Politics and the law: on collision course?

The diplomatic storm over Tzipi Livni continues


William Hague, Harriet Harman and Bob Marshall-Andrews discuss the Tzipi Livni question at PMQs yesterday.


On Tuesday, I blogged about the diplomatic row triggered by a British court issuing an arrest warrant for the former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. It rages on.

At PMQs yesterday (watch the video above), Bob Marshall-Andrews asked Harriet Harman whether she would support the power of the courts to issue proceedings against anyone where there is sufficient evidence. It was a clear reference to this case. Harman replied that she supports judicial independence.

But the plot thickens. The present law allows the courts to issue a warrant for a non-citizen who has allegedly committed a war crime in another country. Today it has been reported that this will change, with Gordon Brown said to be pushing for plans to build in "safeguards" in criminal cases against visiting foreign leaders. These "safeguards" will entail granting the attorney general full power of veto for suspected war criminals.

It might just be me, but does that sound like an encroachment on judicial independence?

It was also reported that Brown telephoned Livni to tell her that he "strongly opposed" the warrant, while the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, called Livni and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, to apologise. A diplomatic nicety, perhaps, but the planned changes to the law -- which follow calls from Israeli politicians to, well, change the law -- signal a much more worrying collision of politics and justice.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood