Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Scottish Play

.. for the ongoing saga of our Attorney General is indeed beginning to resemble a Shakesperean tragdey.

Now, we hear that the illegal cleaner claims that Lady Scotland did not see her passport, that her interview was no more than ten minutes, and that it consisted of (roughly) "when do you want to start". Lady Scotland, on the other hand, claims that she saw a stamped passport, a P45, and a letter from the Home Office.

Ask yourself, please, who you prima facie believe here. Then note that, on the one hand, we have a Queen's Counsel, a Minister of the Crown, a senior government legal officer, a member of the House of Lords, whilst on the other hand we have a confessed criminal. If, like most people, you were instinctively suspicious of Lady Scotland, ask yourself what that tells you about what Labour have done to the public life of this country after 12 years of rule.

Then think back to 1997, to an end to sleaze and Blair's "whiter than white" speech.

(Or, if you believe the Baroness, pop over to Guido for an explanation of why her claims stretch the bounds of credibility).


  1. Patently,

    Just to balance up your post, on the other side you do have Max Clifford and a young girl away from home and has been sacked.

    Guido also gives an eschewed story because if this girl has gone travelling, I think she would take her current passport and/or papers with her. Therefore I am not particularly surprised the UKBA did not find them when they searched her flat. I think we should ask why this girl was chosen for this job. I doubt it was advertised or an agency was involved.

    Sorry to criticise your post but this may explain the lack of comment on this occasion. No hard feelings, unlike some, I hope. ;-)

  2. Measured & Patently,

    Thanks for two very interesting posts. I think that what is coming into focus through them is the degree to which our judgments of Baroness Scotland are coloured by factors which are not directly connected to her case, namely: the fact that she is a member of the Labour Government and the fact that she is caught up in that whole political world which seems generally sleazy at the moment.

    As far as our opinions of her are concerned Baroness Scotland has been ill-served by the company she keeps. Whether this is just or not is probably best left unanswered until we know all the evidence - the poor woman is, I hope, guilty of nothing more than that for which she has already been convicted.

    But even withholding judgment in this way still leaves the fact that our trust, even in our most senior and trust-worthy office- holders has been alarmingly diminished.

    How much of this is owing to our perception of the Labour Party and how much to our perception of politicians in general focusses the issue still further.

    Thank goodness we're not a republic!

  3. Gordon Brown said he was going to make the Attorney General post non-political when he came into office as PM.
    Having been damaged by the Iraq war dodgy advice, the no case to answer of cash for peerages and BAE systems bribery scandal not investigated for dubious political reasons it would have been a good, decisive move.

    Unfortunately the indecisive PM could not bring himself to put anyone but a total ally, bought in for party loyalty above all else, into that position and very little changed.
    Hence the ongoing scandal.

    A party appointment has been treated very leniently for political reasons. Its another outrage and another perversion of our law.
    Look today at the outcry of two police officers being forced to stop looking after their children by regulation that carries heavy penalties.
    Has there been a fast track of the justice system? could they say that its 'just paperwork and of no concern'
    The cases are completely different yes, and yet are symptomatic of the divide between the rulers and the rules.

    The AG, by all accounts has done a good job.
    She has done remarkably well for a lackey, but Wilhelm Keitel did a good job and was no fool either.
    She should have resigned. If she didn't the PM should have told her to go, instead of telling her not too for his own political ends.
    A decisive PM would have sacked her if she hadn't gone.
    Brown saw instantly that McBride must go over the emails, which broke no laws except decency. He told McBride to go the same day.
    Yet the highest lawmaker in the land, who bought in regulation that she was advised was overly bureaucratic and moved the burden of proof from the guilty to the employer of the guilty, remains in office.

    What a farce.
    Justice is not blind in this country, just half blind.

  4. I see that in the FTJack Straw has said this whole row is sexist.

    "Had the attorney been a man, I suspect none of this opprobrium would have fallen, because they would have said, ‘Oh I leave all these things to my wife. I don’t know anything about them. So there’s a woman’s issue here."

    There is so much that is wrong and frankly insulting about that remark, that it would be hard to know where to start. Perhaps the remark that followed is even more surreal:

    “Alistair [Darling] is a Scottish Presbyterian, they don’t do optimism in the way that we good Anglicans do.”

    (Good Anglicans? What happened to "there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders"?)

    The article continues:

    When the FT points out that Mr Brown is also a Scottish Presbyterian, Mr Straw retorts: “Alistair and Gordon are absolutely determined to win. And so am I.” The aim of the conference must be “partly about [restoring a sense of] self-belief. We’ve been in much worse difficulties in the party over the years.

    "Self-belief"? It's all got a bit Pelagian. Perhaps he means that the way the Labour Party is going to cope the fact that it has lost the will to live is by hiding in some kind of group solipsism.

