Sunday, 9 January 2022

Standard Issue

Tony Blair's fiscal fiddles as revealed in the Panama Papers, and his claiming of furlough money despite the vast personal fortune that his initially unpromising person has accrued, do raise questions in view of the fact that Her Majesty's Treasury is Her Majesty's Treasury.

But Saint Thomas Aquinas had given classical form to the just war doctrine before the birth of Edward III, the founder of the Order of the Garter, whose military campaigns were far from being in conformity to that doctrine. Edward was a war criminal by the standards of at least some his contemporaries, indeed the better-read ones. As have been numerous Knights of the Garter since.

Likewise, there were abolitionists during the lifetime of Edward Colston, and a very high price they often paid. Abolitionism was a mass movement by the late eighteenth century, 100 years before anyone put up a statue of Colston, which went up long after Britain was more usually congratulating itself on its role in eradicating the slave trade while airbrushing out its much longer history of participation in it.

Again, then, the standards of time, whether Colston's or his memorialisers'. Those were mostly the heirs to his blood-soaked fortune. His statue was not erected by public subscription. Seemingly, the general citizenry of Bristol has always regarded it as the breach of public order and as the indecent display that 10 out of 12 of them have just professed themselves convinced by the legal argument that it was.

It is not the case, however, that juries are a protection against political trials. This was precisely a political prosecution, ordered up by Priti Patel and Keir Starmer, both of whose positions are now untenable. Juries have annoyed a certain sort of politician by acquitting protesters in the past, and the floodgates of vandalism have not opened.

But Patel proposes, and Starmer does not propose to repeal, that the damaging of statues carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. That would necessarily send every such case to Crown Court, so expect a very great deal more of this. Either that, or expect few or no prosecutions in practice. Especially after this one.

Still, the trial itself was political. I myself have been subject to such. As a candidate at the next General Election, in a constituency that began no more than five miles from Durham Crown Court, my election literature will say that the jury in my case had been selected and controlled by the right-wing Labour machine that had then been still in control of Durham County Council and of which the Labour candidate was by definition a member, and that that was an undisputed matter of record unless and until at least one juror publicly denied it.

Although the party that holds North West Durham is perfectly happy to have me on the ballot paper, and although what little remains of the Constituency Labour Party largely takes every opportunity to tell me to my face that it intends to vote for me, that machine at county and regional level, such as it still is, intends to seek to use the Elections Bill, which would by then be on the Statute Book, to keep me away from the voters. What a way to express their confidence of taking back the seat.

Their party is theoretically opposed to that Bill, but when they ran councils, then they were always very fond of invoking the Thatcher anti-union legislation. They remain unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable. But so do I, I suppose. In the event of their success before the courts, then I would simply run the same campaign as I would have done, but in the cause of abstention. Since non-voters would outnumber the supporters of the winning candidate, then I would declare forever thereafter that I had won.

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