Magazine article The Spectator

Imagine the Decisions Harriet Harman's Court of Public Opinion Would Actually Take

Magazine article The Spectator

Imagine the Decisions Harriet Harman's Court of Public Opinion Would Actually Take

Article excerpt

So now at least we know what Britain will gain on that golden day when Harriet Harman rules over us all and Ed Balls doesn't.

A dual court system. Or possibly a triple court system, depending on how all those advocates of sharia get on, although sharia is quite irrelevant to this column, and I only included this sentence so I could use that excellent pun on the word 'advocates'.

In the early Harman era, anyway, when all those young, determined Harmanites are at their most idealistic and thrusting (and what could be more idealistic and thrusting than a young and determined Harmanite? ), we shall have only have the two courts: the Court of Law, and Harriet's own new innovation for dealing with a certain banker's pension, the Court of Public Opinion. Get charged with a crime, and maybe you'll have a choice. Which would you prefer?

Pros and cons, I'd have thought, for each.

Get convicted of rape, say, and the new Court of Public Opinion would probably decree a sort of corporal punishment via a pair of bricks, or maybe a rusty spoon. Only, it would probably be a bit easier to get off in that court, wouldn't it? Provided you weren't a bit dusky, that is, or ethnically some sort of tinker. 'I put it to you, your many armchair honours, ' the lawyers would say, to all of us, 'that the so-called victim was plainly asking for it, done up like that Jodie Marsh off the telly. Call that a skirt?' It wouldn't always work, but it often would. It would all depend on how the Court of Public Opinion was feeling that day. Whether it had watched much daytime television, or listened to much talk radio, or had the strength to actually talk back to taxi drivers.

The great Richard Littlejohn, who would probably be a high court judge under Harriet's new system, had a fine rant about the Court of Public Opinion in the Daily Mail the other day. He was all for it.

Under the Court of Public Opinion, he said, Jacqui Smith and Peter Mandelson would be banged up for stealing, Gordon Brown would be in a cell for criminal negligence, and Tony Blair would be in the one next door, for war crimes. Moreover, he said, we'd bring back grammar schools, insist upon weekly bin collections, end immigration, have more police on the beat, reintroduce hanging, send all suspected terrorists to Timbuktu, and scrap health and safety laws, speed cameras, diversity initiatives and windfarms. And yes, Sir Fred Goodwin would probably lose his pension.

Needless to say, Mr Littlejohn is fully in favour of all these things. Me, I liked the bits about Tony Blair, police, bins and grammar schools. Most of the others worried me quite a lot, although probably not as much as the notion of forcibly receiving a bunch of peeved young men from Bradford would worry the relatively benign and progressive government of Mali.

Harriet Harman, though, would probably be violently opposed to all of Littlejohn's favourite things. That's assuming she's actually got principles, of course, and not just a ten-point plan for becoming the Iain Duncan Smith of the Labour party. And yet both seem to think that they speak for public opinion. Isn't that odd? Indeed, both seem to have a similar methodology for gauging public opinion, which involves a) thinking something, b) asking nobody at all if they agree with you, and c) declaring that everybody agrees with you regardless. …

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