A further thread on David’s analysis.
In an earlier thread, I looked at how one might strengthen accountability.
But let’s look at the current government’s attitude to accountability, to see where the dangers lie.
The current government’s hostile attitude to judicial scrutiny is a well-worn subject: lots about it on legal Twitter.
But its attitude to other kinds of accountability is revealed by @michaelgove’s Ditchley Park speech (which is a must read for anyone trying to understand the current government). gov.uk/government/spe…
What Gove say about accountability? Well, at first sight, he seems to think lack of accountability is a problem.
But note that he is not really talking here about ministers’ accountability: rather, he is talking about the accountability of “elites”; of “Whitehall”; of institutions.
Indeed, when he comes to bodies that hold *ministers* to account, he is scathing: -
The Gove vision is one where Ministers are free from such constraints. They can “innovate”. They can “fast track”. They can try new things and fail.
If you ask the question: “but to whom are Ministers accountable?” Gove’s answer isn’t clear. He doesn’t mention Parliament (apart from the scathing reference to @CommonsPAC and “self-righteous” select committee chairs). Or the courts. Or anyone else.
Accountable to the people in a General Election? But if that’s the *only* form of accountability you accept then you are arguing for elective dictatorship.
So what you get from the Ditchley speech is a picture of a government that is keen on the accountability of others, but not keen on its own accountability: indeed, existing checks on its accountability are attacked as hostile to innovation.
Nor is there any acknowledgment of the risks of the culture of innovation and disdain for traditional forms of accountability. The risk that ministers shut out unwelcome voices; hear only what they want to hear.
Gove argues that ministers should learn from failure: but without strong accountability, the tendency is to hide failure, not to learn from it.
And note the risk of corruption that comes with fast-tracking contracts and approvals for those who happen to have had the chance to persuade ministers that their project is wonderful and should be rushed through.
Democratic and legal accountability does slow things down. It can be frustrating. There is a price. But the dangers of reducing it are huge. And, ultimately, lack of accountability leads to lack of trust. And without trust, effective government is impossible.
And on the risks of corruption that follow from a disdain for rules and procedures and a reliance on a “but I’m not corrupt and this must be worth a try” culture, see by @CSC_barrington here.

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More from @GeorgePeretzQC

30 Mar
David has identified the problem. The point, however, is to deal with it.
What could we do to improve things? Some parts of our system work well. @CommonsPAC - backed by the National Audit Office - is feared by Ministers and Whitehall. “What would the PAC say about that?” is still a useful and salutary question.
Strengthening Select Committees; giving them more resources and staff; making chairing one a real goal of an ambitious MP wanting to change things and make their mark (better than being a minister) - all important. And to some extent happening.
Read 10 tweets
26 Mar
Fascinating judgment on compatibility of COVID regulations requiring closure of places of worship with Article 9 ECHR and Scots constitutional law. scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-s…
Points which struck me: the judge (IMO rightly) dismissed the “but you can worship anywhere” argument, noting the emphasis that most Christian churches place on collective worship and (esp in the Catholic tradition) sacramental aspects of worship that can’t be replicated on line.
The other point was the finding that Scots constitutional law imposes a limitation on the powers *of the U.K. Parliament* (and therefore the Scottish Parliament) to interfere with worship - dating back to the 1592 doctrine of the “twa kingdoms”.
Read 5 tweets
25 Mar
I’m no fan of the EU’s measures. But “suspend and override the law” is simply incorrect.
(See below, for more explanation. Note also that the EU position - wise or not - is probably defensible under Article XX GATT.)
Fortunately, for once, the current government seems to be taking a more measured and diplomatic approach than that recommended by Lord Moylan.
Read 4 tweets
25 Mar
IMO it’s unwise - it sets an unhappy precedent - for a state to ban vaccine exports where contracts have been entered into. But I think there are dangers (as in other contexts critics of “judicial activism” are eager to point out) in extending the “rule of law” concept too far.
@SBarrettBar seems to regard any state interference with pre-existing contracts as a breach of the rule of law. But if that’s right, then eg legislating to increase tenants’ or employees’ rights, or banning exports of arms or cultural heritage is a breach of the rule of law.
Conceptually it’s better, I think, to regard such interference as an interference with property rights - in ECHR terms, an interference that engages Article 1 of Protocol 1.
Read 8 tweets
24 Mar
The current PM’s identification of capitalism with greed - shades of Gordon Gecko - is quite interesting.
Most political defenders of a market economy or capitalism - from Smith/Hayek to Thatcher - shy well away from that identification: indeed, they reject it.
That’s not just because greed is an unattractive characteristic. More profoundly, it’s because a market economy depends on respect for rules, trust, and responsibility: all of which are undermined by greed.
Read 6 tweets
23 Mar
I’m not convinced that the Chinese government has yet quite got the hang of soft power.
If I were the Chinese government, looking to persuade people that its policies are not genocidal, I might hesitate here. Is “we’re just doing what you did” really the message you want to be sending out?
Read 5 tweets

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