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Saturday Subpoena - Catch Up Edition

Saturday Subpoena is back! This week i will be talking about opposition parties, which universities have planned to raise fee's to the maximum, and the definition of justice. To finish off, watch a drunk US lawyer paint himself into a corner.

Opposition Parties

I really enjoy watching Prime Minister's Questions. I have, in the past, enjoyed watching Blair rip the various conservative leaders to pieces, Brown awkwardly try to crowbar in a pre-prepared joke, and Miliband try to command even a little respect from the house.

House of Commons Main Chamber
Its this latter point that i am writing about today. I have often seen Cameron dodge legitimate questions from the opposition by focusing on the failures of Labour when in power. It drives me crazy, as it renders opposition questions pointless. The Speaker, who is gormless at the best of times, is complicit in rendering Her Majesties Opposition a very blunt instrument.

Luckily we have a coalition government, which is not something i ever thought i would say. I say it because its clear that, despite being in a very weak position, the LibDems are a calming influence on Conservative policy. This isn't, however, a substitute for an effective opposition.

House of Lords Main Chamber
This problem can be dealt with in two ways. Firstly, the Commons needs to support the very nature of having an opposition, which is to scrutinise the governments decisions. The Commons can do this by adopting the position, while in the House, that an opposition party is a fresh and new entity. In much the same way that a prisoner has 'done his time', the opposition party will have taken their licks by being kicked out of power. They can therefore freely adopt any position in the House they feel is in the public interest, even if it would be considered hypercritical. The public won't forget the mistakes of an opposition party, but in order that the opposition can do their job, parliament must.

The second way is getting the Speaker to force the government to answer questions properly. I see this as problematic, as a speaker is meant to be independent of a party. For the speaker to decide what is and is not a proper answer could lead to accusations of political bias.

A possible third option comes from a bit of self disapline from the Government. But when they have such an effective dodge tactic, are they going to easily give it up?

University Fees

I'm not going to blab on too much about university fees, but i want to offer some defence to the government. As much as i disagree with everything a Vice Chancellor stands for i am happy for a fee rise if the money is used to improve the quality of my education.

University of York
When the time comes to repay your loan, the monthly repayments will remain the same no matter if the fees are £3000 or £9000, all that will change is the length of time it will take to pay it off. The money will be taken from your account automatically, before it reaches your account, so it will not be like you will suddenly have less money to take home at the end of the month than before.

It's all good and well to take a principled stand against the fee increase, but i wonder how many of those opposed to the increase actually realise the practical implications of it?

What is Justice, and what is Injustice?

Since re-branding No Such Word as Kan't as DietJustice i have had to start thinking about exactly what justice is. The nature of this blog is that it really doesn't need defining, as this blog is about justice in its broadest and most natural sense. But when i came to think about how i would personally define justice, i found it quite difficult. What is an easier starting place is to define injustice, and my thoughts have generally involved a triumph of the strong over the weak, here are some examples;

  • State over the individual
  • Government over citizen
  • Big company over customer
  • Lender over borrower
  • Strong over the vulnerable
Some other definitions of injustice i found are;
  • Any violation of the rights of another person
  • Concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity
Scales of Injustice
I also came across a fascinating graphical representation of injustice, a parody of the Scales of Justice (right).

I really like this representation, and it helps me reach a definition of injustice. I believe justice starts with a decision; by an individual, a group or a state etc. Justice comes from the factors that contribute towards that decision. A decision that, using the scales of injustice, is influenced by Law, Democracy, Common Sense, Public Opinion and Justice, is a fair and just one. As an aside I think that, considering the point the picture is trying to make, using the word justice on one of the scales is a mistake. If i were to redraw a DJ version of it, i would either rename is "Natural Justice", which is really just common sense, or it would not include the word Justice at all. A decision influenced by Corruption, Politics, Chaos, and Profit (i can't quite read the last one) is an unjust one. 

I have used this graphic as a means to define what i think justice and injustice is, but i think its clear that the person who drew this intended it to show a particular bias against politics. I tend to agree that corruption, chaos and profit can lead to injustice, but i am not sure if i agree with the placing of politics. Politics certainly can lead to injustice, but it can also lead to the protection of law, democracy and is the representation of public opinion. So if i were to redraw the picture, i would have politics as the cross bar that joins the two sides of the scale. 

On the basis that politics is the cross bar, and the whole image represents our society, how just decisions are depend on how much weight we allow on each side. For example; how well do we police corruption. How do we prevent 'chaos'. How do we protect our decision makers from the influence of profit? 

Many philosophers have tried to define justice but this exercise was a personal one.


"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." 
Ronald Reagan

Drunk Lawyer comes unstuck

This comes in 4 parts. Its length put me off initially, but having watched the first part i was hooked. This lawyer is acting for the defence in a kidnapping trial. He arrives late and claims he was involved in a car crash. In this series of videos you will see the judge discover his web of lies. He was drunk in charge, crashed his car and attempted to defend his client while drunk. Its fascinating! 

Click READ MORE to see videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4