Things Fall Apart I

Okay, still getting used to the idea that I have an actual audience, but as I’ve been asked, here’s the state of play as I understand it.

Yesterday’s defeat was both huge news and utterly inconsequential. Inconsequential because it went exactly as expected and hasn’t really changed anything, huge news because of the sheer scope of defeat. Sky’s “225 or more” prediction was a massive outlier; most pundits were predicting a defeat by 100 or less.

Parliament may not know what it wants, but it definitely didn’t want that. Various amendments were brought forward, to try and make it more acceptable to various factions or to kill it for political point-scoring purposes, but all but one were withdrawn in the end (John Baron demanded his go to a vote in sheer desperation, and was slapped down 600-24) because every faction in Commons, in the end, wanted a verdict on May’s deal as it stood, and that verdict was utterly resounding. It won’t stop May submitting much the same deal again (which she has said she’ll do), but it gives the Opposition and backbenchers a mandate to push in a new direction, and potentially gives the Speaker an excuse to empower them to.

But what new direction? The only effective majority Parliament’s been able to muster in recent days has been the anti-the-Withdrawal-Agreement majority that forced changes onto May’s timetable in December and last week and then hammered her yesterday. They’re overwhelmingly opposed to a no-deal exit, but of the other paths out of this mess, it’s not clear there’s a majority for any of them, nor that a fresh election would lend any clarity to the situation. So: good news if your heart is set on Remain, since a Government win yesterday would more or less have sealed the deal and ushered us out of the Union; but simultaneously, bad news if you’re worried about leaving without a deal, because it leaves us stuck in deadlock.

What Next?

So what next? There’s a Vote of No Confidence motion to debate today (after Prime Minister’s Questions, which is hilarious). At present, the odds are that May will win, even in the utter fucking state she’s in; she still theoretically has a majority (with the DUP assuring her yesterday they would honour the confidence-and-supply arrangement, and the ERG pledging to back her), and while she has a shit-ton of rebels in her party (118, last night!), none of them will want to risk a Corbyn government. But it’s a hair-fine majority, and all it needs is a dozen or so of her pro-Remain MPs to decide it’s worth a risk to shake things up.

In pretty much any event, we’re running out of time, but that’s where there is good news: the EU’s largely reconciled to extending notification, although the word is that the length of the extension will be based on how likely we are to resolve the situation; “trying to negotiate a new deal” will earn us weeks at most, while “a new referendum” will probably get us eight months.

Based on the vote, there are two very different timelines to follow.

May Wins: In the likely event that the Government retains control, May has three days to present an alternative, which she can’t; she’s gone back to the EU again and again, and all they’re willing to do is tweak. The deal she presents on Monday will be much the same deal.

This time, it’ll be amendment city; yesterday’s 230-vote defeat means Commons doesn’t have to give her deal even a moment’s thought, and everything from a new deal to a second referendum to simple revocation will be on the cards. This is the House’s chance to show what they do want.

This could result in some sort of way forward shaking out of the mess—or it could result in the Agreement just being defeated again, leaving us circling the drain. Both May and Labour have suggested they could just keep having votes on the Agreement and Votes of No Confidence until something changes…

May Loses: In the less likely event of a Government defeat, May’s out and the two-week timer starts on the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Someone has to try and win a Vote of Confidence. In descending order of likelihood, those someones are:

  • Assuming May also resigns as leader of the Conservative Party, that triggers their leadership process; the 1922 Committee will intervene to get a placeholder in the seat in a couple of days, who in theory still has a majority of the House.
  • Corbyn doesn’t and can’t wield a majority, but could try and form a minority Government.
  • The Act doesn’t actually say it has to be an established party; in theory, a cross-party majority of MPs could agree to support a unity Government for the purposes of solving Brexit.

