Churchill And The Privy

(MENAFN- Caribbean News Global)

By Tony Deyal

In October 2014, former British prime minister, Boris Johnson wrote The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History in which he detailed the life of the former prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill.

The review in the Daily Telegraph was,“Johnson is trying to compare his own reputation as a political maverick with that of Churchill, which poses the question: what would Winston Churchill have made of Boris Johnson?” Most likely the same thing his party and reviewers, especially, made of him and his book with comments like“Hopelessly biased in its judgments and sometimes irritating to the point of call-in-the-stretchers exhaustion in its verbal bumble”,“Bears as much relation to a history book as an episode of Doctor Who does to a BBC4 documentary”, and“Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?”

The history of the world has space for only one Winston Churchill. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature (1953) for his speech-making. He should have won another for his quips, puns and insults. This was one of his recollections,“A lady came up to me one day and said“Sir! You are drunk,” to which I replied“I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly.” American-born, British politician, Lady Astor, remarked loudly,“Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee!”

Churchill responded:“Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it.”“As a young soldier, Winston Churchill sported a moustache. At a small dinner he fell into an argument with a grand dowager who, thinking to quell him, snapped,“Young man, I care for neither your politics nor your moustache.”“Madam,” exploded Churchill,“you are unlikely to come into contact with either.”

Churchill's ability with the English Language was incredible, especially in reversing the order of words like,“It's not only the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning”; or“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”; and“I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” Even nearing death, he still had the gift. When someone in the House of Commons pointed out to Churchill that his“fly” was undone and needed adjusting, he quipped,“Dead birds don't fall out of nests.”

This is why Churchill's response in this story sticks with me. Churchill was in the lavatory in the House of Commons and his secretary knocked on the door and said,“Excuse me prime minister, but the Lord Privy Seal wishes to speak to you.” After a pause Churchill replied,“Tell His Lordship I'm sealed on The Privy and can only deal with one sh*t at a time.” Churchill knew that a“privy” was a place where one did“government” business (a euphemism for numbers one and/or two) since the 13th Century.

My problem is that when it comes to a Privy, I take my own council from the nineteenth century when the Privy Council argued that although committals for scandalizing the court were obsolete in England,“the doctrine was needed to maintain respect for English courts in non-white colonies” because“it must be considered that in small countries, consisting principally of coloured populations, the enforcement in proper cases of committal for contempt of court for attacks on the court may be absolutely necessary…” Even now, the Privy Council is almost exclusively white, male (12 percent of members are women) and middle or upper class. Yet, in the English-speaking Caribbean, only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica send their final appeals to the CCJ. Jamaica tried in 2005 but, ironically, the Privy Council struck it down.

What should make Caribbean people run from the Privy, and scare our recalcitrant governments who still cling tightly to the privy and would probably leave tooth-marks on the bowl if we try to drag them out, is an article on October 16, 2015, by Peter Osborne in the Daily Mail. It was headlined“Secret. Smug.

Sinister: They've covered up torture, led us into an illegal war and are now placing the Press under state control. It's time to kill off the shadowy establishment mafia that is the Privy Council.” Osbourne continued,“I believe that the Privy Council is one of the most sinister organisations in Britain…it is the ultimate repository for the state's most sensitive secrets and has the power to suppress highly classified information it feels should not be in the public domain. This means that government can use the Privy Council as a tool of clandestine, unaccountable power.”

An example for all West Indians to worry about is what happened to Diego Garcia, an island“owned” by the British. In the late Sixties, Britain expelled about 2,000 islanders from their ancestral home to make way for a US military base. The people appealed to the British courts arguing that eviction was illegal. The courts found in their favour and the islanders won the right to return to their homeland. They are still in exile because of a secret decision by Prime Minister, Tony Blair, (described by Prince Charles as“George Bush's poodle) who advised the Queen to use 'orders in council' to change the law.

As the Mail pointed out:“The case of Diego Garcia is a truly shaming example of how the Privy Council can be used by the British state to take away decisions from parliamentary control, democratic accountability, the rule of law and the eyes of the press.” The Mail ended the article with:“There is no conceivable justification for the continuing existence of this morally bankrupt body, which has been complicit in many of the worst crimes the British state has committed since World War II.”

So why are we Caribbean people still tightly locked into the Privy Council even though the handling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) of the aftermath of the Guyana election was brilliant, and it continues to demonstrate, not only its competence, but also that it is totally above politics and nationalism? Most likely because it takes longer than the CCJ and you can buy some time and hope (or pay) for another loophole. For instance, Jack Warner's appeal went to the Privy Council on June 11, 2019, and after two years it is still“reserved”. Also, I have heard that Trinidad lawyers end up with much more money and plenty fun in England.

Perhaps, this is why we should take a lesson from Churchill. Despite his leadership in the war, his party lost the election held right after the war in 1945. As consolation, he was offered an honour by the Crown. His reply was,“How can I take the Order of the Bath from his majesty, when the electorate has given me the order of the boot?” I believe that we Caribbean people should give the same order to the Privy Council that the electorate gave Churchill.

*Tony Deyal was last seen repeating Churchill's response to someone who, thinking that the 80-year-old Churchill would not hear him, said,“After all, they say he's potty.” The“potty” politician replied,“They say he can't hear either!”


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