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Impeachment – Constitutional and Political

“No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice?”

George Mason

The matter of impeachment has always been a controversial one, it became so when the framers of the constitution recorded it within the supreme law and it became far more likely than not that impeachment would become divisive when the citizens of the United States ignored the warnings of their first President and the political parties were established. Impeachment while a constitutional device due to its very nature is also a political device, a fact that the White House is trying to exploit to block the investigation into the President by the House of Representatives.

I covered in a previous post how the actions of the Democrats had long been expected, although later than most had imagined and wondered perhaps if it was too little too late and would harm their prospects in 2020. However when it was announced the Democrats were starting an impeachment investigation, I predicted two events would come to pass.

The first that should a trial of the Senate come to pass that Donald Trump would escape conviction, unless there was evidence found that even the most diehard of the President’s supporters couldn’t stomach, he will escape conviction based purely upon the mathematics of the Senate. There are not 67 Senators that will vote for conviction. History has shown that everytime the House has brought a case for impeachment before the Senate there has never been enough votes to see a President convicted.

The second event that I believed would come to pass now has, the White House is refusing to cooperate. This should be of no surprise to any who have followed this White House, playing the act of being a helpful party in investigations but behind the scenes causing complete bedlam, they have been doing this ever since the Democrats formally took control of the House of Representatives in January. This White House resents the investigatory powers of Congress.

The argument the White House is using for refusing to assist in the investigation is that it is unconstitutional and all the Democrats are trying to do is undo the result of the 2016 election. This defence isn’t a defence, the White House knows it won’t hold up it is a action to motivate the Trump supporters into discrediting the impeachment process altogether, a strategy ahead of the 2020 race kicking off.

Presidents not complying with Congress with impeachment proceedings has happened before, one only has to look back to 1974 with Richard Nixon and Watergate. When the White House wouldn’t comply with the investigation it ended up in the Supreme Court in Richard Nixon vs United States. The Supreme Court ended up deciding in favour of Congress unanimously.

The White House know they cannot win delaying Congress however they are playing for time in the hopes the move will ultimately cost Democrats. The question remains the same as my last post on this topic: What will the effect be? It certainly will be interesting to find out.

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Being a Tory at University.

“Be an outcast. Be pleased to walk alone.”

Alice Walker

This post has been inspired by an article that was passed to me in the Telegraph about what it is like being a Conservative at University. It was an interesting question that I had to consider as my experience is certainly a strange one as for Tory students, there was a degree of toleration and there was a student society. But I still felt like an outcast. Then again, there is nothing wrong with being an outcast. Sometimes it serves you well.

When I first arrived at university, the only political party society was the Labour society but from what I had understood about universities prior to my arrival I was hardly surprised to see that be the case. There was a general Politics society which I joined and this is where I encountered by fellow Tory Students whom if I am honest I took an instant dislike to. So my arrival at university had taught me that while there were many Labour students who I might disagree with politically, they were far more pleasant company than the traditional allies my party leaning would dictate.

It was from having my friends on the left the title of this blog came about, I was described as the “Nice Tory” “Reasonable Tory” “A New Kind of Conservative.” That wasn’t to say we didn’t have our disagreements, but on those issues we did agree to disagree. Granted among some Labour students I was soon the “butt of the joke” and when invited to events I could be made to feel quite uncomfortable. I learned to distance myself from politics at university finding it becoming increasingly polarised the more I examined it. I had my friends, beyond that I wasn’t touching it or getting involved.

Towards the end of my first year there were calls to set up a Conservative society, I was naturally asked to put my signature towards the petition to see it established. I did, although on seeing the other names on the list I knew I wouldn’t be having much more involvement with the society beyond that. So I kept my distance, instead being elected to be an officer with my student union. Many feeling my leanings would serve me well in the post, although they failed to grasp it was apolitical.

