Friday, December 25, 2009
Italian Constitutional Court tells ECHR to take a hike, asserts national sovereignty
The first blow has been struck against the encroaching tyranny of the European Union and it is a significant one. In fact, one member state has defiantly drawn a line in the sand and signalled that it will not tolerate erosion of its sovereignty. Although it attracted little attention when it was published last month, now that commentators have had an opportunity to analyse Sentenza N. 311 by the Italian Constitutional Court, its monumental significance in rolling back the Lisbon Treaty is now being appreciated. (Hat tip, as they say, to Dr Piero Tozzi.)
The Constitutional Court ruled baldly that, where rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) conflict with provisions of the Italian Constitution, such decrees “lack legitimacy”. In other words, they will not be enforced in Italy. Although this judgement related to issues concerning the civil service, the universal interpretation is that the ECHR’s aggressive ruling in Lautsi v Italy, seeking to ban crucifixes from Italian classrooms, shortly before, was what concentrated the minds of the judges in the Italian Supreme Court.
In fact, sources close to the Italian judiciary have informally briefed that the decision was a warning that activist rulings by the ECHR “will not be given deference”. The juridical principle at issue here is nothing less than national sovereignty. Where an alien court has the right to overrule a national constitution, sovereignty has de facto ceased to exist. Citizens may go to the polls at a general election to elect an administration, but the “government” they choose will be no more than a municipal council. This, of course, was always the intention of the Lisbon Treaty and its supporters.
Europhile politicians and commentators in Britain, after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the ratting by the Vichy Tories on their promise of a referendum, were masochistically resigned to the United Kingdom becoming a province of Brussels. Now the Italians have overthrown the fatalistic notion of the irresistible march of Eurofederalism. They have simply said: if it encroaches upon our national sovereignty, it won’t fly here. This is excellent.
Can we rely on our own New Labour-designed Supreme Court to take an equally robust stance in defence of the British Constitution? Ay, there’s the rub. An incoming Tory government (if we had a Tory party) should be committed to abolishing this alien tribunal and restoring jurisdiction to the House of Lords.
But such considerations should not blind us to the fact that the sovereignty of European states has been given a crucial boost by the Italian ruling. It is also likely to bolster resistance in Ireland, where a similar activist case from the ECHR is expected to attempt to impose abortion on a state that has rejected it. Not everyone would have expected the first roll-back of Lisbon to come from Italy; but it has, so we should be heartened. Eurofederalism – just say no!
Strange Muslim censorship row in Britain
In what must rank as one of the literary world's most unusual disputes, Index on Censorship, which campaigns for freedom of speech, stands accused of censorship. The organisation published an interview with Jytte Klausen, the Danish author of The Cartoons That Shook The World, a book about the illustrations of Muhammad that caused a furore, but chose not to reproduce them in its magazine.
"In refusing to publish the cartoons, Index is not only helping strengthen the culture of censorship, it is also weakening its authority to challenge that culture," fumes Kenan Malik, the author and broadcaster.
Jonathan Dimbleby, the presenter of Any Questions?, who is chairman of Index, says: "The board does not readily interfere in the day-to-day editorial decisions taken by the Index on Censorship staff, but this case was different. "The board's main concern was both for individual members of the Index staff and those who worked for the other organisations which share our Free Word premises, and who would have been equally on the receiving end of any attack."
British lawyers do something right
The Leftist British government is trying to pull off an enormous injustice so it can keep feeding more and more bureaucratic fat cats
A ground-breaking legal action has been started by the Law Society over a change that has forced people found “not guilty” in criminal trials to pay their own legal costs in full. The society has instructed the law firm Kingsley Napley to start proceedings, accusing the Government of “misusing its powers for an improper purpose”.
The action comes over a new rule that took effect in October preventing acquitted defendants from recouping the full legal costs of defending themselves. Instead, they can only claim back legal aid rates, which can be as little as a third of the true cost. The change will save an estimated £25 million a year.
The Law Society, which represents 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales, has warned that the new rule will deter innocent people from seeking advice to clear their names and could lead to miscarriages of justice. Robert Heslett, president of the society, said: “This will hit hardest the ordinary citizens — teachers, postal workers, nurses — people who do not have big incomes, but who still need representation.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales is backing the action because police officers are more often subject to criminal proceedings.
Lone British politician campaigns against political correctness
A Tory MP has bombarded the government's equalities watchdog with a series of extraordinary letters about race and sex discrimination, in a one-man campaign against "political correctness". In the latest of 19 letters sent since April 2008, and likely to dismay equal rights campaigners, Philip Davies asks Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission: "Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person?" In a postscript to the letter, he asks "why it is so offensive to black up your face, as I have never understood this".