  5. Hi Measured,

    Feel free to disagree - that is the point of the ability to post comments! I'm not sure you do, though; we are both highlighting the same issue from different perspectives, namely that in an issue where there is so much that is uncertain, the media and most public opinion are rounding on the member of the Government that arrived on the coat-tails of the "sleaze" allegations of the 90s, promising to change all.

    It could be argued any which way, but we all instinctively choose to see it as an errant Minister. It is a national attitude of cynicism that, to my mind, vies for the trophy of "greatest damage inflicted on the Nation by New Labour".

    Bill - you explain well why we do round on her, and why we should.

    Albert - be glad Straw is no longer Home Secretary, else prosecutions might follow in respect of the clear and blatant discrimination that he has identified...!

    I do have some thoughts on the nature of her offence, and hope to distil them into a post. Time is hard to come by at the moment, though.

  6. Patently,

    I was really pointing out that there is too much conflicting evidence to reach the supposition of Baroness Scotland lying but nor is there any need to go down this avenue since you established in your orginal story, Baroness Scotland should resign without a shadow of a doubt. In response to Albert, I want to say women must have swords these days and my feet are firmly on the ground, or at least I think so! As Bill and Albert pointed out, the fact Baroness Scotland has not done the decent thing is a grave reflection on the state of Gordon Brown and his government. As the architect of the regulations she was found guilty of transgressing, her position definitely remains untenable in my view regardless of whether she lied or not. Conventions are eroded at everyone's (but especially a libertarian's) peril. I look forward to your further thoughts, P.

  7. A young girl away from home? How patronising. The cleaner has admitted that she hid her immigration status from employers because otherwise she would not be employed. She has admitted overstaying her visa which expired many years ago. If she had the proper documents she would have presented them in order to back herself up. She has not, and has openly admitted that she should not have been employed.

    The excuse that this was just a case of failing to photocopy documents is a nonsense because there were no documents to photocopy because the woman was here illegally.

    So now we are wrong to criticise the AG and her poor judgement because we are only attacking her on the basis that she is attached to the Labour party? What rot, we are attacking her because she has broken the law that she supported in Parliament and then lied about it. Shameful. And shameful that anyone with half a brain could be supporting the AG's untenable position.

    As for Jack Straw, I thought he was Jewish?

  8. Blue Eyes,

    So now we are wrong to criticise the AG and her poor judgement because we are only attacking her on the basis that she is attached to the Labour party? What rot

    Is anyone actually arguing that here?
    It seems to me that there are two distinct issues here (three if you take Jack Straw seriously):

    (i) Should the AG have resigned over failing to keep her own law?
    (ii) Did she lie?

    I don't see anyone here defending her for not resigning, but that does not entitle us to draw the conclusion that she lied. Although the circumstantial evidence is not encouraging, it nevertheless falls short of the conclusion - at least before we've heard her self-defence from the charge.

  9. "what is coming into focus through them is the degree to which our judgments of Baroness Scotland are coloured by factors which are not directly connected to her case, namely: the fact that she is a member of the Labour Government"

    What we do not have is circumstantial evidence. What we have are statements from Baroness Scotland and Loloahi Tapui. Scotland says she saw documents which Tapui says never existed.

    So i) she should resign for failing to abide by her own law and ii) she lied in a failed attempt to make it look like an administrative error.

  10. Sorry Blue, I wasn't clear.

    Of course there is evidence that she lied. That has been tacit from the beginning. But can we justly convict her before hearing her defence? I think not.

    The other question of her connection with the Government is to do with what (if anything) our instincts on this (whether ultimately right or wrong) may tell us about the Government. It is a different question from the one of whether she is in fact guilty of lying.

  11. But can we justly convict her before hearing her defence? I think not.

    It would only be fair to do that if she were, for example, the AG of a government that had tampered with the automatic presumption of innocence.

    ::[raises eyebrows]::

  12. I don't think anyone is suggesting she be convicted before she can lay out her defence, but she should resign from a position of responsibility while there are questions being asked about her integrity. In any non-political role she would have been suspended pending investigation. In any political role she should have resigned. In politics trust and integrity is everything.

    If we haven't yet had Scotland's "defence" then why not? And what was all that hogwash about having "seen" documents if it wasn't a defence?

    Sorry, but I cannot think of any reason why she should not resign.

  13. I think we're largely in agreement here. However, if false, her comment about having seen the documentation was not a defence against the accusation of lying, rather, it was the lie. Therefore, we need to hear a further defence against the evidence that she lied. I don't know how long we should give her, but I take your point about that Blue. In any case, the question of whether she lied does not touch the question of whether she should have resigned by now - except to strengthen the case for her resignation.

    Patently, the fact that this Government has acted in ways that are unjust, does not justify further injustice. Happily, justice is a higher category than law and government. That's why it's wrong to obey unjust laws.