If no new Government can form in that two weeks, Parliament is automatically dissolved and a new General Election is called. Campaigning will presumably be kept to the legal minimum 25 days, giving us a new Government in the last few days of February. I think Labour is banking on repeating the shock 20% swing in June 2017, but I doubt they will, although they’ll still pick up a handful of desperate Remainers with no better choice. I’d predict a hung parliament, with Labour the largest party and a Labour/SNP/Lib Dem coalition able to wield a majority if Corbyn can persuade the Lib Dems.

The Options

So, whether May tries to pull something out of her hat, or Parliament forces amendments on her, or Labour somehow takes the reins of power, what are the options? What’s the support in Parliament, and what are the complications? Well, as I see it:

Revocation: The easiest solution by far is simply cancelling and pretending it never happened. But the referendum result, advisory or not, foreign interference or not, is a political reality, and for a substantial chunk of Parliament it’s a mandate from their constituencies they’re reluctant to simply overrule. I don’t know if there are numbers, but I can’t see this having more than 100 votes right now.

Literally Any Deal (May’s or Otherwise): Aside from the fact that the EU keeps loudly insisting that they’re not interested in going back to the negotiating table, the basic problem here is the backstop. Ireland doesn’t want the Troubles back, and Ireland has a veto on the Council of Europe; which means any deal Europe agrees to has to guarantee an open border across the island. And since no withdrawal agreement—whether May’s, or some hypothetical Labour alternative—can guarantee what the final relationship will be, that means a backstop. Perhaps, if we pursued some sort of Norway-plus-customs-union deal from the outset, the EU wouldn’t have seen it as necessary, but now that we’ve spent so many months complaining about it and trying to wriggle out of it, the EU won’t trust us without one.

But the backstop is Parliamentary poison. Remainers don’t want to leave at all and Brexiters don’t want a chance of being stuck in the EU by fiat. Perhaps, once they understand that the backstop is fundamental to any EU deal and is really, really only intended to be temporary, they’ll come round, but at the moment, any deal with a backstop, jobs-first or not, will be defeated in Commons.

Second Referendum: Unloveable as the idea of another 100 days of Nigel Farage screaming about brown people is, this may be the only way through Parliament. It’s been long enough, and the polls have shifted enough, that the argument that we need a second look based on what we now know carries some weight. There’s support in Parliament for the notion on both sides of the issue. The problem is the question; one faction wants a “Remain or May’s Deal” question, and one wants a “No-Deal or May’s Deal” question. In the end, they’ll probably have to compromise on some sort of three-option deal (with an Alternative Vote system, an irony that may actually kill me).

And that’s me done, for now. There’s PMQs first, and then the start of the debate, so all of this will be outdated very soon. Please stay hydrated and do nice things that make you happy. xx

Article 50, Part III: The First Two Days

See Part I here, Part II here and Part IV here.

Okay, so the first two days:

We began with the Government’s case. The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, gave a brief, politically-prudent speech paying respect to the propriety and importance of the hearing, and asserting that the Supreme Court imposing a limitation on Brexit that Parliament itself didn’t would upset the balance of power. Then he handed over the James Eadie QC.

Eadie and the Royal Prerogative

Eadie’s case focused on the relationship between Parliament and the Royal Prerogative. He was treading dangerous ground: in October, he argued that invoking Article 50 didn’t impact legislation, and he lost; this time, he’s gone whole hog and said the Government can totally impact legislation if they want. It’s a bit like being refused a lift by your mate and asking him to give you his whole car instead.

That said, the argument was well and carefully constructed. He starting by challenging the neat division between legislative and executive work, suggesting it was more a sliding scale, where Parliament has assumed responsibility for various areas over the years. Where a power has been claimed by Parliament, he suggested, it cannot then be asserted again by the Crown; but where it has not, the Crown retains it.

From here he went onto the business of writing treaties (gradually approaching our topic), referencing an American law document distinguishing rights granted under law from rights granted under treaty (and the President’s power to act on the latter). The Prime Minister isn’t the President, of course, but the US system’s principle of the division of powers was lifted whole cloth from the British system. He moved on to the idea of “ambulatory rights”; if a fixed piece of legislation grants citizens rights assigned under a treaty, and the terms of the treaty change, then those rights change even though the law doesn’t. He then looked at the various EU treaties, and the various laws empowering them (including new Acts in 2008 and 2011), and the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, highlighting how Parliament has never decisively claimed the power to amend rights through treaty from the Crown.

