A room with review

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Chris Grayling's scales of justice #leaningtotheright
Chris Grayling’s scales of justice #leaningtotheright

What is Chris Grayling playing at? Any guesses? It’s beyond me.

He seems very set on his idea of reforming Judicial Review, the way that people can challenge government decisions in the courts. Just so we’re all on the same page, I’ve looked up the word ‘reform’ in the Oxford English Dictionary – and then in one more appropriate to our Justice Secretary, the Cambridge English Dictionary.

definition-of-reformWhat m’learned friend seems to have done is thought to himself, “Lots of people are suing us for breaking the law, and sometimes they win and it turns out we were breaking the law. I reckon the best and most obvious way to resolve this intolerable situation is to ban them from suing us.”

Grayling, who apparently is of one mind with someone who once guest-wrote for this blog, seems to consider it rank impertinence for humble citizens of this democracy to question his judgement, especially when some of those citizens have had the temerity to organise themselves into campaigning organisations.

As barrister and Independent columnist Charlotte Proudman has observed, “Grayling wishes to return to a time when the state had overriding power to regulate and control citizens’ lives through unscrutinised decision-making.”

So allow me to present Chris Grayling’s Song, or as he prefers it to be known, R (ex parte Grayling) v Common Sense, Human Rights and Basic Justice.

Oh better far to put up and do
What you are told: no Judicial Review!
I don’t know what this ridiculous fear is:
We never do things which are ultra vires.
You whine at decisions which you think are awful.
Just ’cos you don’t like it you claim it’s unlawful.
But I’ll never cave in to the left wing
And I’ll scrap JR, for I am Chris Grayling.

For my name is Chris Grayling
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To have all the power of a king. (x2)

For in our British democracy,
There’s no room for legal hypocrisy.
You’ve had your vote, now get off the scene.
I’m controlling this country ’til 2015.
I’m fed up with being pulled up on legality,
Procedural failures or irrationality.
So if I accomplish only this thing,
I will scrap JR, for I am Chris Grayling.


m'learned friendM’Lord Chancellor will perhaps be comforted to hear that has a kindred spirit in Sir George Campbell MP, who is going to explain to us how he was appointed to a minor judicial office, despite having no knowledge of the law, by Lord John Campbell (no relation… oh no wait a minute, it was his uncle), became a barrister “on the strength of eating dinners,” and then acquired a posing as a senior judge in India.


Britain in Bloom

UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom MEP has been doing a spot of digging recently. After an illustrious career in the European Parliament in which he heckled German colleagues by yelling, “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer,” said he supported women’s rights only because “they don’t clean behind the fridge enough” (what does that even mean?) and, on one occasion, even had to be carried out of the chamber by an intern after making a drunken speech, he has gained more recent notoriety by calling for an end to “British aid to Bongo Bongo Land.”

But at this week’s UKIP party conference, Mr Bloom clearly decided he wanted to tidy up his public image.

To begin with, he described the audience of a session about women in politics as “full of sluts,” though it turned out this was “only a joke” so that’s OK.

UKIP having an impact
UKIP having an impact

Then on his way out, Channel 4’s Michael Crick asked him why the conference brochure didn’t feature a single picture of anyone who wasn’t white. Bloom literally exploded with indignation at this “disgusting and racist” remark from Crick, and reacted, erm, quite distinctively.



What is a university?

sussex-league-table-graph‘What is a university?’ was the title of a recent panel discussion that I attended. One of the panellists was Pro-Vice-Chancellor Claire ‘it’s not my fault’ Mackie, and to be honest she suffered from an unfair disadvantage in that she wouldn’t recognise a university even if it employed her at a senior level and paid her £105,000 per annum. She made a number of interesting (read: ‘facile’) points, among others in defence of her outsourcing programme.

“We already outsource lots of things, by the way, such as buying paper from an outside supplier.”

Yes, astonishing as it is, Sussex does not have its own on-campus paper mill but has outsourced our paper production requirements to an external company. Similarly, all of our electricity is generated offsite and rather than creating our computers from scratch using raw materials, we buy them from Dell, albeit not very successfully.

Testing the sandwiches: democracy in action
Testing the sandwiches: democracy in action

Prof. Mackie went on to admit that the University didn’t consult (or as she put it, “could not consult”) staff and students over the decision to outsource over 200 jobs, but “we do consult on a lot of things: we consulted on what types of sandwich to serve in the Bramber House café.”

So there you go: it was too much effort to listen to staff and student views on screwing up people’s pension arrangements, but at least I got to express an opinion on the finer points of baguette retailing. Bloody hell.

Colour of the bike shed much?

Late addition: the Director of Estate Services has written an excited press release about a “new forum” being created to listen to the student voice on the new outsourced services.

The article rambles on for eight paragraphs before finally admitting that the phrase ‘new forum’ is just a buzzword with nothing whatsoever behind it: “Details of the forum will be published in October.” So why make us read this unsubstantiated drivel now?

Just for the sake of it…

simon-schama-story-of-the-jews-title-card-titlesIf any readers based in the Brighton area – I believe there are quite a few! – are interested in any of the courses being taught in this year’s Lishmah Sussex programme (‘Jewish learning for its own sake’) then please do come along in October.

You don’t have to be even slightly Jewish, there are student discounts available, and I’m running one of the classes if that’s an incentive! (And you don’t have to come to my option if that’s a bigger incentive.)

Five of the best

Since you ask me for the credits of this blog post…
In tonight’s episode, the nature of democracy was misunderstood by Chris Grayling. The colour of the bikeshed was changed by Claire Mackie. A father of three Just Said No. And Lishmah will hopefully be attended by a wide variety of people. This was an Gabrielquotes production but in order to reduce credits I’m not going to tell you that.

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