  14. @Albert & @Blue Eyes

    Please may I point out that there are major discrepancies between Baroness Scotland's version of events and Loloahi Tapui's. Baroness Scotland states job interviews while Ms Tapui states a ten minute job interview. Baroness Scotland states she 'saw' (ie catch a glimpse of, as it is reasonable to surmise she would use the word 'examine' if she could) while Ms Tapui says Baroness Scotland did not 'ask to see' her passport. It is something she would take to a job interview though. I see no reference to a 'stamped' passport, Patently. Had Ms Tapui in five years worked illegally elsewhere? I am sure she had received a letter on Home Office headed notepaper, just not the 'right' letter. There remain many points that require clarifying.

    Given the parties, I am not prepared to agree with Patently or BE that Baroness Scotland was lying but, as Albert so brilliantly distilled it, this should not be confused with the issue that, based on her conviction of a regulation which she was responsible for imposing on us, Baroness Scotland as AG should resign. Furthermore, I think it is totally immaterial that this was a civil, as opposed to a criminal, offence because it is her involvement in drafting these regulations which implicitly makes her culpable of more than the simple conviction (unlike Harman's point of view about Patricia Scotland).

    BE, you may wish to pursue the charge of lying because if that is proven, then her integrity is in shreds. It is interesting that the media do not appear to have pursued it this week. Perhaps the Sunday papers will be more forthcoming. However, I think a far more important underlying principle is at stake here concerning conventions, without us getting bogged down in the quagmire of a kangaroo court trying to determine the veracity of one person's word against another.

  15. Measured, if I may return the compliment, you have expressed brilliantly why we shouldn't yet be judging she has lied - whatever our instincts.

    We cannot judge that she has lied simply because in the face of the (rather limited) evidence, we may not be able to think of a defence.

  16. Albert and Measured . Superb comments, however -
    Thats the trouble with the law. The law does not care about guilt or innocence, it only cares about the law.
    A celebrity can escape a drugs conviction, despite CCTV evidence of a powder applied up the nostrils with a straw, by saying 'Nothing is proved. That powder could be almost anything.'

    Except it couldn't. If reasonable suspicion instead of absolubte proof was applied then its another success for the CPS.

    Part of Baroness Scotland's defence for not resigning is that this was a civil matter.
    Then the employment law application of reasonable belief might apply.

    There is reasonable belief that no passport was seen and no passport exists. If the AG can produce the required photocopy then she is in the clear on every charge. If she cannot produce the evidence then it comes down to requirements of the law and each persons words and actions.
    Why does the cleaner say there was no passport? What does she gain by that admission? Nothing at all. What does Scotland gain by saying there was, despite any evidence of a passport with a visa in it?
    She keeps her job.

    In any workplace dismissal tribunal she would be 50/50 at the very, very best of keeping her job.
    Gross misconduct for - not following company policies - inadequate care in recruitment vetting - failure to maintain company documents - breaches of security policies -.

    Any HR manager would have to have very good answers if they had employed someone who turned out to be an illegal immigrant and the company was fined. No answers - no job.

  17. Bill,

    Why does the cleaner say there was no passport? What does she gain by that admission? ... What does Scotland gain by saying there was, despite any evidence of a passport with a visa in it?

    These are very important questions. Of course, if the AG doesn't begin to provide answers to these questions (and others like them) or other exonerating evidence sometime soon, then by default we will be in possession of adequate evidence and a conclusion can be drawn.

    And that raises a further question you've drawn attention to: what standard of proof is required to convict* her? balance of probability or beyond reasonable doubt?

    *I mean convict not in the legal sense, but in the sense of us drawing a just conclusion.

  18. And just to clarify, in that last post I was only talking about convicting her of lying, not of whether she should resign.

  19. I am not conflating the issues. There are two. First is that Scotland failed to abide by her own rule. Resignation issue. Second is that she lied to cover up the severity of the failure to abide by her own rule. Resignation issue.

    An excellent discussion where everybody basically agrees but still has fun arguing the toss!

  20. @Bill Quango MP

    I appreciate many of the points you raise. I would like to add a couple of comments.

    The first is that Max Clifford has an agenda if I am not too mistaken! He is rubbing his hands with glee. For his cut, I reckon he will tell the aggrieved Ms Tapui what to say, what not to say and how to maximise the innuendo from her remarks. Also Baroness Scotland would have more persuasive evidence of good character and oh, possibly extenuating circumstances of the inadvertent effects of work pressures on her mind.

    Moving on, for a first offence Kate Moss will have been dealt with leniently but I have no idea how she walked from that. Beyond reasonable doubt is for criminal law where a defendant typically faces a sanction, while the balance of probabilities (ie more likely than not) is in the civil courts where compensation to a claimant is involved. In tribunals it varies. Without further research, I am not sure the precise regulation Baroness Scotland but I think this is part of what she was charged under (opsi website).

    As you highlight, laws are not just made for justice. To prevent floodgates (to stop everyone claiming), to raise funds (under New Labour) and maintain standards are just some of the other reasons I can immediately think of. The law is an ass, but the way it is manipulated is fascinating.

    @Albert Thanks. :-)

    @BE Totally agree! :-D