(By this point, to give a brief notion of the breadth and scope of the referencing, we’ve discussed the Crown’s seizure of a hotel, a regulation regarding air pilots’ licences and a dispute with the Fire Brigade Union, among other things.)

On the second morning, Eadie answered more questions from the Court, challenging him for more concrete examples, and speculating on the intent of Parliament in not laying the groundwork, in 2015, for what would follow a Leave vote (essentially, were they putting off the work further down the line, or handing it over to the Crown?).

It was a good, solid bit of lawyering; no knockout punches, but no particular weaknesses, although the Court pushed him with questions all afternoon (including pointing out that his precedents at no point dealt with ending a treaty, only amending one).

Keen and “Fuck You, Scotland”

After Eadie’s summation, Lord Keen – the UK Government’s Advocate General for Scotland – stepped up to anticipate Scotland’s pitch later this week. His stance, in brief, is that the Sewel Convention, the agreement that Westminster would not legislate on Scots matters, was a “political” agreement rather than a legal one, and not in any way justiciable, adding “Parliament is sovereign and may legislate at any time on any matter,” which is likely to play well in Scotland and Ireland. Frankly, this is all kinds of ballsy; formally, the Convention isn’t binding, but there’s a solid history of Government and Parliament honouring it in the past eighteen years.

Pannick on the Streets of London

In the afternoon, Lord Pannick QC, the rock star lawyer and my current legal crush (I’ve had many over the years), stepped up for Miller and opened up with a more or less unanswerable proposition: he pointed to passages in ECA 1972 and subsequent Acts requiring Parliamentary approval before Brussels’ powers under treaty could be expanded, and contended that it was “enormously unlikely that Parliament would wanted to control changes to EU powers, but didn’t want to control withdrawal from EU.”

He went on to lament the Government’s understatement of the importance of ECA 1972 – suggesting they considered it lesser than the “Dangerous Dogs Act” – and claimed that it had, in fact, established a new standard of law. Based on it, courts in the UK were bound to follow EU law where UK law was inconsistent; new treaties had to be added, by an Act of Parliament, to Section 1(2) of ECA 1972. Pannick argued that it had become exempt from the principle of implied repeal (this is a legal device where a new law supersedes any older, contradictory law, effectively “repealing” it): the burden fell on the Government to prove that the Referendum Act 2015, or any other Act, clearly intended to repeal 1972, or else refer to Parliament to repeal it.

(He took an opportunity here to cheek the “Take Back Control” brigade by pointing out that the very loss of sovereignty that motivated the referendum outcome limited the Crown from acting unilaterally.)

This is, to be fair, shakier ground; it’s essentially proposing a higher standard for legislation, as if we had a written constitution, and there’s no particular historical basis for that. But it was delivered with several references and precedents, and with considerable aplomb.

Then after a couple of questions from the court for clarification, the court adjourned, and the Government announced their intention to release their negotiation plans before notification, which suggests they’re not confident…

And now for bed. I’ll finish tomorrow night.

Article 50 Hearing, Part II: Side Matters

See Part I here, Part III here and Part IV here.

Alright, before getting onto how yesterday went, let’s touch a couple bases I skimmed over yesterday, since they’ve come up in comments.

What’s the Point?

So what’s the big deal? Why is it important that Government consult Parliament on notification? The referendum’s happened, a mandate’s been given, and there’s no real suggestion that Parliament’s going to overturn it. So why are Miller et al fighting this?

As it happens, there are three answers to that question.

First, it would be supremely dishonest to suggest the issue wasn’t, to extent, about opposing Brexit. Obviously the claimants – an investment banker, an immigrant business owner, a collective formed off the back of the Remain movement – hope to delay or even forestall an exit from the EU, or at least minimise its impact. There’s really no chance that Parliament will vote down notification – both major parties clearly feel it would be political suicide, at this point – but the Remain movement will take every hope, which is of course their right in a free and democratic country.

