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Interesting definition of ‘tomorrow’ October 5, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Knitting, Law, Literature, Lovely people, University.

I apologise.  I meant to write this the other day.  But then I got distracted, probably by something shiny.  What have I done over the last few days?  I hesitate to say ‘not a lot,’ because it’s been ninety-six hours or however long that of course I’ve had to fill with something, so more accurately I would say I’ve been doing mundane things.

I spent most of Saturday in the public library, reading the end of the Lord of the Rings.  I’m quite sad it’s over.  I’m always quite sad when I read very long, very detailed books and they finish.  It was the same with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and with Harry Potter.  And then yesterday morning I lay in bed til eleven reading The Commitments.  I’ve just been savouring the time before term starts and I haven’t got any more time to read at all.

So it’s all just chugging along nicely here; I’ve done a bit of work, and knitted a lot over Coupling and cake, and drunk quite a substantial amount of lemon and ginger tea.  And even though the sheer volume of work I have to do over the next year is threatening to overwhelm me entirely, I’m just not thinking about it, and I’m doing a bit of introductory reading just to make myself feel a bit more prepared.  (I’d be in the library at it as we speak, except that there is a builder downstairs and everyone else is out of the house doing important things.)  Also, as can probably be expected of Durham in October, it’s pretty cold.  Not quite brass monkey territory yet, but there is the faintest fragment of mist on the inside of the double glazing.  Curse you, student heating budget.

The Supreme Court was, I believe, intended to be the subject of this post.  Because it’s big and exciting and new and shiny and generally makes the constitution a better thing.  Hurrah!

Basically, once upon a time, the Lord Chancellor in his infinite wisdom was very important and, unlike anyone else in the country, both sat in the Cabinet and presided over the House of Lords.  This was very good for the Lord Chancellor, and potentially a bit dubious for everyone else, for the main reason that he was very important in the processes of making the law (because all law had to be agreed to by the House of Lords), carrying out the law (because sitting in the Cabinet meant he had his own office in government, the Department for Constitutional Affairs), and enforcing the law (because he was in the House of Lords and sat as a judge).  These three elements (making, carrying out and enforcing) make up All Power There Is and it’s an important part of the British constitution that the powers should be separate, and that any one person shouldn’t wield more than one or two of them, so as to prevent corruption.  Obviously in the good old days the Chancellor laughed in the face of this.

And then, one day, women got the vote, and we started accepting black people and gay people and European people (shudder) and decided that really, this wouldn’t do, because the office of Chancellor was really quite open to corruption and Johnny Foreigner at the European Court of Human Rights probably wouldn’t like it.  So a massive programme of reform was put in place by the new shiny Labour government, who enacted the Human Rights Act 1998 (which contrary to popular opinion doesn’t have any human rights in it itself, just makes the European Convention on Human Rights enforceable in UK courts – but that’s a whole other rant), and a couple of other good ones, and more recently the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was, quite simply, cunning.  It narrowed down the office of Lord Chancellor, by letting someone else preside over the House of Lords, and stopping him from being a senior judge.  It also recognised that all the senior Law Lords had the same problem – they could help enact law because they were members of the House of Lords (even though they usually waived the right to vote on things), and they could judge cases and enforce the law for the same reason.

And that is why, that is why ladies and gentlemen, that is why, with the ever so cunning use of the Constitutional Reform Act, they have done this incredibly exciting thing and taken all of the Law Lords out of the House of Lords, let them keep their titles but put them in the brand spanking new Supreme Court, where they can be judges but not have any legislative power.  They’ve also taken the Privy Council – which used to be the highest court for colonies and a couple of other obscure things – and merged it with the Supreme Court, so as to make everything a bit simpler because it used to be basically the same people anyway only with different hats on.  But the fact is that making the Supreme Court has made the top end of the judicial system less open to corruption, and more transparent and above board, and quite probably simpler as well.  Which is excellent.

Plus, as the BBC is only too happy to point out, it has a really nice carpet.

Everyone should get excited about constitutional change.  It’s just so bloody marvellous.  I think we’re just so lucky to live somewhere where such interesting, clever, important things are happening.

Here.  Have some socks.




1. Lucy - October 5, 2009

You understand legal things! I am incredibly jealous of that ability in people, but as soon as my head has de-fuzzed itself a bit I will take the time to go over that again and read it properly but I want to understand, I really do, and I ought to understand.

stitchthisdarling - October 5, 2009

Do you a swap for understanding geometry :p the trouble with writing about legal things, for me, is that I want to add so much commentary on other tangential but equally interesting snippets which tends to make it more complicated. Plus I’m not very good at short sentences any more…

2. T - October 5, 2009

Excellent explanaion there Miss.B, teaching career on the way for you…

I am saddened that you won what has become, only to me, an odd little race we were having. After inidng out you were reading LOTR I began listeningt my BBC4 radio version in weekly instalments. I worked out this mean the end would also coincide with my going to university. I am one disc away. Damn your tricksy ways!

And speaking of the BBC, I could love them simply for that carpet commentary. Quiet Murdoch, or Miss.B will give you lines at the back of the class…

3. gflawrence - October 10, 2009

I am utterly thrilled by the ending to this post. More people should end long and interesting discussion this way. My lecturers, for starters! xxx

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