MH Update Spring 2015

Tuesday 9th June, 2015


Thank you for taking a few minutes to look at this edition of the MH Update.

It has been interesting raking over the embers of the general election and some of its statistics. The Conservatives had 36.9% of the vote so on a 66% turnout their majority was secured with about 24% of the available votes. This is more or less the normal situation under our system. The real shock of course was the imbalance when the number of votes against the number of seats is calculated. It took an average of 40,000 votes for each Labour MP, 34,000 votes for each Conservative MP, 25,000 for each SNP MP, 300,000 for each Liberal Democrat MP, 1,150,000 for the one Green MP and what must surely be an unprecedented 3,800,000 for the one UKIP MP.

Taken together, the Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP won 24% of the votes and between them they have just 10 MPs out of a total of 650 which is about 1.5%. The SNP had 4.7% of the votes which won them 56 MPs which is about 8%: so five times more MPs for about a fifth of the number of votes. Traditionally of course the government of the day is not much inclined to change the system which put it there.

Today the headlines have moved on. “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.” It is a measure of the interest in the political process that the election has generated, that this statement from Mr Cameron has been much bewailed and, in my hearing at least, by two well informed teenage voters.

Their interest is as welcome as it is well directed as this raises an important question of what it is legitimate for the law to encompass. Will the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’ now be passed, which the Lib Dems vetoed on the grounds of it being a violation of the right to free speech? If the beneficiaries of our excessive tolerance are ‘extremists’ how can such a notion be encapsulated in statutory language without potentially being much too imprecise? No doubt we will find out soon enough.

So some of the most basic elements of our legal system are in the spotlight: our constitution and the right to free speech and all this in the year when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta which set in motion the granting of some of our most fundamental rights. I have not been to the exhibition at the British Library yet but I gather it is fascinating and firmly intend to go. I found it hard to believe but apparently the display, as well as including copies of Magna Carta and the earliest English royal will, give us the opportunity to see two of King John’s very own teeth. No doubt these royal molars were subjected to much grinding and gnashing over the vexed subject of the Charter so are rather appropriate, if improbable, witnesses of the meeting at Runnymede.  It’s a chance not to be missed.

Sadly, I cannot close without mentioning that this is the first publication since Duncan Innes died in February. He was a partner in the firm for over 20 years and is much missed. A large contingent from the firm and many of his other friends, which included many whose friendship stems from his work, attended a lovely funeral for him. I understand that Vera intends to have a memorial service for Duncan but that will not be until the autumn. Details will be circulated and included on the firm’s website nearer the time.

Jonathan Pearce