Monday, 26 August 2013

First Chapters: read the first chapters of great books for free!

A big thank you to another great site for readers and writers, First Chapters, for publishing the first chapters (yes, it does what it says on the tin) of Hatred Ridicule & Contempt here.

To express my gratitude, here is their "About" entry in full: -

"First Chapters is a book discovery site where readers can sample the first three to four chapters of great books free of charge. First Chapters promotes books in all categories and genres, including poetry and short stories. It includes works of both fiction and non-fiction. There are biographies of contributing authors and recommendations for similar books. First Chapters uses ‘crowd power’ techniques to publicise the site. Authors and readers are encouraged to promote First Chapters on their own blogs, and on social networking sites."

They are warmly welcomed to my blogroll too.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Joan Edwards' Will: Ross v Caunters negligence?

One of the many ways of introducing law students to the joys of tort law and negligence is to make them read two offbeat cases featuring solicitors. The first, Ross v Caunters, involved a legacy under a will being rendered void because the beneficiary’s husband had been allowed to witness the will, contrary to the Wills Act. The second, White v Jones, saw the solicitors failing to draw up a testator’s intended new will before he died, and as a result his daughters – not named as beneficiaries under the old will – inherited nothing.

Why are they offbeat? Because in each case, the solicitors’ client – the testator – had died. The aggrieved beneficiaries were not the solicitors’ clients. But they succeeded in negligence claims against the solicitors because of the clear link between their interests and the solicitors’ responsibility towards their clients.

This makes today’s political storm (in a teacup?) over Joan Edwards’ will all the more interesting. As the Conservatives and Lib Dems take steps to hand back their shares of the legacies that the deceased left to “whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use at they think fit” – no mention of political parties there – out comes a press release from Davis Wood, the solicitors who drafted the will: -

“…it was confirmed by Miss Edwards at the time of her instructions that her estate was to be left to whichever political party formed the Government at the date of her death.”

OK then, Dave and Nick. It looks as if your parties may have just lost out on a whopping great inheritance, all because a firm of solicitors made a bit of a cock up. Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. What have you got to lose by suing the pants off them and indirectly recouping the legacy that is now all set to disappear into the gigantic morass of government waste (that both of you are still perpetuating)? It might even be cast iron, to coin a phrase.

Well, if you did, you might make your respective parties look just as shifty and underhand as your troughing members in the last Parliament when the Telegraph exposed their house flipping, dry rot claims, moat cleaning, duck house purchasing and all the rest of their dodgy expenses claims. But that’s surely only a minor detail. Go for it!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Socrates and UKIP: Impious Gadflies?

Having just finished watching “The Greeks: Crucible of Civilisation”, which brought back memories of long forgotten ancient history studies from schooldays, two points of interest stood out.

The first was how the city state of Athens, the forerunner of modern Greece, once dominated the world and saw off an unprovoked attack from the mighty Persian empire, before sowing the seeds of its own decline and fall by picking a needless fight with its local rival Sparta and losing the resulting Peloponnesian War. Modern lessons, anyone?

The second, the life and times of the philosopher Socrates, which neatly tied in with the Athenians’ pursuit of their futile war, their loyalty to theological doctrine and their fixation on their past glories. True to form as a nonconformist free thinker, Socrates championed an ethical system based on human reason, and set out to inspire his audiences to think through problems to their logical conclusion. Charged with impiety and corrupting the minds of youth, Socrates relished being described as “a gadfly” and was untroubled by the death sentence that followed the guilty verdict. With supreme irony, it was not then long before Athens welcomed the great philosophical age that lives on to this day.

Let’s take that “gadfly” description, possibly the earliest historical usage of the comparison. Socrates was delighted to be depicted as someone stinging into action the tired old horse that the Athenian city state had become. Could this have been in Michael Howard’s mind when he tied the word in with “crank” before the 2004 European elections to describe UKIP supporters? Unlikely. Probably just “confounded nuisance”. In marked contrast with the subtle “provocative stimulus” paraphrase that UKIP gladly adopted, no doubt mindful of the UK’s apathy in the face of ever encroaching EU powers.

And “impiety”? Well, in Socrates’ times this would have comprised absence of proper respect for the gods of the state, hardly a surprising charge to be levelled against an advocate of reason. Here and now in the UK, we can see all three major parties supporting a modern day god of the state, EU membership, while paying lip service to the cause of reform (pie in the sky as this may be). So if and when the referendum comes, it would not be at all surprising to hear them describing opposition to EU membership as impiety. And indeed lack of propriety, and quite a variety of unpleasant names, as Tom Lehrer would put it.

But while Socrates was only vindicated after he had taken the hemlock, this is surely the last fate we would wish upon the impious gadfly in the form of Nigel Farage. Far better that he and his kind are given free range to sting the UK horse into action and save it from an undeserved fate in the EU knackers’ yard. And indeed to follow Lehrer's rallying call and use the hemlock to poison the pigeons in the Brussels park.