Down With Prince Charles

Some wonderful news from Britain today. If you write a letter to government ministers urging a change of course in public policy, or lobbying for a pet cause of yours, the public has no right to know about it, or what you have written. That is, if you are Prince Charles or a member of the Royal Family.

You're there for decoration, not to make policy.
You’re there for decoration, not to make policy.

The “man” who is incapable of squeezing toothpaste onto his own toothbrush without the help of a butler, who travels the globe by taxpayer-funded flights and royal trains while encouraging the rest of us to take short, cold showers to stop global warming has carte blanche to meddle in public affairs. And we, the people, have no right to know what he is saying or lobbying for, because to inform us would be to jeopardise our perception of him as a politically impartial future monarch. Impartial my ass.

The Guardian reports:

Three senior judges have ruled that the public has no right to read documents that would reveal how Prince Charles has sought to alter government policies.

The high court judges have rejected a legal attempt by the Guardian to force the publication of private letters written by the prince to government ministers.

Cabinet ministers have conceded that the prince’s private letters – dubbed “black spider memos” because of their scratchy handwriting – contained the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” that could undermine the perception of his political neutrality.

First of all, the mere fact that Prince Charles takes time out of his busy schedule (mostly involving wearing kilts and hiking in Scotland, as far as I can tell) to write to government ministers about anything at all is what undermines the perception of his political neutrality. If he was politically neutral then his royal highness would not have the burning desire to write to British government cabinet members about all and sundry.

The article continues:

[Attorney General Dominic] Grieve had argued that disclosure of the 27 “particularly frank” letters between the prince and ministers over a seven-month period would have seriously damaged his future role as king. The attorney general said there was a risk that the prince would not be seen to be politically neutral by the public if the letters were published.

“This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy. Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king,” Grieve had said.

Well, I’m glad that the Attorney General of the United Kingdom is worrying about such important matters when we have so many pressing issues about the devolvement of power in our country, the limits on government intrusion into our private lives and the fact that so many people are actually suffering in this country thanks to the many structural problems created by the political elites of years past, the last disastrous Labour government and our current coalition government’s slapstick attempts to correct them.

[The Guardian] won a landmark victory last September when three judges in a FoI tribunal ordered the government to publish the letters as it was “in the public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government”.

However, a month later, Grieve, with the support of the cabinet, issued the veto which overrode the tribunal’s decision.

Seriously. How messed up is our country when some over-entitled government minister can override the ruling of a court of law? Written constitution and proper separation of powers, anyone? Good idea? No?

On Tuesday, the lord chief justice, accompanied by Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Globe, dismissed the challenge, finding that Grieve had acted in the public interest in a “proper and rational way”.

However, Judge said that the power of ministers under the FoI Act to issue a veto and override a decision reached by judges raised “troublesome concerns”, particularly as even a ruling by the supreme court could be overridden.

“The possibility that a minister of the crown may lawfully override the decision of a superior court of record involves what appears to be a constitutional aberration,” he said.

“It is an understatement to describe the situation as unusual,” he wrote, adding that barristers could find no equivalent in any other British law.

You think?! Since our newly created UK Supreme Court is in actual fact not supreme at all, perhaps we should rename it. How about the Court Of Second Last Resort Prior To Ministerial Intervention?

Of course, it is not just Prince Charles who seeks to lobby the government in support of his pet projects or issues of the day. The fact that David Cameron, George Osborne and Ed Balls all attended the recent Bilderberg 2013 meeting in Watford where they hobnobbed with the financial and business elites of the world with no reporting as to what they discussed or agreed to is ample evidence of this.

But why do we let an aging, entitled, sheltered and pampered little man meddle in our politics like this? This is the year 2013. This is no longer acceptable.

The article concludes:

Ministers argue that the letters must be concealed as it enables the prince to air his views privately with ministers so that he can “be instructed in the business of government”.

No. Prince Charles, in his ludicrous and anachronistic role as heir to the throne and future monarch, is entitled to be instructed in the business of government. Instructed. That means that the government elected by the people formulates policy, makes decisions and takes actions, and once it has done all of that, tells Prince Charles about it after the fact. What it most certainly does not mean is that Prince Charles gets to write his black spider letters, weighing in on all matters of public policy. Because that is influencing the business of government, not being informed about it.

Hundreds of years ago, people sincerely believed that these ridiculous people were granted the divine right to rule over us and represent our nation as Heads of State by God himself. That is no longer true, and the price for them keeping their palaces, treasures, land, unearned military uniforms and the servile adoration of the masses is that they shut up and keep their noses out of public policy. That’s it. End of discussion.

