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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How the Government saves the lives of migrants

The Foreign Office have decided that they can’t support the search and rescue operations that drag destitute migrants out of the sea when their overcrowded and inadequate ships have sunk.  They say this move will discourage such people from attempting the crossing in the first place and therefore will, in the end, help save lives.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks this way, ruled by a government that can’t make the link between handing over your life savings in return for a journey that will very likely end in death or detention, and the misery of the life that person is trying to escape.  As if the migrant will say, well gosh, you know, the boat is likely to come a cropper but now the British Government aren’t going to try and save me, I don’t think I’ll risk it after all.
Would Theresa May refuse to haul back a kid running across the road because they haven’t used the Pelican Crossing?  Would she forbid the Fire Brigade to put out flames caused by unlawful smoking?  Would she prefer to let a person jump than help them down from railings they’ve trespassed onto?

Do you know what, don’t answer that.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Amazing Things I Didn't Know Until Now

I used to be a solicitor and in order to get that job, I had to pass something called the Common Professional Exam (the name always struck me as a curious mixture of self-deprecation and assumptive universality) and the Law Society Finals.  They’re called something else now.  My first lesson in Contract Law was held in a drab classroom at Bristol Poly (that’s also changed its name).  The lecturer, a polytechnic stereotype - wild hair, stained shirt, corduroys - had condensed the course into a well worked system of abbreviations and acronyms.  Thirty years on I still wonder about the E or ITs of a K, whether the Cn is adequate and whether I can demonstrate ICLR.  The lecturer also used to refer to the makers of poor judgments as Mr Justice Blankety Bollocks which was another thing I loved about him. 

What I remember most vividly, though, is amazement that at the age of 23 I didn't already know that a contract required consideration, that some terms would be automatically implied and that a wink and a handshake didn’t necessarily mean you'd got a deal.
It shocked me that this basic and useful information was saved exclusively for people studying law.  I abhor the removal of Legal Aid, but one benefit might be more people get to learn about this stuff.

A few weeks ago I joined an acrylics painting class in Brighton.  The teacher, another iconic figure - flowers in her messy hair, patterned leggings, patterned skirt, patterned teeshirt, patterned glasses – has been showing us how to make colours.  All of the colours found in nature are made from three - yellow red and blue.  And each primary colours goes wonderfully well with the mixture of the other two.  That’s why the blue beach hut looks lovely next to the orange one and why you should put lemons in a purple dish.   I was reminded of my first class in contract law, and this sense – why on earth hadn’t I learned this stuff before?  It’s so fundamental, so interesting, so simple and explains so much.

So, what’s the moral?  That the school curriculum is a bit limited, that lawyers like to keep the most useful information for themselves, that I should have done Art A' level?  Probably all of these.  On the other hand, I’m kind of excited to find out what the next really obvious fact is going to blow my mind.