Sunday, March 1, 2009

Harman is God (she tells us...)

OK, so everyone is commenting on this, but it really is utterly beyond belief that a Government minister in a stable, democratic country like Britain could make such a remark. Harriet Harman is a QC, a former solicitor-general, an experienced minister, and is rather brighter than she looks or some of us would care to acknowledge. She is also a fool, a blindly idealistic socialist, an extreme statist, and Minister for women, a position no serious politician would ever accept. Her reason for doing so might be that she hopes to be the next leader of the Labour party and so doesn't want to have any responsible position when it goes to pieces at the next election.

So far, so normal. As I have pointed out before, politicians don't do it for you and me. But Harman is quoted in the Guardian (left-wing newspaper, for those not familiar with the details of the British press) in the following terms (Fred Goodson is a man who was employed at a high level by a bank which lost a lot of money):

'The deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, today stepped up the pressure on the former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin to waive his £693,000 pension, saying the government aimed to take the money back from him.

"The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"It might be enforceable in a court of law, this [pension] contract – but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion, and that is where the government steps in."'

Fred Goodwin entered into a contract with a private company which apparently included a (very) substantial pension if certain conditions were met. Although the government blames him (though it may have been more their fault than his) for the losses it has made, the conditions have been met, as the government itself admits. That a government minister would threaten to overturn a private contract (government contracts are next to worthless, of course) whose legality is not questioned, simply because they do not like it, or to attempt to gain electoral advantage, is Fascism, tyranny, naked despotism. It is not democracy.

One of the things which allowed Britain to become free and prosperous was the law of contract. I refer to the fact that any agreement made between competent adults is enforceable in the courts. In Roman Law contracts must take certain specified forms and can be challenged and voided retrospectively. The effect of this is to constrain trade and freedom, and to give power to those who determine whether a given contract is valid. In England any agreement that can be shown to exist (and this includes oral contracts) may be pursued through a court.

This woman, like Mandelson, who has spoken of this before her, is moved by panic at the likely prospect of losing the next election. It is not at all clear what sort of Labour party she would have left to lead, since it may well disintegrate. But the result of her panic, and the egomania inherent in the idea that she cannot allow herself to lose importance, is that a government minister has stated publically that the Prime Minister plans to use his interpretation of public opinion, which he has himself stirred up, to justify a breach of contract which no court would accept (and probably won't; Parliament cannot set aside law in this manner, and even if it could, he will not find the courts accommodating, and I doubt, in fact, whether even Parliament will lend itself to this).

In a couple of days the press will have moved on to something else, but this woman has affirmed her, and the government's, power to ignore the law arbitrarily. Unless it is challenged, the precedent will be there.

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