3 thoughts on “A Bill of Rights for Britain?”

  1. Why on earth would we want a Bill of Rights designed by the political elites of GB? (Because I don’t see who else would be designing it).

  2. Who said anything about who would want it? The people who are designing it, however, consider themselves a representative sample of the electorate. So of course they want a Bill of Rights -and they are in the perfect position to pass one into law. Of course it should cover the authors (named) from prosecution for (inter alia) corruption, bribery, vote-rigging, perjury, genocide, grand larceny, nuclear annihilation of the human species, etc, etc. As the wise man sayeth, “If I am not for myself, who shall be for me?” also “One hand washeth the other.”

    Cynicism aside, “political elites” is loaded. This country does have a pretty fair democracy. (As an example, Norman Geras wrote a post yesterday slagging off a Guardian correspondent who dared to suggest that there was no such thing as free speech. This reminded me of George Orwell’s original introduction to ‘Animal Farm’ – the one with “Freedom, if it means anything …” – which seemed to argue much the same. But Orwell shied at the last, and admitted that we do allow free speech. Animal Farm was published – in Orwell’s lifetime and while the UK shared occupation of Berlin with the USSR*).

    Elite is sort of double-edged. The Blair-appointed ambassador to the US called the Democratic nominee [that’s a link, folks] elitist, yet I think he may be the best person to understand or design a contemporary Bill of Rights. Elite? Hell, yeah: he’s much more intelligent than the average voter/hockey mon and so the right person to be present in debates. The Tolpuddle martyrs were probably pretty smart on average too.

    Yes, George Walker Bush was a member of an elite by birth. But Jefferson and the rest were a political elite through effort. (Substuitute Trotsky, Stalin, no wait … as appropriate.)

    * I don’t think I’ve phrased that exactly enough, because I can’t remember the details. Nonetheless, we and the Soviets occupied Berlin when Orwell died; so we co-operated on some things, and we (in this case the Labour government) allowed the publication of open criticism of Stalin. ‘Political elites’ may be unavoidable (see any history of communes). But they have actually designed universally fair systems of representation.

  3. “Who said anything about who would want it?”

    Well, Ted Vallance, for one, seems like he wants a British B o R from the tone of his article (he wants one that will “bind the hands of Cabinet members”).

    “The people who are designing it, however, consider themselves a representative sample of the electorate. So of course they want a Bill of Rights”

    Vallance is noting that politicians have kind of dropped talk about it, and criticising them for doing so.

    “This reminded me of George Orwell’s original introduction to ‘Animal Farm’”

    Nice of you to mention the preface to Animal Farm, which was itself censored by the British press. Orwell doesn’t renege on the idea that we do not perfectly possess certain freedoms, he just argues that the model of censorship is different here to, say, the Soviet Union. Thus, things are “kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.”

    “This country does have a pretty fair democracy.”

    It is probably one of the most democratic countries in the world. But it also quite oligarchical, and with the lowest social mobility in Europe, the domination of politically significant offices by the rich and well-connected, and acceptable areas of discussion and debate defined by a media controlled by corporate interests, I think the phrase “political elites” does have a perfectly sound application.

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