Davies, MP for Shipley and "parliamentary spokesman" for the Campaign Against Political Correctness lobby group, also asked:
• Whether the Metropolitan Black Police Association breaches discrimination law by restricting its membership to black people. He compared this to the BNP's whites-only policy, which the far-right party has now agreed to change.
• Whether the women-only Orange prize for fiction discriminates against men. • Whether it was racist for a policeman to refer to a BMW as "black man's wheels".
• Whether it was lawful for an advert for a job working with victims of domestic violence to specify that applicants had to be female and/or black or ethnic minority.
• Whether a "Miss White Britain" competition or a "White Power List" would be racist, after Phillips justified the existence of Miss Black Britain prizes and the Black Power List. "Is there any difference legally or morally than publishing a white list? Do you think this entrenches division?"
• Whether anti-discrimination laws ought to be extended "to cover bald people (and perhaps fat people and short people)".
Phillips (or on one occasion an adviser) answered each letter at length, with the exception of the last query, to which the EHRC chairman gave a succinct reply: "The answer to your question is no."
On the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Phillips said its membership criteria might be protected as a professional, trade or members' organisation, although this would be for a court to decide.
Answering another letter from Davies a year later on the difference between the Black Police Association and the BNP, he wrote: "The BNP only permits white people to become members of the party and … this is unlawful under the Race Relations Act 1976 … The Metropolitan Black Police Association … is not a political party and therefore is not directly comparable with the BNP. We are, however, interested in any organisation which appears to act in breach of the equality enactments and thank you for drawing this matter to our attention."
Regarding the domestic violence job, Phillips wrote: "It is not clear that this advertisement is unlawful because there appears to be a reasonable argument that the requirement to be female and/or from the BME [black and minority ethnic] community was a genuine occupational requirement for the roles in question."
On Miss Black Britain, Phillips wrote that such competitions "clearly seek to celebrate black and minority ethnic people in the UK, who often suffer discrimination from mainstream providers".
Regarding the Black Power List, Phillips wrote: "'Racist' is used to describe material which is derogatory and insulting, which this publication clearly is not."
Two letters sent by Davies on the subject of Carol Thatcher's infamous "golliwog" comment were not received by the commission, the correspondence shows.
A reply to Davies's question about blacking up is not in the correspondence, which was obtained through a freedom of information request. A spokesman said the reply was on its way to Davies. The spokesman added: "There are many writings produced by scholars about blacking up, arguing that minstrel shows lampoon black people in derogatory ways, and many people clearly find blacking up to portray minstrels or black people offensive." Blacking up is often viewed as racist because of its connections to the minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries, which promoted the mocking stereotype of a grinning, happy-go-lucky, infantilised black rascal.
Davies regularly addresses Phillips as Sir Trevor, leading the EHRC chair to eventually add a handwritten note to one reply: "Thank you for the 'knighthood' but HM has – probably rightly – never extended that honour to me!!" Davies replies with his own handwritten PS: "Surely your knighthood is only a matter of time! You heard it here first!"
Davies said: "Anybody who follows my career in parliament knows I'm concerned with the issue of political correctness. I'm merely pursuing a subject I raise more regularly than anyone else in parliament. "It's one of my bugbears. Lots of people are castigated for being racist when that's not their intention." He said he believed in equality and as such disagreed with "positive discrimination". "That builds up a resentment that doesn't exist before."
Asked what David Cameron made of his views, he said: "I've absolutely no idea. If he doesn't agree with me about it, it won't be the first time he didn't agree with me." He added that he was a "humble backbencher" who didn't speak for his party.
Davies established in 2008 that male staff at the commission were paid on average £4,500 more a year than female staff, and that white staff were paid £1,800 more a year than black and other ethnic minority staff. He also protested at moves at the BBC to fast-track ethnic minority staff.
Peter Herbert, the chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: "This correspondence seems a complete and utter waste of time. Half of this stuff, he should go and get legal advice, and the person that's meant to action these are the individuals who feel aggrieved. If he wishes to have recourse to law he shouldn't be using the Human Rights Commission as basically a source of legal advice, which is what he appears to be doing."
He said Davies had the right to raise issues on behalf of his constituents with the commission, or issues of great national importance. But he added: "These are not important points of public policy at all. They are all of the same generic type. It looks very much like an effort to find fault with the Human Rights Commission for political point-scoring."
When the Conservative party was asked for a view on Davies's campaign, a spokesman said: "For over a decade the Conservatives have made the case for fairness, not special treatment. We will continue to argue that Britain's strength is the freedom it offers and its steadfast commitment to tolerance, respect for the individual and democracy."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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