On what led the government and ministers to believe that the laws, whether domestic and international, do not apply to them.

First published in September 2020.

There is a lot going on in the news at the moment, to say the least, but it does, as much as anything, provide a good example of how little regard this government in particular has for the rule of law.

First obstacle though is conspiracy theories. Just because some things appear linked it is not advisable to assume that they are. Coincidence is more likely in most cases than conspiracy. Also a conspiracy requires competence, something singularly lacking from this government.

I know a lot of people would like to see the government’s actions as part of some grand and calculated scheme. I am more inclined to think, based on its run of knee jerk reactions and so many U-turns it looks like a joyrider doing donuts in a carpark, that the government just doesn’t think ahead.

So let’s look at the news – or some of it – because, let’s be honest, there’s a lot. The other week Priti Patel was banging on about “activist lawyers” blocking the Home Office from breaking the law and numerous MPs were calling for Britain to violate international refugee law.

If we are being entirely realistic about this, not many people paid that much attention. In fact there was more than one media outlet which seemed more than a little keen on the whole idea. It didn’t exactly give the impression that people cared about international law, that’s for sure.

This government has little regard for the rule of law. / Flickr – Number 10

Then we had the whole Extinction Rebellion farce regarding blockading newspapers. Suddenly protests were against democracy, but not if they happened to blockade the A20 and lead to police officers being attacked, because those ones were against asylum seekers.

We have had the whole prorogation affair and calls to reform “judicial review”. Now, we have the Brandon Lewis statement saying the UK will break international law.

Each one of these things is separate, but also shows a complete disregard for the law and for long term repercussions.

Brandon Lewis admits: 'Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way'. / YouTube – The Guardian

Let’s be honest here though. This isn’t exactly new and countries, including the UK, have been violating international law since long before 2016. It is just that most of the time people didn’t realise it, and other countries by dint of doing similar turned a blind eye.

Lewis saying the quiet bits out loud has brought this to the fore in a manner which I think government was unprepared for. Reactions, or lack thereof to “activist lawyers” line, calls to violate refugee law and criticism of XR gave them a mistaken belief in how they could act.

It has been easy to ignore other aspects of the government’s belief that it is above the law for many people because they saw that it could get them what they wanted. With one line though Brandon Lewis made it clear that a disregard for the law can’t be limited to “specific” areas.

Again, I don’t think this is part of some grand scheme. It is just a general feeling of contempt for the law by the current crop of Conservatives. Each part though has led to the government actually believing that the laws, whether domestic and international, do not apply to it.

This is why it is as important to defend laws for refugees as for anyone else. Once you start to say laws can be broken in “specific areas”, you open the door for it to be broken when it affects you. That is why governments must be bound by the law, not present themselves as above the law.🔷


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Priti Patel

🗳️ Brandon Lewis

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 10 September 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/Number 10. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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