Saturday 30 April 2016

Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive workfare legislation was unlawful

It seems a long time ago that Ed Miliband's Labour helped Iain Duncan Smith rush a load of retroactive changes to his unlawful Workfare legislation through parliament as emergency legislation by whipping Labour MPs into abstaining on every vote in the process.

Iain Duncan Smith's plan to retroactively rewrite his own botched legislation came about after the courts had found that the rules he was using to force unemployed people into working for corporations like Poundland for no wages were unlawful because they were neither intelligible nor approved by parliament.

The idea was to get around a court judgement that their own legislation is unlawful simply by rewriting the legislation and then applying it retroactively so that it would have been lawful had it been written in the new way in the past. To most sane people a plan like this seems more like it should have been the plot to an absurd Kafkaesque story than the behaviour of our actual government, but unfortunately it wasn't some menacing and disorientating plot from a Kafka inspired satire, it was what the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition actually did.

Just a few dozen Labour MPs (including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner) defied the Labour Party whip to vote against Iain Duncan Smith's appalling plan to retroactively rewrite his own botched and unlawful forced labour legislation.

Even after three years it's still staggering that Ed Miliband allowed Iain Duncan Smith to write himself a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card instead of nailing him to the wall over his abject incompetence. If the Labour Party had any strategic nous whatever they would have drawn the process out as much as possible in order to drag Iain Duncan Smith over the coals of his own incompetence and unlawful behaviour. Instead they openly colluded with him, presumably because they approved of the tactic of removing the labour rights of the unemployed and forcing them to work for no wages at major multinational corporations so strongly that they preferred to help Iain Duncan Smith to defend the tactic rather than using the situation to their own political advantage.

In April 2016 the Appeal Court upheld a previous High Court ruling that Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive changes to the workfare legislation were incompatible with human rights legislation, and therefore unlawful. 

Padraig Hughes of Public Interest Lawyers said "The court of appeal has now confirmed what the high court made clear in 2014 – that the government’s cynical attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after it had lost its previous case in the court of appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act ... .It is yet a further example of the reckless approach this government continues to take towards the constitution and the rule of law".

It's not surprising that so many people have forgotten about, or were completely unaware of, this extraordinary display of unlawful behaviour from Iain Duncan Smith's DWP, and Ed Miliband's utterly bizarre collusion in helping him to introduce even more unlawful legislation in order to cover up the first batch of unlawful legislation. The mainstream media barely covered this shocking story the first time around, and subsequent coverage has been minimal to say the least.

The Appeal Court ruling is a truly damning indictment of the utter Tory contempt for the rule of law, however this hugely important story has flown almost completely under the news radar because the bulk of the corporate mainstream press are clearly more interested in doing everything in their power to undermine Jeremy Corbyn's growing popularity, than cover the unlawful behaviour of the actual government.

In my view there are two very important things to note. The first is that the Labour Party is now led by some of the genuinely left-wing Labour MPs who refused to participate in Ed Miliband's ludicrous collusion with Iain Duncan Smith in allowing him to rush through his human rights denying retroactive workfare legislation back in 2013. This means that the current Labour Party would be far more more likely to hold the Tories to account, rather than collude with them like their strategically inept New Labour predecessors did.

The second thing is that this case is a perfect illustration of the real reason that the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and abandon the European Court of Human Rights. The Tories hate the fact that our pesky human rights prevent them from doing whatever the hell they want. They don't want to have to ensure that the legislation they push through parliament is compatible with our human rights. It would clearly be much easier for them if they scrap our human rights so that they can do whatever the hell they like

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