Second, it’s not necessarily about whether we leave the EU, but how. There are a range of possibilities, from full EEA membership (which would be distinguishable from EU membership only in our lack of representation in Brussels) to a full “Hard Brexit” where we’re left out in the cold with literally no trade treaties, with the EU or anyone else (since all our currently-active trade treaties were made through the EU, there’s a real chance we will have to renegotiate them all with our external trading partners individually); and all points in-between. At present, Prime Minister May plans to make that call herself (and given how she seems to be appealing to the more isolationist elements of her own voter base, it’s likely to be a tough, economically damaging call). Requiring her to pass an Act in Parliament gives MPs an opportunity to impose conditions on her, in the form of amendments to the Bill.

So instead of saying, “The Prime Minister may invoke Article 50 and leave the EU,” the proposed Bill could say, “The Prime Minister may invoke Article 50, but commits to a negotiating position that keeps the UK in the Single Market,” say, or even – if revocability can be resolved – “The Prime Minister may invoke Article 50, but must submit a final offer to Parliament, with the option to accept the deal or revoke notification, within 22 months.” It’s possible Parliament may not impose any such condition on the Bill (as recently as a week ago Labour was insisting it had no plans to, but after the Richmond Park by-election they’ve announced their intention to push for some sort of amendment), but again, the Remain camp propose to try.

Third, wherever you stand on Brexit, it’s very much the principle of the thing. As I mentioned yesterday, the division of power between the Crown (embodied in the Prime Minister) and Parliament dates back more than three hundred years, to before the formation of the United Kingdom; allowing May to make changes that clearly impact UK law and the rights of UK citizens without recourse to proper legislative process is a terrible idea. This review will, hopefully, establish a clear boundary between the legislature and executive for years to come, and plenty of lawyers are interested and excited for that reason alone.

But What About Article 127?

So some of the commentary about Brexit has moved on from Article 50 to Article 127. In brief, Article 50 initiates withdrawal from the European Union (and membership of the Councils, the Commission, Parliament and so on), while Article 127 initiates withdrawal from the European Economic Area (comprising the Single Market and all those freedoms of movement).

This is relevant and important – although I would argue invoking Article 50 is a prerequisite for invoking Article 127, so first things first – but will ultimately be subject to the same legal tests. That is, this week’s hearing on Article 50, in setting a precedent on how treaties like this can be managed, will also be a de facto hearing on Article 127.

But This is Undemocratic!

Okay. If your first reaction to the hearing is to protest that the claimants are opposing a democratically-made decision (as I say above, opposing Brexit is totally what they’re doing, and claiming otherwise would be utterly disingenuous), I have every sympathy for that; you’re right, of course! But democracy is more than one thing, and little of importance happens in our system based on a single vote. There’s always debate, and amendment, and appeal, and review; a great many political promises are discarded every year, not because those who made them lied, but because the system deliberately tests every resolution to destruction, to ensure – at its best – that the law is as robust and practical as possible. The referendum may, by a slender majority, have granted Prime Minister May a mandate to leave the EU, but it didn’t give her a mandate to bypass the rules.

Look at it this way: 51.9% of those who voted chose Brexit, but not all on the same terms or for the same reasons. A dizzying variety of positions were presented by campaigns both formal and informal: that billions of government revenue would be released; that we would pursue the Norwegian, Swiss or Canadian models; that we would replace it with a Commonwealth trading bloc; that we would be able to pick and choose trade, legal and immigration agreements; that it would throw off neoliberal elitism and place the country in the hands of the trade unions. More than one of those proposals are already looking impossible, only months after the referendum, and none of them seem very likely in the current climate. So to suggest that that tiny majority presented our Prime Minister a clear mandate for any specific model for Brexit is patently absurd. We will have Brexit as voted for, of course; but it should not be on terms dictated by an unelected Prime Minister desperate not to alienate a minority of her own party’s faithful, and to the exclusion of everyone else. The people – in the form of Parliament – ought, democratically, to have a say in how we go forward.

