Wednesday 16 November 2016

Iain Duncan Smith's contempt for the rule of law

The former Tory Work and Pensions minister and prominent Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith has once again demonstrated the absolute contempt that he has for the rule of law.

In an interview on Sky News about the Article 50 case that is to be heard in the Supreme Court he had this to say about the Supreme Court judges:
"It is not their job to tell Parliament how they go about their business ...That's for Parliament to decide. I would simply advise that the Government should ignore it."
It's astonishing that somebody can be so completely and utterly wrong so many times in such a short statement.

Reversal of reality

The first and most obvious flaw in Iain Duncan Smith's statement can be seen in his claim that "it's for parliament to decide" how they go about their business.

He has the bare faced cheek to present things in a way that makes it look like him and his fellow Brexiters support parliamentary sovereignty, rather than hating it and wanting to see it scrapped so that Theresa May can just make up the law of the land as she goes along without seeking parliamentary approval.

The original High Court ruling found that "it's for parliament to decide" and then Iain Duncan Smith and many other hard-right Brexiters had a series of massive hissy fits because they absolutely don't want parliament to decide, and now the case is being appealed by the government in the Supreme Court because Theresa May doesn't want parliament to decide.

The reason this case is going to the Supreme Court is that Theresa May wants to set the precedent that the Prime Minister can make and repeal laws to suit their own interests without parliamentary approval. For Iain Duncan Smith to pretend that the Tories are on parliament's side in this case is such a brazen reversal of reality it's extraordinary.

How utterly gullible would a person have to be in order to accept this complete reversal of reality at face value?

Contempt for the law

Iain Duncan Smith's claim that it's not the role of the courts to tell parliament how they go about their business is a clear demonstration of the utter contempt he has for the rule of law.

Anyone with the remotest understanding of how the UK political system works should know that the government introduces laws through parliament, and then it's the job of the courts to determine whether these laws are being applied correctly.

If anyone in Britain should know that it's the role of the courts to stop the government acting unlawfully, it should be Iain Duncan Smith. After all his department ended up in court on numerous occasions when he was the boss of the DWP. On one particularly noteworthy occasion the courts found that Iain Duncan Smith had introduced unlawful workfare rules.

The courts found Iain Duncan Smith's workfare rules unlawful for two reasons. Firstly the rules he had introduced were unintelligible, meaning that people couldn't comply with them even if they'd wanted to. The second (and more important) reason was that Iain Duncan Smith hadn't even bothered to seek parliamentary approval before putting his hopelessly botched and unintelligible rules in place.

Instead of respecting the court ruling by redrafting the legislation so it actually made sense then submitting it for parliamentary approval (as he should have done in the first place), Iain Duncan Smith had another idea. He decided to stick two fingers up at the legal system by rushing a retroactive piece of legislation through parliament so that the unintelligible legislation would have made sense in the past had it been written that way at the time.

Iain Duncan Smith must have thought that he was incredibly smart to get one up on the judges by writing pre-dated laws, but his contemptuous little scam fell to pieces when the courts declared his retroactive law unlawful too.

After all of the legal rulings that went against him during his time at the DWP, if there's anyone in Britain who should know that it's the job of the courts to oversee politicians and ensure that they comply with the law of the land it should be Iain Duncan Smith. But even after being slapped down by the courts on so many occasions, he still petulantly tries to claim that they have no right to compel politicians to actually comply with the law!

Ignore the law completely?

Perhaps the most alarming part of Iain Duncan Smith's statement is the explicit appeal for the Tory government to simply ignore the Supreme Court if they don't like the ruling!

It's bad enough to see the likes of right-wing hacks, dictatorial Ukippers and fanatically right-wing social media extremists fostering hatred against judges and the legal system because they oppose the idea of parliamentary democracy, but seeing such a direct appeal for the government to act lawlessly from Iain Duncan Smith is something else entirely.

He's not some bloviating right-wing hack shilling for tax-dodging sociopaths like Rupert Murdoch (S*n, Times, Sky) or Jonathan Harmsworth (Daily Mail, Metro). He's not some politically clueless UKIP opportunist with no government experience whatever; and he's not some pathetic extreme-right keyboard warrior behind neo-fascist social media hate groups like Britain First.

This guy was actually leader of the opposition for a while. For over six years he was the head of one of the biggest and most important government departments of all. He's not just some pathetic blowhard calling for the government to abandon the rule of law because he doesn't know any better, he's a highly experienced politician who is actively calling for his own political party to wilfully ignore the rule of law because he doesn't like being constrained by the law. He thinks he is above the law, and that makes him an extremely dangerous fanatic.

Iain Duncan Smith has a long track record of displaying utter contempt for the rule of law. In any sane country there would be an angry backlash against any politician who explicitly called for their own political party to deliberately ignore the rule of law, but in Tory Britain the mainstream media just reported his extraordinary comments without any critical analysis whatever, leaving the job of pointing out his dangerously lawless attitude to independent writers like me.

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