My decision to stay away from the Tory society proved to be one of the best I had ever made while at University. Around this time a year ago, just as the Conservative Party Conference was about to begin pictures leaked to the media of my university’s Conservative Society on a night out with various slogans and pictures written on their shirts. While I am unsure of what action the university took against the students, the student union had the society disbanded almost instantly. I was horrified by the actions, although not surprised they had shown themselves as the people they truly were and confirmed my gut feeling towards them at my first meeting.

The point of this post is a simple one, being a Conservative at university is difficult. Many will call you a betrayer of students, call you out of touch and believe just because you are right wing you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Learn to ignore them, get a thick skin and be assured in your ideals and beliefs. Equally know that those who call themselves Conservatives might not be your friends and allies, do not flock to them because of your shared beliefs. Being alone at university it difficult, I know that, I understand that because I’ve experienced it. Stick to your ideals and don’t compromise them for the sake of others. There will be others who agree with you and you will get on with, give it time you’ll find each other.

If not listen to Alice Walker and keep it in mind whenever you feel alone.

Blizzard’s Political Snowstorm

“China will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country.”

Xi Jinping

Some who will read this post will not know who Blizzard are and will likely be completely unaware of the story I am referring to. The story itself outside of gaming circles isn’t one of great consequence however the actions this company raises a fundamental question that many companies on the global market will have to answer. Mortality or money?

The origins of this story start with the pro democracy rallies in Hong Kong and how the situation is becoming increasingly dire there. A Professional Gamer playing the game called Hearthstone named Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai used his platform to support the protests within the special administrative region, that violated the rules of the competitive tournament he had taken part in. As a result Blizzard Entertainment the makers of Hearthstone banned him from all professional Hearthstone events for one year and withdrew the prize money that he had won.

The gaming community is up in arms over this, not that (on the whole) they are disputing the breach of the terms of the competition but at the harshness of the punishment, especially given that two of the core values of Blizzard Entertainment seem to contradict with the actions they have taken. The issue continues to rage across social media and likely will among the gaming community for a long time after it has faded from public consciousness.

Why use this story as the basis of an article? The answer is a single word: China. Blizzard like many other western companies for sustained growth need expanding markets and the market expanding most rapidly is China. Yet to do business within China one requires to be approved by their government and the company must promote ‘traditional values’ to the Chinese population. Or in plain english, not contradict the government propaganda machine.

Yet China’s government and their actions come into complete contrast with the values of the west. Free markets, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to protest. Yet these values can be compromised in the name of growing profits for the shareholders, which one cannot critise after all the purpose of the boards of companies is to create growth to feed their shareholders. It is not their job to care on the morality of a situation merely the economic potential.

In an episode of the West Wing Albie Duncan explains to CJ Craig on flight to a Presidential debate that: “They’ll still be sewing baseballs with their teeth whether we sell them cheeseburgers or not.” That line in that TV show even though it is almost 20 years old is completely true using the excuse of engaging in business relations with China will change them culturally is merely a delusion and any who believes that truly is a fool.

To continue to trade with China, the West will have to surrender their mortality. China will not be changing in their attitude, not the foreseeable future. China has the economic capital that it knows it cannot be ignored on the world stage and that for growth they must be engaged with. But this point is new to no one.

As anyone who reads my posts will know by now I like to leave you thinking afterwards, leaving an unseen question hanging in the air to consider. Today that will be different I will ask the question directly:

What will it take for the West to cease economic ties with China?

The Democrats make their move.

“The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

Nancy Pelosi

Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, there been little doubt in the minds of many. There would be an attempt to impeach him. There hasn’t been as an controversial President elected in modern memory, not winning the popular vote and being seen as decisive. There were a few things that were required to happen first, that the Democrats would have to win back the House of Representatives and second that there would need to be just cause.

When the Democrats won back the house in the midterms, all commentators noticed a remarked changed in Washington DC. Many had been expecting the house to be lost, the decision of Paul Ryan not to stand again was a death bell there but no one could have imagined just how many seats the Republicans lost. One of the conditions for impeachment proceedings to begin had been met.