Ultimately, this is the way our country works. Yes, the referendum voted for Brexit; yes, the Conservative Party manifesto in 2015 promised to “abide by the decision.” Those gave her a mandate to advance a change, but they don’t have the force of law. If you’ll break the rules for a good reason, you’ll break them for a bad reason; and there can be an extraordinary range of bad reasons in the hearts of bad politicians.

Today’s Article 50 Hearing: Part I

See Part II here, Part III here and Part IV here.

Okay, here’s the recap:

For those who came in late, the question is whether the Prime Minister has the power to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (which created the current incarnation of the European Union), beginning the process of withdrawing from the Union, without receiving Parliament’s blessing in the form of an Act.

It comes down to the division of powers. Since the restoration of the monarchy in the seventeenth century, Parliament has reserved the right to write, pass and amend all laws governing this nation, relegating the monarch’s involvement to a final assent (which hasn’t been withheld since 1708); but the monarch retains the power to actually run the country, by appointing ministers, signing treaties and so on. By tradition, over the years, the monarch’s remaining powers have all devolved to the Prime Minister and her government, who wield them in her name.

So the heart of the matter is whether invoking the Treaty constitutes a legislative or executive act. The Treaty itself isn’t a law; but through it – and the European Communities Act 1972 – we have access to a large body of European law that affects our daily lives. The Prime Minister certainly has the power to end the treaty, but she doesn’t, for instance, have the power to repeal ECA.

The Divisional Court Hearing

Gina Miller, a London-based investment manager, philanthropist and banking reform campaigner, launched a challenge in the High Court this summer, along with hairdresser Deir Dos Santos and a crowdfunded group called The People’s Challenge. A pretty much star-studded cast of some of the City’s most high-powered lawyers are on their side, including Lord Pannick QC, who may be the UK’s most prestigious lawyer.

The challenge broadly holds that since ending the treaty begins a process ending in the repeal of ECA 1972, ending the treaty means effectively repealing the law, putting it outside Royal Prerogative. Prime Minister May attempted to head this off in the summer with a proposed “Great Repeal Act,” grandfathering in all current EU laws, which parliament could then repeal or modify over time to meet the country’s needs.

Ms Miller’s case in particular argued that the GPA had no bearing, since EU membership also confers various rights on UK citizens: among them, free movement throughout Europe, and recourse to the European Union Court of Justice, which serves as a court of final appeal on matters of European law. Those rights are extended explicitly by EU membership, and the GPA cannot replicate them. The decisive action that will affect those laws is invoking Article 50, which is therefore a legislative action and beyond the Royal Prerogative.

It was a dramatic hearing, referring to an extraordinary range of laws and precedents and spawning a great deal of discussion in law schools and blogs, and (rather wonderfully) a whole bunch of sober, serious, high-powered lawyers got on Twitter to squee and fanboy about it, and the ruling in the end was in Ms Miller’s (and Mr Dos Santos’ and the People’s) favour: the Prime Minister could not invoke Article 50 without an Act of Parliament.

The Government appealed, requesting a “leapfrog” to go straight to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, to get a final, binding decision in time for Prime Minister May’s March 2017 deadline.


There was a hint a couple weeks back that the Government was going to change tacks and claim that Article 50 was revocable – that is, that the Prime Minister could invoke the Article, negotiate with Brussels for one year and eleven months, then call backsies, leaving us in the EU, if she doesn’t like the terms. The Article, in fact, says nothing on the matter either way, although Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, strongly hinted that notification could be revoked, and most constitutional lawyers (including the original author of the Article) seem of the same mind; although it’s far from unanimous.

This would actually neatly resolve the issue, separating the executive act (invoking the Article) from the legislative act (accepting a new treaty, amending the rights and obligations of UK citizens) into two distinct steps, in only the latter of which Parliament need be involved (since if notification is revoked, the legislation is in no danger of changing). Basically, if the Article is revocable, this case would have been decided in the Government’s favour already.

