PolLaw Express: 11th August 2015 edition.

Your daily dose of politics and the law. NI intrigued? Covered. UK focused? Sure. US-centric? You got it.

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Welcome to the daily news round-up via my e-newspaper. Here are the top stories from today:


  1. The mother who defends stop and frisk: ‘What about my dead son’s civil rights?’ (via The Guardian)
    ~ This is a very emotive article from The Guardian, and it discusses the case of 14 year old Akeal Christopher, who was shot and later died in Brooklyn in 2012. His mother, Natasha Christopher, believes her son was killed as a result of the decision for the NYPD to cease in using the tactics of stop and frisk.

Stop and frisk was controversial, in that young black men were disproportionately targeted by the police using such tactics. Civil rights activists had long campaigned for such practice to be halted, and in New York in 2013, a Manhattan Federal court judge ruled in favour of ending stop and frisk.

Three years after the death of Akeal Christopher,his killer remains unknown – but it is likely that they still live in the neighbourhood. The failure of the police to find this shooter and thus deliver justice for Akeal, as well as countless other young people who have lost their lives through localised gun violence has reinforced the conviction of Ms Christopher in that the use of stop and frisk should be reinstated in order to save lives in the black community.

As she herself states,

‘They took away stop and frisk and left us with nothing but streets full of guns’

When implemented in New York City during the 1990s by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then police commissioner Bill Bratton, stop and frisk tactics aimed to improve quality of life in a far more serious manner than the Broken Windows policy, which had focused primarily on petty criminals.

This new method of policing aimed to reduce the number of guns on the street and deter would-be criminals. Within a few years, crime in the city began to plummet, and by 2012, almost two decades later, the city went from having 9.6% of the nation’s homicides to having 2.3%.


2. Would UK military action against IS in Syria be legal? (via BBC News)
~ One of the main issues which will be faced by returning MPs after their summer recess is likely to be whether to authorise military intervention against the Islamic State (IS) extremists in Syria – a controversial, and complex issue indeed.

This would not be the first round of contemplation and debate on the topic. Parliament has already rejected military intervention in Syria, back in 2013.

However, ministers have been stating that circumstances have since changed – most notably with the rise of IS and related violence – and that they would only proceed with UK military intervention this time with the backing of Parliament.

Yet this is not technically necessary. Since the 2003 Iraq War, it may have become convention to seek the approval of Parliament for military intervention – but there is actually no legal requirement for Parliamentary approval for military action. So, whilst ministers may say they would not proceed without a Commons vote, they can rest assured of their belief in their knowledge of international law, which would permit such military action sans Parliament’s sign-off.

(No doubt, though, it simply looks and sounds better for the government to seek and gain a Parliamentary majority of approval. The government can thus claim legitimacy from a democratic exercise.)

This comes as last September, Prime Minister David Cameron did not rule out committing the UK to air strikes, and seemingly suggested that the UK could legally take military action in Syria without a formal request for assistance from President Assad, as he stated that Assad’s position is ‘illegitimate’.

Rather confusingly, the UK is actually already engaged in carrying out air strikes on IS targets in Iraq.

This article offers a handy guide to all sides of the arguments, both for and against military intervention – so perhaps it is going to be printed and filed by returning MPs to aid them in preparation for a potential future vote?


3. Labour bans 1,200 people from leadership contest vote (via BBC News)
~ No, you did not misread that. Labour’s problems are still ongoing, and in this ironic action, Labour seek to ensure democracy at the party’s leadership election by undemocratically preventing some from participating in voting.

These 1,200 people have been banned from voting in Labour’s leadership contest as they apparently support rival parties, and thus may have ulterior motives in attempting to cast a vote in the leadership election. (Such political intrigue! Quite frankly, I am shocked. Shocked, I say.)

Labour said they believed this number would rise, as officials continue to check the credentials of new members hoping to take part. The party has also said those who have been excluded from voting include film director Ken Loach, journalist Toby Young, and Tory MP Tim Loughton.

In addition,among the 1,200 were some 214 people from the Green Party, 37 from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, 13 Tories, seven from UKIP and one from the BNP.

According to the Labour party,  verification checks will be ongoing even once votes had been cast.

The latest figures show Labour’s membership stands at around 282,000, which is an increase of more than 80,000 since the party’s recent General Election defeat.

This follows on from Alastair Campbell’s warning via his blog yesterday (see here at number four) that Labour must not elect Jeremy Corbyn – hours before The Times confirmed it would splash on the latest polling figures indicating a Corbyn victory as its front-page today. The YouGov poll revealed that a sample of 1,400 eligible voters would place Corbyn on 53% – 32 points ahead of previous frontrunner Andy Burnham.

Corbyn told BBC Radio London today that whilst his campaign was going ‘very well’, it was too early to be caught up in polling results, stating that ‘we should be a little bit cautious.’


4. Why is Tony Blair so unpopular? (via BBC News)
~ I can remember Tony Blair winning his second and third elections on a continued wave of personal popularity, so it seems rather ironic that he may just be one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers to have left office. This article covers the key moments which may have resulted in such a verdict.

This in particular caught my eye:

One would expect the Labour Party to revere Mr Blair as its greatest electoral asset. But the opposite is true.

He is reviled by many in the party, and his supporters are in decline as a new generation of Labour MPs has entered Parliament, rejecting Mr Blair and the way he tried to rid their party of its left-wing elements.

Mr Blair was more successful as a party leader winning elections than he was as a governing prime minister.

Fulfilment of his moderate reforming agenda was hampered for several years because of the antipathy of his chancellor, Gordon Brown, who increasingly resented Mr Blair, and wanted him out of Downing Street so that he could take his place.

This gave birth to the struggle that characterised the decade 1997-2007, between “Blairites” and “Brownites”.

As we know, such a struggle has continued, and still dominates today – as Liz Kendall knows all too well.

This conclusion rather sums up the situation:

The fact remains though that almost a decade after leaving Number 10, Mr Blair’s public standing is even lower.

The lack of palpable progress in the Middle East, in Africa, and in world religions, do not of themselves explain the hostility.

Rather, it has been his contacts with regimes and individuals of questionable morality, and his money-making activities and his homes, all of which have been regularly aired by a profoundly suspicious press, that seem to have caused the damage.

Members of the Labour Party cannot understand why it is necessary for their former leader to make so much money and to be travelling the world in private jets.

(Would a certain Jeremy Corbyn ever be tempted to travel in private jets to deliver speeches for a substantial pay cheque…?)


5. Donald Trump leads post-debate Iowa poll (via POLITICO)
~ Again, I can assure you that you did not misread the above.

After a dominant (he spoke the longest) performance during the recent Fox live televised GOP debate, one Donald Trump is enjoying yet another bump in the polls, as the GOP again endures the headache of how does the party solve a problem like The Trump?

Donald Trump now leads the GOP field in Iowa, according to a Suffolk University poll that was released today. However, last week’s debate may have just opened the door for other candidates also.

Trump, who came in at 17 percent among likely GOP caucus voters, was 5 points ahead of his nearest rival, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.


To read these headlines and more besides, why not visit PolLaw Express?

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