Many had expected Robert Mueller’s report to provide the catalyst for the second to be met and it did, but the Democrats didn’t choose to go for it much to the surprise of many. Mueller in his report lay the groundwork for an impeachment case but stated that the remedy for prosecuting a President lay within the Constitution. By this he was referring to Congress’ power of impeachment.

This all happened in April, given Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to grant her committee chairs the authority to begin impeachment proceedings many had assumed that their predictions upon Donald Trump’s election was wrong (at least in his first term, assuming he had won a second). But that had assumed that the Democrats hadn’t been watching.

They had been watching, they believe that 2016 was stolen from them due to the interference of the Russians at the behest of Donald Trump’s campaign. Any efforts by the White House to gain information or an advantage from a foreign government for 2020 would not be allowed to stand. Trump believing he will be facing Biden in 14 months time has begun having discussions with Ukraine in regards to affairs involving Biden’s son.

The Democrats will not be allowing history to repeat itself and so now they are making their stand. Although it will ultimately doomed to fail, the Republicans will not hang their own President. There are a few questions that will need to be answered and can only be done so over time: Too little too late from the Democrats? Will impeachment rally Trump’s supporters together? Will these actions cost them the White House in 2020 and arguably more importantly the Senate?

One thing is for certain, events within the United States have suddenly become more interesting.

The Court Roars!

“It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us that there was any reason – let alone a good reason – to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks.”

Lady Hale, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

In my second post I discussed the potential ramifications of the Supreme Court agreeing with the Court of Session on declaring unanimously that the advice given to the Queen by the Prime Minister was unlawful. I said that this case would be the UK’s version of Marbury vs Madison and I stand by what I wrote. This decision has shaken up the balance between the branches of UK governance, it now proves the executive can be blocked by the judiciary and by extension it could be argued so could the legislature. Observing the media coverage ignoring the political views behind the various statements, the underlying point being put forward by those who disagreed with the ruling was this: Could the Supreme Court do this?

The answer to that question for anyone who is unsure is yes. The Supreme Court through the power of judicial review has the right to do that on any case it wishes. However in the United Kingdom with its unwritten constitution, having the constitution change on a whim and powers based upon convention as opposed to recorded in law is troubling to many including myself. Has the time come to follow in the footsteps of our ally across the pond in writing a constitution establishing the powers and responsibilities of the branches of governance, including that of the monarch?

There are very clear advantages to having a written constitution, it sets out process and procedures for a great many matters of governance to the point where there can be no question over what it is each branch has responsibility for. In the case of addressing the fears of those upset by this decision of the Supreme Court, making it clear in writing that the role of the Court is one of being reactive as opposed to proactive. It would also explain formally the role of the monarch and show how much digression they have with their prerogative powers.

However it is the disadvantages of the written constitution as modelled by the United States is arguably the reason why the current unwritten constitution is valued so highly. The amendment process makes a fast change to the constitution impossible, creating a situation where if a need was required for a quick change it could not happen something the United Kingdom would certainly struggle with. However it could be tempered with a weaker amendment process than in the United States, yet I doubt many would seek to have a situation which mirrors the 18th and 21st amendments to the United States constitution. (The prohibition and reintroduction of alcohol.)

I am not arguing for a written constitution nor am I arguing for the constitution to stay unwritten and in a future post I will go over in a much greater detail the advantages and disadvantages of both. The point of this post is a simple one, the Supreme Court with this one decision has changed how governance in the United Kingdom happens in such a way that the UK hasn’t seen since the Glorious Revolution.

I for one am proud of the Supreme Court for making themselves heard and perhaps feared as an institution and they were right for the decision to have to be unanimous or else there would be cause for challenge in the future. The Court after all is neutral and cares little for politics, as Lady Hale stated at the beginnings of the case, it cares for constitutional matters. Therefore to those who were upset with the ruling, it goes without saying that the next ruling has all the potential of going the way you desire. The Court rules only on the merits of a case. Like John Marshall, Lady Hale has overseen the Supreme Court truly make its mark upon the United Kingdom, yet the ripples of this will only become clear with time.

