PolLaw Express: 13th August 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:

(We have quite the jam-packed day, so let’s get straight into it.)


  1. Connecticut court overturns death penalty and spares death row inmates (via The Guardian)
    ~ This article makes for an interesting read – I particularly found it intriguing given my year studying abroad in America, coming to understand to differences in legal reasoning and jurisdiction across the nation’s states.

    Three years after the state of Connecticut (traditionally a Democrat stronghold) abolished the death penalty for any future crimes, the state’s highest court today spared the lives of all 11 men who were already on death row when the law took effect, stating that it would be unconstitutional to execute them.

    Connecticut passed a law in April 2012 to repeal the death penalty – only for future crimes. The state has had just one execution since 1960, when serial killer Michael Ross was executed in 2005.

The ruling today comes in an appeal from Eduardo Santiago, whose attorneys had argued that any execution carried out after repeal would constitute as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. Santiago had faced the possibility of lethal injection following his conviction in 2000 of murder-for-hire killing and being sentenced to the death penalty.

The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, agreed with his position.

Santiago’s attorneys had argued that it would be wrong for some people to face the death penalty, whilst others face life in prison for similar murders.


2. John Bercow: Up to MPs to lift Commons applause ban (via BBC News)
~ An interesting little news story today, covering Parliamentary convention and the potential re-writing of same.

Speaker John Bercow,  who had previously rebuked SNP MPs for clapping in the Commons in May- has said that it  would be up to the MPs to lift the applause ban, if this is sought.

When speaking at the Edinburgh Festival, the Commons Speaker said, “If the House wants to change its procedures, it can, if they vote to do so.”

MPs currently register their approval by shouting: “Hear, hear!”

But if MPs lifted the ban on applause, the Speaker promised to be ‘the servant of that new procedure’.

When censoring the SNP MPs in May, Bercow further  advised them:

‘The convention that we do not clap in this chamber is very, very long established and widely respected, and it would be appreciated if members showed some respect for that convention.’

The SNP heeded the Speaker’s request and stopped their clapping in the chamber. although Mhairi Black recently remarked:

“So you’re not allowed to clap like an ordinary person, but you’re allowed to bray like a donkey.”


3. Yvette Cooper: Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies ‘not credible’ (via BBC News)
~ Yvette Cooper is aiming to force her way back into the Labour leadership contest, after weeks of Corbyn-dominant news. This statement of intent comes as the ballots are prepared to be distributed among the registered voters.

Cooper today said that her left-wing rival Jeremy Corbyn lacked economic credibility, and consequently he would keep Labour out of power. Conversely, Corbyn has insisted that his policies are ‘serious’ and he urged his rivals not to indulge in ‘personal abuse’.

Cooper has previously held back from directly criticising Mr Corbyn, but she issued a warning today of the dangers of a Corbyn victory.

In a speech in Manchester, she accused the Islington North MP of ‘bad economics’. She argued that his policies, which included renationalisation, quitting Nato and quantitative easing are not radical. In addition, she stated that they would not stand up to scrutiny, and most importantly would not get Labour elected.

Whilst her comments echo that of many within the Labour party, include senior members, there is a fear that further criticism of Corbyn merely strengthens his case. In addition, considering the increasing popularity of Corbyn, there is concern that criticising him ignores those within Labour who support a new direction for the party – one which is demanded by the electorate.

Rival candidate Andy Burnham has stated that such critical attacks on Mr Corbyn merely ‘misread the mood of the party’. He went on to state that there was a ‘yearning out there for a different style of politics’.

Cooper told BBC Newsnight there was a serious risk that the party would split if  Corbyn were to win the leadership contest:

‘I don’t want to see that happen, I can’t bear to see that happen because I think there is too much at stake and when you’ve got families who depend on Labour to stop their tax credits being cut, to say goodbye to power and to the possibility of winning the next election is wrong.’

When asked if she would sit in a Jeremy Corbyn shadow cabinet, Cooper replied that she would not be able to argue for policies such as the return of the Labour Party’s Clause IV.

She said that whilst she feared Labour could be out of power for a generation should Corbyn win, she would not walk away from the party.


4. Calais migrant crisis: Fences ‘push migrants elsewhere’ (via BBC News)
~ Following on from the news that around 2500 migrants were rounded up by Greek police and locked inside a stadium in the island of Kos for nearly 24 hours as Greek police are stretched to breaking point after an unprecedented wave of immigration, problems are still occurring in Calais.

French police have stated that any fences which are built to stop Calais migrants crossing to the UK will simply push the problem elsewhere. Such fences are considered to be a ‘short-term solution’ by the French police, who argue that migrants would simply move to places with weaker security.

The UK government has spent approximately £7 million on putting up new fencing, as ministers say that everything possible is being done to protect and secure the UK’s border.


5. DATA: Trump won the debate – or at least talked the most (via POLITICO)
~POLITICO went to Lazer Lab at Northeastern University and have spent the past week analysing and assessing the statistics following on from the recent Fox televised GOP debate. This article covers their – rather interesting – findings.

I took two main points from the article in question:

Firstly, it was all about The Trump. This is evident when considering both the number of words he spoke during the debate – which represents how much of the debate he controlled – and the number of turns he was given to speak – illustrating how often the moderators gave him control of the floor. Trump spoke almost twice as many words as Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul. He was also the sole candidate who spoke more than any of the moderators. In terms of the number of the number of times they were given the floor, the moderators gave the most attention to Trump (26 times). Perhaps this is why he lead the post-debate poll in Iowa? (See the PolLaw Express blog post from the 11th August at number five for details on the poll in question.)

Secondly, the GOP candidates tended to use the opportunity of a televised debate as a platform to criticise leading Democrats – when not criticising each other, that is. It clearly demonstrates that the Republicans are well aware of the threat posed to them by a certain Democrat candidate who goes by the name of Hillary Clinton.

A number of candidates mentioned Hillary Clinton, with Scott Walker mentioning her the most of any of the other candidates. President Barack Obama was also mentioned a number of times throughout the debate; the graph shows Cruz, Paul, and Bush all bringing him up.


6. Hillary Clinton email probe turns to Huma (via POLITICO)
~ Speaking of Hillary Clinton, how can I turn down the opportunity to bring up the latest chapter of her current headache, aka Emailgate?

Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s trusted confidante and aide, is increasingly becoming a central figure in the aforementioned email scandal that is causing her boss much woe on the campaign trail.

Republicans and federal judges, who are seeking information about Clinton’s communications while she was running the State Department, may now be preparing to question Abedin after Clinton told a federal judge that Abedin had had her own email account on Clinton’s server on Monday.

This comes as Clinton agreed to hand over her private computer server and several thumb drives containing thousands of emails to the FBI on Tuesday following the revelation that Clinton had at least two ‘top secret’ category emails stored on her unsecured computer network. Classified materials with national security implications are supposed to be stored in a secured area and only accessed by those who have special clearance.

On Wednesday, Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill dismissed questions about how the two issues — the email server and Abedin’s unusual work arrangement — may or may not have overlapped by accusing the political right of playing politics with this line of inquiry.

Congressional Republicans are now seeking to investigate Abedin’s ‘special government employee status’ when Clinton was Secretary of State, while suggesting that she may have had a conflict of interest.

As a result of this news, a memo has been sent by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to her supporters this week in an attempt to gain control of the situation by urging them to remain calm. Clinton not only has the above ongoing and increasingly complex Emailgate to contend with – she is currently witnessing diminishing polling numbers, and a summer surge by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.


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

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