Two rules about clarity

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12th July 2016

Prompted by the current debate over the Labour leadership rules, here are two rules about clarity.

First rule of clarity

To say “[x] is clear, it means [y]” means that [x] is not clear.

If [x] were clear, it would speak for itself without any gloss or explanation.

Second rule of clarity

If a thing is clear, it does not need any accompanying word.

For example, if a thing is clear then the accompanying words in each of the following would be redundant: “completely clear”, “absolutely clear”, “totally clear”, “crystal clear”.

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The UKIP MEP using Brussels privilege to frustrate a UK court process and an Act of Parliament

23rd May 2016

In a High Court judgment handed down last week we have the splendid irony of a UKIP MEP using the privileges of the European Parliament so as to stay a case in the English courts where the court is applying an Act of Parliament.

The case is one about libel damages and the statutory provision is that which governs “offers to amend” under the Defamation Act 1996.

One would think that this is exactly the sort of Brussels interference with national legal sovereignty – the court process and the effect of primary legislation – that UKIP would be against.

But no.

 

POSTSCRIPT

This was tweeted by the MEP as she actively sought the European Parliament privilege which meant UK law would not apply to her.  Compare the date of the tweet with the dates in the postscript of the judgment.

 

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Law and policy round-up: Theresa May’s call for the UK to leave the ECHR

26th April 2016

Human Rights and ECHR

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, gave a speech yesterday which included a call for the United Kingdom to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

The speech is set out in full at ConservativeHome, and (as it appears to be a statement on behalf of her department) it is also now on the Home Office site.

The statement is, of course, more about the politics of Brexit and succession to the Tory leadership than anything serious about law and policy.  It is a sort of counter-balance to her position on the UK remaining in the European Union.

For a number of reasons, not least that the Good Friday agreement requires the ECHR to have continual legal effect in Northern Ireland, this demand will go nowhere.

(I set out the seven hurdles for repeal of the Human Rights Act and for UK leaving the ECHR – including the problems presented by Northern Ireland and Scottish devolution –  in a post here last May.)

Given the office Theresa May holds, it is worth taking a moment to look at the Northern Ireland point, for the UK to leave the ECHR would require the UK to reopen and renegotiate the Good Friday agreement.

Any change to the agreement would, in turn, require fresh referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It would also risk alienating the nationalists who accepted the Police Service of Northern Ireland only as long as it was subject to the ECHR.

It is, in all, a remarkable demand for a serving Home Secretary to make, and it is also extraordinary for the Home Office to post the statement on their own site as if it is government policy – and here it should be noted that policy on the Human Rights Act is (supposedly) under the Ministry of Justice, and not the Home Office.

This does not seem thought through. One suspects the Home Secretary does not realise (or does not care) about the implications of the UK leaving the ECHR – perhaps her desire to send a political signal to Tory back-benchers and the popular media is too great.

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In which Wikileaks is caught out publishing a deliberate falsehood

10th February 2016

I asked a question today on Twitter, and got a reply directly from the @wikileaks account (which I understand (and have been told) is operated directly by Julian Assange):

But according to the Guardian on Friday:

ECHR

So, Assange had sought to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights, but it had been rejected.

If this is true, the tweet from the Wikileaks account is false, and the operator of the Wikleaks account would have known it was false.

And what do we call a deliberate falsehood?

Remember “Assange’s Law”:  every statement of law promoted by Assange will turn out on scrutiny to be false or misleading.

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