Prince Charles’s meddling has to stop. It is embarrassing and inappropriate in the extreme.

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Want To Change Religion? Get Permission From A Judge First

Royal Courts of Justice

Want to change religion? Then you’d better get permission from a judge first, if you happen to be under the age of eighteen and your parents can’t don’t give you their blessing.

That is apparently the law of the land in Britain today, or at least the precedent set by a recent ruling in which a a County Court judge ruled that a ten-year-old girl would be allowed to follow her wish to convert from Judaism to Christianity and be baptised, denying a request from the girl’s mother to grant an injunction forbidding the father from allowing her to proceed.

The Telegraph reports:

The court heard that the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born in late 2001 to Jewish parents and grandparents. But her mother and father divorced in 2010 and she, and her younger brother, now live for a week at a time with each under a shared parenting agreement.

Her father converted to Christianity after the breakdown of his marriage.

In November the girl’s mother, without telling anyone, applied for a court order forbidding the father from baptising or confirming her into the Christian faith. The judge heard evidence before deciding how to respond to the application.

I happen to think that the judge in this case ruled very wisely and sensitively on the case – you can read the full decision here. He also wrote and made public a letter to the girl in question, explaining his decision. I believe that he did a good job in a difficult situation.

But to my mind, this isn’t the type of matter that should ever come up for judicial review at all, or be subject to the whims of a random judge. Family law is a complicated area in which I have absolutely no expertise, but the crucial principle at hand in this case is liberty. There mere fact that the mother and father of this girl were arguing in court about the worthiness of an injunction preventing a person from changing their religion is highly inappropriate.

Religion and faith are matters of personal conviction and are private to that individual. No conceivable harm could befall this girl as a result of converting from one religion to another, and therefore this matter should be well beyond the remit of what a court injunction can be used for. The girl, and she alone, should be free to believe whatever she wants to believe, and to be received into the faith of her choosing in a manner consistent with their customary rites and practices. There is no welfare issue at stake for the child – indeed, the only conceivable harm that could occur would be to the hurt feelings of one or other parent.

In this case, the girl’s freedom of thought and speech were ultimately protected by an empathetic and restrained judge. However, a future court might rule differently, and issue an edict forbidding the person concerned from following their own will and their beliefs. In order to preserve freedom for the individual, and religious liberty, it must be made clear to the courts that they have no business arbitrating parental disputes such as this, or making religious choices for any British citizen.

Whether this is done through bespoke legislation, or my preferred route of a full-scale UK constitutional convention to once and for all settle the limits of crown, government and judicial power, rests – depressingly – in the hands of those who hold power today.

I would hope that they will see this case as a warning sign, and take meaningful action in defence of liberty.

Sweet Justice

The BBC reports that Apple has failed in its attempt to block sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet computers on the spurious grounds of copyright infringement:

A UK judge has ordered Apple to publish announcements that Samsung did not copy the design of its iPad, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

It said the judge said one notice should remain on Apple’s website for at least six months, while other adverts should be placed in various newspapers and magazines.

It follows the US company’s failed attempt to block sales of the South Korean firm’s Galaxy Tab tablets.

It said the notices must make reference to the court case and should be designed to “correct the damaging impression” that Samsung’s tablets had aped the look of Apple’s products.

Let me literally count the ways that this is funny:

1. Apple got smacked down for doing engaging in the typical, bullying behaviour that causes many people to hate large corporations, and was told that it could not, in actual fact, copyright or trademark vague and ethereal concepts such as “simple design” or “coolness” for their exclusive use.

2. Apple has to pay to place advertisements in the national media, admitting that it was wrong about something. I can’t wait to read the tortured wording.

3. 1 & 2 are funny because I own a rubbish, aging, malfunctioning BlackBerry, and my iPhone-toting friends make fun of me for it.

4. Though Samsung won the case, the judge said of their Galaxy Tablet device: “They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different” when explaining his decision. So even in victory comes a rather devastating critique of their own efforts to build an iPad rival, now officially noted in the public record.

5. Free thought remains just about permissible in Britain today, as the article states that presiding judge “Judge Birss said that the US firm was ‘entitled’ to hold the opinion that his judgement was wrong”. It is good to know that the day has not yet arrived when failure to agree with authority represents a thought crime, despite the best efforts of Gordon Brown and the incompetence/weakness of the Cameron administration.

6. Hopefully other companies can breathe a little easier now, and continue to innovate and bring new products to the market with less fear that they will be persecuted by a big bully with a shiny logo.

There. Without knowing any of the specifics of the case, I have already extracted six reasons to be cheerful. That is all.