THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
For Polly Toynbee: a guide to due process, and why it matters
And still it gets worse

I am embarrassed to have the world see us this way

Can a Tweet Put You in Prison? It Certainly Will in the UK - The Daily Beast.

In the excellent book Bring Home the Revolution author Jonathan Freedland points out that the ideas embedded in the US Constitution originated in England. The USA has been a successful testbed for the ideas of our greatest thinkers (including, of course, the original and best Tom Paine).
 
The ideas were never implemented here for the reasons he explains in the book. We did have the benefit however of our most important (and now very little understood) legal inventions; the Rule of Law ('Be you never so high, the law is above you'), the presumption of innocence ('innocent until proven guilty'), habeas corpus ('the Great Writ' that ensured no-one could be imprisoned without due process of law) and freedom of thought and expression (an English yeoman's inalienable right to tell his neighours where to get off).
 
We lack an entrenched constitution and an independent supreme court to tell legislators and executives when they have overstepped its mark. We thought we did not need one because the British were famously difficult to govern. Even the Norman tyrants knew their limits as expressed in Margaret Thatcher's favourite lines from Kipling;

The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon alone.

You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

For most of our history, the greatest threat to our liberty was the Crown and we looked to Parliament to defend us. It did so pretty robustly at times, defining the constitutionality of our monarchy by the practical method of killing a King who insisted on his Divine Right. The monarch having been firmly put in his box, we seem to have taken our eye off the ball. In the end our protector has oppressed us as even the Normans couldn't.

As a young man, I recall reading of a Conservative MP out canvassing being asked by an elector whether permission was needed to cut down a tree in his garden. The MP reacted angrily; "It's your bloody garden man! It's your bloody tree!! Why the hell are you asking me?!" Can you imagine a politician daring, in these days of invasive busybodies, to say such  thing now? Our land is built upon as the state directs. Our homes are heated, lighted and our sewage flushed, as the state directs. However competent we may be, we are not to do our own electrical work, by order of the state.

Even those of us who take a particular interest in these matters have lost count of how many state employees (and not just those with responsibility for law enforcement or fire-fighting) have the right come into our homes without our consent or that of a judge. I was not permitted to put security blinds (common in Continental Europe) on the windows of my former house in Chester because the state thought it would make our area look as though it had a high crime rate (it did). My late wife had to worry when druggie louts who had already tried to break in were about, because our political masters wanted to massage reality for electoral advantage. And of course she could not have a firearm to defend herself if they succeeded in breaking in the next time.

If (as I suggest is the case) the true owner of an asset is the person who has the legal right to direct how it is used, then the state owns my home. In a way it's worse than social housing, because I have had to put up the capital to buy it. I pay more in Council Tax to use it than my granny paid rent for her larger Council flat. When I die, my children will pay 45% of its value for the privilege of inheriting my obligations. In what real sense is it mine? If I fly an English flag from my balcony, how long will it be before a policeman or council busybody shows up to tell me to take it down. If I remark that Mohammed is a false prophet to my passing neighbours in hijab, how long before the police explain to me the limits of my rights?
 
I am embarrassed by the creeping communisation of Britain. I am embarrassed by the creeping tyranny that is destroying free speech. I am particularly embarrassed to read the linked article, which is an American perspective on our present situation. The author luxuriates in the benefits of 18th Century English thought, by virtue of his country's constitution. We, the people who came up with those wonderful ideas are increasingly lost to their merits.

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