But there are two problems: first, that no British court can rule whether Article 50 is revocable or not – it’s a piece of European legislation, and so needs to be resolved in the European court – and being seen to have gone running to Luxembourg to support their case would clearly be unacceptable to the current Government. Second, May is desperate to show utter commitment to Brexit (which, we are told, “means Brexit”) and so any suggestion that we could or would change out minds later is anathema. So in the High Court ruling, Miller and the Government agreed that the Article was irrevocable, and the justices left the issue at that.

So changing tack would have greatly aided the Government’s case, but was also politically unacceptable. The possibility was aired informally a few weeks ago, but evidently dismissed; instead they’ve gone in an extraordinary direction with the idea that revocability is irrelevant. They’re planning to argue that the Government can end or amend the treaty entirely independent of Parliament, and much of their case this time round will be based on supporting that premise.

That said, the Supreme Court is likely to want the know whether Article 50 can be revoked or not; unlike the High Court, it exists specifically to create binding precedents, and they’re going to want to know all the facts. The hearing is probably going to be suspended at some point to request a ruling from the European Court of Justice whether the plaintiff or the appellant wants them to or not.

Other Plaintiffs

Adding seriously to the complexity of the issue is the devolved assemblies, which have weighed in and recently been granted permission to be part of the appeal.

Scotland’s constitution is founded on EU law, adherence to which is one of the clauses in the founding document; and while the law places Scots matters in Holyrood’s hands while keeping matters of national legislation in Westminster’s, it has been standard practice thus far for Parliament to consult with the Scottish government on national matters that impact Scotland. This would very much apply here, and as the Scottish people voted overwhelmingly to Remain, Holyrood argues that they should have a say on invoking, or any final deal.

Northern Ireland has the added wrinkle of having the only land border between the UK and the EU; the Common Travel Area, the agreement whereby Northern Irish residents can travel freely into the Republic of Ireland and vice versa, was a major achievement of the Irish peace process and a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement (which, incidentally, also includes a requirement to adhere to EU law); establishing any kind of border control, which is absolutely a commitment of both the current Government and their loyal opposition, will certainly revive tensions in a part of the world which has only very recently begun to operate peacefully. And, of course, there’s the matter of residency; at present, all Northern Irish residents qualify for both Irish and UK passports, and at present there are a large number of Northern Irish residents with only Irish passports who don’t want to get UK passports in order to remain in their homes.

So that’s the summary as of this morning. This has taken a while to write, so I shall probably next update tomorrow.

The “Great” Repeal Act

On the face of it, the government’s proposed new “Great” Repeal Act is plainly ridiculous, a piece of legislation that recreates every current piece of EU law in British law, so that it can be repealed piecemeal as we decide what to keep and what needs replacing. It’s a redundant step, a bit of makework aimed at letting the government look like it’s hard at work while achieving nothing.

“But Dave, mate,” I hear you cry, “Surely that’s a reasonable bit of admin?” Because this way they can ease us out of EU law; rather than simply repealing the European Communities Act 1972 and suddenly finding ourselves missing half a legal system, we can make the transition over time.

But we don’t actually need a new bit of legislation for that. We could rewrite the ECA rather than repeal it; or the very first bit of legislation we alter or repeal, we could add a rider grandfathering in the rest of EU law then. Doing it now is a bit of pointless theatre to impress the grumbling Brexit crowd.

…or is it?

So I could be wrong, and will be watching the conversation keenly, but as near as I can tell:

The Legal Challenge

– Invoking Article 50 probably inevitably gets us out of the EU (which at any rate this government seems intent on, on any terms), and
– Leaving the EU will eventually necessitate repealing the European Communities Act 1972;
– Invoking a treaty lies in the “royal prerogative,” and therefore is up to the prime minister, but
– Repealing laws lies in the parliamentary prerogative, and the PM cannot do it by fiat, thus
– (According to the legal challenge even now still working its way through the court system) the PM cannot invoke A50 without parliamentary approval, since doing so would effectively be a legislative act.

