch that stunned the democratic world. We have only just found out that 20 British MP’s have interns in their offices funded by an American organisation whose raison d’etre is to achieve exactly the same.
And as Kennedy goes on to point out the HRA also “requires UK courts to “take account” of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. This bill removes the requirement; it wants the political ability to disregard final judgments of the Strasbourg court and its precedents.” As Kennedy points out – “this will put us in the company of Hungary’s premier Viktor Orbán, an outrider when it comes to the rule of law.”
This is what they meant by taking back control. It was always about control for them, not the general public. Led by a Tory party immersed in dark money donations from oligarchs and corporations to foreign powers with malign intent – simply to retain power at all costs – corruption is becoming endemic. To combat public outrage, the ability to physically protest has been reduced (with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022), along with the legal right to challenge the government or its agencies.
As expected, Britain’s new bill of rights bill is cloaked in spin but what people fail to see is that it was never about any opportunity provided by Brexit but about parliamentary oversight. It has laid bare a constitution unfit for a future where corruption drives policy.
As Kennedy pushed on in the FT piece, she warns – “The new bill asserts that the UK Supreme Court will be the ultimate judicial authority when it comes to interpreting European Convention rights. I have news for ministers: treaty obligations are binding. On these matters the court in Strasbourg is the ultimate arbiter. Unless, yet again, the government is prepared to flout the law. The drafters of the convention — in fact, British conservative lawyers — bound us to an agreed set of values. The true objective of this bill is not to restore parliamentary sovereignty. Its purpose is to consolidate executive power and reduce scrutiny. It will have a chilling effect on judicial independence and the ability of judges to safeguard our rights, whether in everyday circumstances or in the extreme situations that we hope never to encounter. And it will chip away another piece of the mortar that holds together the rules-based order Britain helped create after the second world war.”
These two articles are entitled – “We fall into the arms of gangsters when we lose faith in our rulers” and “Warning: Britain’s new bill of rights is a cynical power grab.” Added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of this year, they stitch together what is happening to our country. Very soon, the people of Britain will be unable to challenge corruption at the beating heart of our democracy and the injustice it will bring. The little people have been defeated.
Researchers at Sussex University’s Centre for the Study of Corruption warned only six months ago that the “absolute failure of integrity at No 10” will have serious consequences for the UK if allowed to fester. It concluded that Boris Johnson’s administration is more corrupt – “than any UK government since the Second World War”.
This was what they meant by ‘taking back control’ because none of it would have happened without Brexit.