The Bill of Rights

“Thank you for doing the branches of government. You mentioned the 22nd amendment would you mind going through them all very briefly?”

Anonymous

“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”

George Washington

Once more I am writing a post by request, I received the above message after I posted about the branches of the US Federal Government. Once more I am happy to answer that request. There are currently 27 amendments to the constitution, the first 10 are described collectively as the Bill of Rights, amendments 13,14 and 15 are referred to as the Civil War amendments and amendments 18 and 21 cancel each other out. This post will cover the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights.

1st Amendment – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This means that Congress cannot limit freedom of speech, religion or the right to assemble.

2nd Amendment – A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

This amendment while seen as the right to carry a gun, has a deeper meaning effectively ensuring the right to revolution if required.

3rd Amendment – No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

It ensures the soldiers could not be quartered in private homes without the express permission of the owner. This was a response to the Quartering Acts that were passed by the British Parliament prior to the American Revolution.

4th Amendment – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It establishes the need for search warrants for searches and seizures while also prohibiting unreasonable searches.

5th Amendment – No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The prohibiting of double jeopardy and the right to remain silent.

6th Amendment – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

This grants anyone accused of a crime the right to a fair trial, the right to have someone defend them and to be able to know by what crime they have been accused and will be facing trial for.

7th Amendment – In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

This granted the right to be tried by a jury of their peers, in other words the accused could only be convicted by a jury of their peers.

8th Amendment – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

This ensured that excessive bails could not be set nor fines and no sentence could be cruel or unusual, the latter part of this amendment is still a matter for debate among Americans.

9th Amendment – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This amendment while rather ambiguous has been commonly meant to mean that the power of government is limited upon the people. That there were certain rights not given in the constitution which the people had.

10th Amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The enforcement of federalism. That if the powers are not given to the federal government by the constitution, then governance falls to the states to decide upon. This is often referred to as the States’ Rights amendment.

The above amendments make up the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the constitution. Interestingly the 27th amendment to the constitution (the latest) was also proposed at the same time as the Bill of Rights but we not ratified by enough states until 1993. As I said in the introduction to this post I shall be going through other amendments in a later post so do keep an eye out for them.

The Suspended Assembly

“Men, once enemies, are now jointly governing in Northern Ireland. And although there have been several hitches, by and large it’s working well.”

Betty Williams

January 9th 2017. Over two and a half years ago and still the days go up. Northern Ireland has had no assembly since then. It is the second longest suspension in the history of the assembly although it has a long way to go yet of beating record of four and a half years. Northern Ireland is a troubled country but when Betty Williams made her quote which I have used above, it was true, it seemed to be going well. There was functional governance in Northern Ireland.

It is the unfortunate legacy left behind by Martin McGuinness prior to his death that the Assembly was suspended. He resigned his position as Deputy First Minister over the RHI scandal but the issue has bloomed into being more than just the RHI scandal. It has exposed fundamental divisions between Sinn Fein and the DUP which while have always been there were kept to the background for the good of Northern Ireland. As of writing, despite many efforts made by different politicians from the UK and Ireland there is no hope in sight for restoring the Assembly. Leaving the running of Northern Ireland to their civil service and with all funding having to be approved by Westminster leaving the situation extremely close to Home Rule. A situation that however dire no party within the current impasse wishes to reach.

Given how the executive of Northern Ireland was established, a power sharing executive, an early election will not break the deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Fein. It would be likely the parties would be the largest two and therefore the parties placed within the executive but neither will agree to currently work together. With the next election set for at the latest May 5th 2022, it is hoped that a solution could be found.

However given the deep differences between the parties this seems increasingly unlikely. The situation of Brexit and the Northern Ireland border has not helped matters entirely as Nationalists feel it threatens the Good Friday Agreement and Unionists refusing to be separated from the United Kingdom in any shape or form.

It is difficult to see a way out of this and the more time is spent without a functional assembly the harder will be become to put it back together. However those living in Northern Ireland while without politicians to make decisions at least have the civil service to keep it all ticking over until this great political spat is resolved one way or another.