Letters to The Daily Telegraph
Blair's right to act as Prime Minister when retiring
Introductory Note by Francis Bennion
Being apparently the only person in Britain who finds
the Prime Minister’s leaving
conduct obnoxious, I had another go today, this time with the Daily Telegraph.
(See my 8 June letter in The Times.) The square
below indicate the editorial omissions (without my consent of course). For the sake
of squeezing in an additional letter or two, editors nowadays cheerfully mutilate the
they do publish. On balance, this is a loss.
My final, omitted, paragraph is actually
the most important one in the letter. It needs to be coupled with an item elsewhere
in the same issue of the Telegraph which reads:
‘The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Mr Brown
will announce the creation of a people’s
assembly to rewrite the constitutional settlement as part of a blizzard of initiatives
to mark his first 100 days in office. The public will be invited to help write the new
Bill of Rights . . .’
This comes when I have just sent an article to the Commonwealth
Lawyer spelling out just how it is that lay people are not able to understand ‘raw
law’. For fear
of cliché I won’t say what the mind does . . .
The Daily Telegraph (Letters)
12 Jun 2007
||Doc. No. 2007.011 DT038L
Lame-duck Blair (2)
Sir, You report (June 11, page 1) that Tony Blair will [next
week] lead negotiations for Britain at the crucial EU summit in Brussels, and that Gordon
Brown will not take part, even though he will be our Prime Minister before the end of
It is contrary to the spirit of the British constitution
that a person who is just about to hand over supreme power should lead negotiations gravely
I would say it is an outrage.
[As your letters page today shows, there is much anxiety
over whether the British people will be granted a referendum on the EU constitution
which is to be negotiated. In such
important matters it is obviously the man who is so soon to become our Prime Minister
who should lead the negotiations. It is astonishing, and a bad omen, that Mr Brown
fails to understand this.]
Later In the Daily Telegraph of 13 June came the riposte
to Gordon Brown’s silliness that I was too listless to compose, written by Kenneth
Mr Brown should know that Parliament cannot constitutionally overthrow our existing Bill
of Rights of 1989. He should know that it is a subtle and complex document that was created
by highly intelligent individuals who had direct experience of the dangers to the people
that came from a lack of control over the government. He should know that such a document
cannot be created by adding together the various suggestions of “the public”.
If he does not know these things, we have to assume that he thinks he can fool all of
the people for long enough for his appointed committee to create, after “public
consultation”, the Bill of Rights that he thinks we ought to have. The Bill of
Rights 1689 provides control over those undesirable tendencies of government and to protect
the people from the recurrence of tyrannical rule. We do not need a new, politically
correct socialist Bill of Rights. We do need a return to our existing Bill of Rights.’
Although with Mr Hynes in spirit, I could not let
these errors pass, so on 14 June I emailed the following letter to the Daily Telegraph.
‘I admire the brio with which Mr Kenneth Hynes
attempts to shoot down Gordon Brown’s
ridiculous proposal to have a new Bill of Rights drafted by the people. However, as a
constitutional lawyer I cannot allow your readers to be misled by Mr Hynes’s central
proposition, which is mistaken. It is not correct, as he says, that “Parliament
cannot constitutionally overthrow our existing Bill of Rights of 1989”. If it so
wishes, our sovereign Parliament can do just that.
‘The only slight protection is the so-called
principle of legality, recently invented by our judges. By this the courts would not
hold that an Act of Parliament overruled
the Bill of Rights 1689 unless it expressly stated that such was its intention.’
This was not published, so one can only assume that
the editor does not care about misleading his readers.