The New Act

The new act effectively recreates everything the ECA does, at least in the here and now… and therefore arguably supersedes it. The only difference is, the ECA assumes and is contingent on us being members of the EU, whereas the GRA does not. Once she’s got this passed – and it should be less controversial than Brexit itself – May should be able to argue that she can invoke Article 50 without endangering any piece of current, active legislation. She’s effectively separating the membership of the EU from its legislative implications.

We’ll see. There are some articles due out in the next day or so, but that’s my reading at the moment.

On Hate

Crazy don’t kill.

In the coming days, we’re going to hear a lot of speculation about Tommy Mair’s mental health; you’ve probably already seen some of it. I know I have.

It’s a pretty common refrain. Don’t blame the ideology, don’t blame the group they belong to (even if they specifically dedicate the act to them), don’t tar everyone with the same brush. Hashtag-not-all-whoevers. (It’s been noted, not unfairly, that this applies specifically to white people – that our media and much of our society are all too happy to tar some groups with the same brush – but that’s not my point today.) He was crazy, a nutjob, a loner, a killer. They know he’s crazy because he killed, and that’s why you don’t have to think too hard about why he killed. It’s safe, it’s sane, it makes the horror easier to compartmentalise, to explain, to insulate. To other. Hell, I used to say shit like that myself.

But crazy don’t kill.

When you blame the crazy, you’re telling everyone out there with depression, with anxiety, with a hundred mental health problems, that you literally don’t trust them not to kill you. And that hurts. It shuts them down, keeps them from looking for help, from admitting to needing help. Some people even get to believing you, to not even trusting themselves. But drunk don’t rape, drugged don’t rob and crazy don’t kill. Those things may not help, of course; they may make it easier to act (or harder to remember not to). They may make the impulse inside of you louder. But the impulse doesn’t come from the drink, from the drugs, from the poor mental health.

Crazy don’t kill.

Be clear about this:

Scared kills.

Hateful kills.

Sure as entitled rapes and desperate robs, it’s scared and hateful that kills.

Tommy Mair murdered Jo Cox because he was scared and hateful. The fear and the hate was seeded in him, fed, watered, nurtured for years. It grew in him until it was all he cared about, and one day it took over. Jo Cox was killed because she represented, to him, something he feared and hated so much he had to kill to fight it.

There’s your bogeyman. There’s our mission.

Fuck hate.

Fuck fear.

Pin those fuckers down and stick ’em in a box and fling that fucking box into the sun, because they’re what kills, whatever the ideology. And fuck any ideology that’ll feed fear and hate, or use them for their goals.

We don’t fucking need ’em.

Harry Potter and the Level-Headed Decisions



“But if whoever traded Hagrid the dragon egg knows how to put Fluffy to sleep, then the Stone isn’t secure! We must tell Dumbledore!” said Harry, eager to help.
They found Professor McGonagall. “Where’s Dumbledore?” Harry asked, anxiously.
“He’s been called away to the Ministry on business,” she replied, haughtily.
“Then we’ll tell you,” said Hermione. And they did.
A little later, a group of responsible, adult wizards cornered Professor Quirrell in the hidden room on the third floor, where he was still attempting to solve the riddle of the Mirror of Erised. He was captured without the need to murder him via face-crumbling, and with Dumbledore’s assistance the incorporeal form of Voldemort was successfully isolated and trapped.


“Hermione worked it out! It’s in the pipes! The entrance to the Chamber is in the downstairs girl’s toilet, that’s how Myrtle died! We must rush after Lockhart!” said Harry, already rising to his feet.
“Or why don’t we just share this information with some of the other professors?” asked Ron, thoughtfully. And they did.
A little later, a group of responsible, adult wizards confronted the memory of Tom Riddle, rescuing Ginny Weasley in the process. Gilderoy Lockhart was disgraced, causing his career to go into a gradual spiral; he also did not cause himself permanent brain damage, which while arguably poetic justice would still have been a horrific fate.


