Last week was a particularly disastrous week for Parliament, when a horribly large majority of MPs voted to let Theresa May, the Prime Minister, do what she wants regarding Britain’s exit from the EU — and what she wants, as she has made clear, is as “hard” a Brexit as possible — one in which, in order to exercise some spurious control over immigration, we are forced to abandon the single market and the customs union, which will be insanely damaging to our economy.
The MPs’ unprovoked capitulation, by 494 votes to 122, in the vote allowing May to trigger Article 50, which launches our departure from the EU, came despite three-quarters of MPs believing that we should stay in the EU, and despite the narrow victory in last June’s referendum, which, crucially, was only advisory, although everyone in a position of power and authority has since treated it as though it was somehow legally binding.
The MPs’ capitulation was also disgraceful because, following the referendum, a handful of brave individuals engaged in a court battle to prevent Theresa May from behaving like a tyrant, and undertaking our departure from the EU without consulting Parliament. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court pointed out that sovereignty in the UK resides in Parliament, and not just in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that Parliament would have to be consulted. Read the rest of this entry »
A week after Donald Trump issued his disgraceful executive order banning visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), District Judge James Robart, a senior judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, appointed by George W. Bush, “granted a temporary restraining order … after hearing arguments from Washington State and Minnesota that the president’s order had unlawfully discriminated against Muslims and caused unreasonable harm,” as the Guardian described it.
In a second article, the Guardian explained that Judge Robart had “declared the entire travel ban unconstitutional,” noting that, although other states are also suing the government, Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson had “argued the widest case: that the Trump order violated the guarantee of equal protection and the first amendment’s establishment clause, infringed the constitutional right to due process and contravened the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Outside the courtroom, Ferguson said, “We are a nation of laws. Not even the president can violate the constitution. No one is above the law, not even the president. This decision shuts down the executive order immediately — shuts it down. That relief is immediate, happens right now. That’s the bottom line.” Read the rest of this entry »
In America and around the world, the apocalyptic nightmare of Donald Trump and his administration is provoking widespread protest. In the UK, meanwhile, as deluded nationalists led by the Prime Minister Theresa May forge ahead with pushing for our departure from the EU as a result of last June’s narrow victory for the Leave campaign in an advisory referendum in which 27.9% of the electorate couldn’t even be bothered to vote, almost no one is standing up for the 16.1 million people — myself included — who voted for Remain.
It is as if, at a general election, the party that wins gets the right to prevent the opposition from criticising them at all, and also gets to completely ignore everything that those who voted for the opposition believes, when it contradicts what the winning party thinks.
How is this possible? The wretched referendum, whose outcome was not legally binding, was so blunt and inadequate a tool that it failed to specify what leaving the EU would entail, or, indeed, whether that would be acceptable to voters. And yet, under Theresa May and her three Brexiteers — David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox — no questions about the form Brexit might take — let alone whether it might not be a good idea to accept the result of an advisory referendum that might end up being economically suicidal — was allowed. Read the rest of this entry »
Great news from the grown-ups in the room today — the Supreme Court — as the highest judges in the land have confirmed what the High Court ruled nearly three months ago: that the government cannot trigger Article 50 — the mechanism for leaving the EU — without an authorising act of parliament, as Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, stated in a summary of the court’s decision, delivered by a majority of 8-3.
As the Guardian described it, Lord Neuberger “said the government generally has a prerogative power to change treaties, but it cannot do that if it will affect people’s rights.” As the summary of the court’s ruling stated, “The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation.”
The judges added, “The Supreme Court holds that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.” See the full ruling here.
From the beginning, when Theresa May was the only minister left standing after the bloodbath that followed the EU referendum’s outcome, it was outrageous that a decision that was supposed to be about the importance of restoring sovereignty to the UK was hijacked when May, who had nominally been a Remain supporter, instead revealed herself as a would-be tyrant who was intent on ignoring the fact that sovereignty in the UK resides with Parliament and not with the Prime Minister or her cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »
In an update from Brexit Britain, the powerful news this week is that some of those who voted for the UK to leave the EU in the June referendum are how clearly having second thoughts, as the economic impact of their suicidal vote starts to become apparent.
Because we have not yet left the EU and the economy has not gone into freefall as we drive ourselves voluntarily off the highest cliff imaginable, in the single most self-destructive act by a nation state in modern history, the chief fantasists of the Brexit camp — those Tory MPs and media commentators obsessed in a deranged manner with an illusory notion of Britain’s sovereignty — are still free to pretend that Brexit will not be a disaster, but is instead some sort of fabulous opportunity.
But two stories this week suggest that this colossal act of self-deception is under threat. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
On Tuesday, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the home of US Special Operations Command and Central Command, President Obama made what is expected to be his final speech on counter-terrorism before he leaves office in just six weeks’ time.
