Last nights meeting was both productive and enjoyable. Productive in the sense that a clear decision was made about what to do next, albeit a decision to advance slowly; enjoyable because there was a good turnout of familiar faces with which to share a beer and chew over an issue in immense detail.
There is one detail I’d like to take up that needs greater input. We considered a protest along the lines of “By over extending definitions Theresa May made up new law to justify the Border Agency’s detention of David Miranda when she spoke to the press. Since she also had the opportunity to intervene beforehand, she failed in her duty to oversee her departments’ work and protect a non-terrorist from being treated as a terrorist.”
There was uncertainty whether that protest would be undermined by a verdict that the law was applied correctly.
On the one hand you seem to have been proven wrong. If a judge has a different interpretation of the law to you then the judge must be right because he is the approved authority and anyway, he knows more than you. Stupid!
On the other hand. Such a surprise verdict enhances the message. Okay, Theresa May is not incompetent, but the law clearly is. How does a law with “Terror” in the name get applied to the affable assistant of a journalist? This does necessitate a switch of ground slightly but it would still be the case that law designed for problem A was used for problem B. One view is that such a switch is embarrassing, the other that this implies something much worse and so we are vindicated in taking the matter so seriously.
Now this may seem like the nerdier details of chess game tactics and actually really boring. Bear with me though as this is actually really important for deciding how to present the message. Do we, for example, wait until after the verdict before expressing an opinion? How does this interact with the availability of activists on week days? Can we have a post verdict weekend protest? Will anyone notice? Are we lumbered with a weekday event in either scenario? Is it actually okay to simply state what the law should be like, without regard to what the law is at the moment? Are we forced to de-personalise the presentation and leave Ms May out of it?
That latter question is particularly concerning. We trust ministers to oversee departments that act on certain legal powers. Those empowered officers must interpret the law and must have a (limited) degree of leeway under the broad supervision of people higher up, including Theresa May. If a lack of clarity in the law gets in the way of people organising protests to try to hold those people to account then all that ministers must do is write bad laws and no protest is possible.