“Ron!” shouted Harry, as his friend was dragged into the hole at the foot of the tree.
“Wait!” said Hermione. “We have no idea what’s in there and there’s a murderer looking for you! Let’s find a professor.”
“I’m here,” said Lupin behind them, just finishing the last of his Wolfsbane potion. “What’s the matter?”
“Ron’s been dragged into that hole by a huge black dog!” said Harry, urgently.
“Right,” said Lupon, grimly. “That would be my old school friend, who I’ve recently realised is innocent of the crime he was once accused of and who has gone to my old hiding place. I have this entirely under control.”
And he did. Snape, who turned up at just that moment, took the two children back to their dorms. Lupin later returned with Ron (who had a broken leg) and with the corpse of Peter Pettigrew, and a complex story of blood and betrayal thirteen years before. It was several more weeks of inquiry before the Wizengamot withdrew all charges against Sirius Black and issued a formal apology.
A hippogriff was humanely destroyed earlier in the day, which was a shame, but widely agreed to be a sensible choice, since they are dangerous carnivores and it had injured a school child in a learning environment.


“It’s clear whoever submitted Harry for this contest is a Death Eater.”
“But he must compete! The Goblet is a binding magical contract,” said Crouch.
“Right, but I don’t have to try too hard, do I?” asked Harry, seriously.
And he didn’t. He hid from the Hungarian Horntail, splashed about for a bit in the lake, and took precisely four steps into the maze and sent up flares.
Cedric Diggory seized the Cup and vanished, and was later found dead in a graveyard in London. This was regarded as a horrible if inexplicable tragedy until a routine check at the Ministry of Magic found Crouch to be acting under the Imperius Curse, leading ultimately to the identification and recapture of his son.
Voldemort, unbeknownst to the public, remained a weird horrible baby/turd-looking thing.


“I want you to practise Occlumency and ignore those visions, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “It’s crucial to your safety.”
So he did. The lessons were difficult and often humiliating, but he learned to defend his mind, and even when occasionally visions broke through, he recognised them as transparent attempts to manipulate him, and ignored them altogether. The year passed peacefully.


“Draco’s doing something in the Room of Requirement, I know it!” said Harry.
This time, he didn’t even need Hermione telling him to tell more responsible adults. At length, Dumbledore and Snape together worked out Draco’s plan, destroyed the Vanishing Cabinet and brought Draco and his mother under close protection. Snape, bound by an ill-advised magical contract, killed Dumbledore; it was done with dignity and kindness, and Dumbledore had time to put his affairs in order.

International Men’s Day

It’s International Men’s Day and rather than what I originally planned, which was spending all day on Twitter asking “Why isn’t there an International Women’s Day?” to piss people off, I thought it might be a good idea to draw attention to men’s health (including mental health), male suicide rates, and male victims of domestic violence and rape – and to the charitable organisations working to promote awareness and support those in need. (Note that these are culled off Twitter; they’re mostly UK organisations, but I’m pretty some of them are US based.)

Mental Health

Due to stigma about male strength and tolerance, men are less likely to be diagnosed with depression and mental health issues, less likely to seek help, and more likely to commit suicide. Ideas of maleness are gradually shifting, but in the meantime there’s:

Rape and Domestic Violence

Due to those same stigma, men are less likely to report or admit to domestic violence or rape. This is particularly challenging since charities that support rape victims are often reluctant to provide shelter for male victims where that would put them in contact with female victims already being protected. Charities focused on these issues include:

Divorce and Fatherhood

The same logic that says “a woman’s place is in the home” demands that a man’s place is out of it; and both social and legal structures tend to work against fathers, especially divorced, single and separated fathers. Some support organisations for fathers in these situations include:

Street Violence

While street violence definitely impacts both men and women, gang violence frequently traps young men into cycles of repeated violence and offending that makes it hard to escape.


While there are certainly veterans of all genders out there, they’re predominantly men for obvious reasons, and thus the difficulties confronting veterans disproportionately impact men.