Sunday, March 10, 2013

Secret courts: Tom McNally in Wonderland

The Liberal Democrat leadership does not seem to have made much of an attempt to defend secret courts. Alex's Archives covers Nick Clegg's performance at his question and answer session in Brighton:
we saw pretty much every tool deployed from the box marked “evasion tactics for politicians who don’t wish to engage”.
In the secret courts vote itself, Tom McNally seems to have acted as the voice of the party establishment.

According to the Guardian:
McNally, a justice minister, indicated he was unlikely to lead a rebellion but would instead seek further concessions. He said it was to the credit of the party that it was so troubled by the issue of secret courts, but said the bill's critics lived in an Alice in Wonderland world.
This argument that party leaders and ministers have a unique connection with reality, while activists are by nature unworldly, has always seemed strange to me. Surely it is activists, with their jobs, mortgages and journeys to work who understand how most voters live?

And I don't recall any Lib Dem grandees insulting party members when they were asking them to go to Eastleigh or donate money a fortnight ago.

But the parallel with Alice in Wonderland is useful here:
"Let the jury consider their verdict," the King said, for about the twentieth time that day. 
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first - verdict afterwards." 
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!" 
"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple. 
"I won't!" said Alice. 
"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
"Sentence first - verdict afterwards" may well be what we get from secret courts. Take this BBC News report from 2006 (thanks to Love and Garbage on Twitter for the link):
A judge has criticised the Home Office over contradictory MI5 intelligence in secret hearings involving two terrorism suspects, it has emerged. 
The error came to light only because one barrister acted in both Special Immigration Appeals Commission cases. 
Mr Justice Newman said the "administration of justice" had been put at risk in the cases of Algerian Abu Doha and a suspect known as MK.
If anyone has been taking tea with the Mad Hatter, it is Tom McNally himself.

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