As Jessica Schulberg noted for the Huffington Post, in his speech he “defended his legacy ― both from hawks who have accused him of withdrawing from the Middle East, and from liberals who have criticized his reliance on expansive surveillance and drones to fight wars,” and “sought to convince the country that he had struck the correct balance.”
Spying and drones
However, as Spencer Ackerman noted for the Guardian, this was “a highly selective account of his record, particularly about the mass surveillance architecture he embraced and the drone strikes that will be synonymous with his name.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Brexit, the Tory government is still flailing around like the most drunk person at a wedding.
Last week, the home secretary Philip Hammond delivered a forgettable Budget dominated by the largest elephant in the room — the continuing fallout from the EU referendum in June, which he conveniently forget to mention. In the meantime, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the government body set up by George Osborne to impartially assess the UK economy, provided a reality check. As the Independent described it, “A shadow has been cast over Brexit Britain as the country faces a £122 billion budget black hole, dwindling growth, slow trade, lower pay and austerity stretching into the late 2020s.” In particular the newspaper noted, the OBR “set out how Brexit was driving the UK’s public finances deep into the red, with a key factor being the cost of losing valuable foreign workers.”
Brexiteers, in a constant state of denial about the suicidal cost of their enthusiasm for leaving the EU, even though they still cannot summon up a single compelling reason for this life-threatening rupture to take place, took aim at the OBR, as they do everyone and every organisation that threatens their costs delusions out sovereignty. Martin Kettle’s take on it was that the OBR had been “kneecapped in a back alley by Brexit provos and its brand has been trashed in the anti-European press’s embrace of post-truth politics.” Read the rest of this entry »
Is anyone really surprised that, in a leaked memo, a consultant from the global financial services company Deloitte, working for the Cabinet Office, has concluded that the Tory government is in disarray when it comes to implementing Brexit?
The consultant highlighted that “no common strategy has emerged” between government departments regarding how to implement Brexit, despite what the Guardian, reporting on the memo, which was leaked to the Times, described as “extended debate among the permanent secretaries who head Whitehall departments.” The Guardian also explained that the various government departments are working on “well over 500 projects, which are beyond the capacity and capability of Government to execute quickly,” adding that the government may need to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants to deal with the additional work.
The consultant added:
One Department estimates that it needs a 40% increase in staff to cope with its Brexit projects … [E]very Department has developed a “bottom up” plan of what the impact of Brexit could be — and its plan to cope with the “worst case”. Although necessary, this falls considerably short of having a “Government plan for Brexit” because it has no prioritisation and no link to the overall negotiation strategy.
As we feverishly await the result of the US Presidential Election (with, to my mind, the clear recognition that there is such a thing as the lesser of two evils), I wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on another story of government cruelty in my home country, the UK, to add to the colossal and unprecedented incompetence of the current government, under the stunningly inept leadership of Theresa May.
Unlike the Brexit debacle, which is being spectacularly mismanaged by May and her post-referendum Cabinet, the story I want to shine light on predates May, but is part of a continuum of cruelty for which the current Conservative Party is notorious; specifically, the benefit cap, introduced by George Osborne, when he was Chancellor and David Cameron was Prime Minister, and relaunched on Monday with an even more savage bite.
The benefit cap was introduced in April 2013, capping at £26,000 the total amount that any family can receive in benefits, which might have sounded fair to anyone who wasn’t really paying attention. A little thought, however, would reveal that the majority of that money went not to the claimant, but to their landlord. Read the rest of this entry »
It was with some shock that, two weeks ago, I read the following headline in the Guardian: “Government blocks plan to force out London estate residents.”
The article was about the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, south east London, one of the largest estates in western Europe, built between 1967 and 1977. Labour-held Southwark Council is in the process of destroying the estate, replacing it with new, privately-funded housing in which genuinely affordable flats will be almost non-existent, and ensuring that many of the estate’s residents are socially cleansed out of London — or at least have to move to less desirable boroughs than Southwark.
At the Aylesbury, the council is working with Notting Hill Housing, a former social homebuilder that has enthusiastically embraced the drive towards building private housing and offering unhelpful — and not genuinely affordable — part-rent, part-buy options for former social renters that has been prompted by government cuts.
Astonishingly, this is the same Southwark Council that engaged in social cleansing at Walworth’s other huge estate, the Heygate, for which they were soundly criticised. The estate was sold for a pittance to the Australian developers Lendlease, who are currently building a monstrous new private estate, Elephant Park, which features no genuinely affordable social housing. The Heygate’s tenants, meanwhile, have ended up scattered across south east London, Kent and beyond, as the graph below shows. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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