Professor of Law and Humanities, Queen Mary, University of London; MELA Project Leader.
Member since June 23, 2016
Heinze's books include Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship (OUP, 2016), The Concept of Injustice (Routledge, 2013), The Logic of Constitutional Rights (Ashgate, 2005); The Logic of Liberal Rights (Routledge, 2003); The Logic of Equality (Ashgate, 2003); Sexual Orientation: A Human Right (Nijhoff, 1995), and the edited collection Of Innocence and Autonomy: Children, Sex and Human Rights (Ashgate, 2000). His articles have appeared in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Modern Law Review, Ratio Juris, Legal Studies, Law & Literature, Law & Humanities, International Journal of Law in Context, Michigan Journal of International Law, National Black Law Journal, Journal of Social & Legal Studies, Law & Critique, Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence.
Many thanks Caroline --
One point of at least partial agreement. You write that, "before the vote, very few people kicked up a fuss about having it. Cameron, Corbyn, and Sturgeon presumably thought the British people would vote to remain, so they allowed it to go ahead."
course, many people did kick up a fuss. Many pro-Remain politicians
and experts signaled loudly and clearly the dangers of populist
adventurism at the polling stations, given the incalculable consequences
of Brexit. You're right of course that party leaders ignored those
warnings, though certainly not motivated by the country's best
interests. Cameron wanted to unify the Tory Party and Sturgeon was only
ever eying independence. As for Corbyn, would he even know how to
manage the budget of your local Frisbee team?
-- only partial agreement on your view about a second referendum.
First, from a legal standpoint, let's be clear. There is absolutely no
way any government can foreclose future legislation simply by tossing
around brochures with the inscription "This is your last chance,
folks!". Indeed what is even meant by "generation"? Does the present
"generation" end, say, at 4:36 am on Christmas 2028? Or 5:28 pm on St
George's Day 2043? Only in British politics could so many people take such a
gesture to be anything more than empty rhetoric. If final and
definitive law could be made simply by the government in power passing
around leaflets -- phrased in such open-ended terms -- Her Majesty's Stationery Office would be busy indeed. There is no such thing as irreversible legislation, except maybe in North Korea.
if your real point is about PR, namely, that the public would simply
resent it -- "Keep voting until you deliver the result we want" -- then,
yes, that's a plausible and a weighty objection. I'm tempted to
propose a Referendum About Having Another Referendum, simply to punish everyone for their stupidity.
You and I do probably agree, then, on the most important point. Ultimately, this all remains in Parliament's hands, including what I believe could be a wholly compelling and wholly dignified withdrawal of the Article 50 declaration. That's why I continue to insist on the democratic illegitimacy of the referendum. That point needs to be repeated as often as necessary, so that if Parliament does face an overriding case against exiting, then perhaps it can change course with greater confidence of the electorate.
Yours with trust eternal in the forces of boringly sober moderation,
Ah, but Prof, the nature of our relationship always has been me asking you for predictions because you do know the right answers. I would call you Mystic Egg, if I was not so scared of your scoldy reaction!
So much of the Brexit debate across the media has been distilled into (a) economics and (b) nationalism. Do you think there are any other key factors in play? (My vote had little to do with either of those factors, but then again I do tend to march to the beat of my own drum too frequently.)
I agree that Brexit offers no solutions. But what does 'remain' offer? In universities, it is clear that we will be poorer (not just financially) if Article 50 is triggered. But who else will suffer other than the intelligensia and the financial services industry? Have we yet made the case -- culturally, politically, and in other ways -- for remaining in the European Union? We are struggling to do so, as are the Germans, the French, and the Italians, let alone the newer members in Eastern Europe. The economy and/or the threat of another Cold War are not sufficient to convince many people that it is worth their while to remain part of the EU. So, Oracle, what can we do?
Yours, as ever
Eric, one of the great joys of engaging with you is that your interest in and understanding of the world, language skills, and intellectual abilities combine to provide holistic insights that are sorely lacking elsewhere. (No, I am not about to ask you for a favour -- for once I am being complimentary simply because it is the truth.)
There are many points that I want to pick up on, and perhaps we will return to some of them later, but I shall start with your last paragraph...
Many people in the UK voted to leave (only a few more than voted to remain, but still a large number nonetheless). Since that vote the lack of transparency has infuriated the Brexiteers as much as the rest of us. If we do not end up leaving, whether because the whole thing fizzles out or because a few minor changes are made to our current relationship with the EU, what will happen to those voices? Do we push them further into Marine LePen-style nationalism? We should remember that there are people from every walk of life who voted to leave.
The House of Lords committee point is also interesting. Of course, the referendum was not legally binding, but does that mean it can be ignored altogether? If so, why didn't we just ignore it from the moment that (call-me-Dave) Cameron fell on his sword? Or why did we even bother in the first place?
It is a glorious morning here, and I am tempted to go out for a walk while the sun is shining. Looking forward to reading your response when I return.
The Proud Dad will surely have one or other things on his mind (and plate) today, but let's see if we can't squeeze another round or two out of you.
Some might well wonder about the "Our Yesterday is their Today" narrative. The more we contemplate those likenesses between Russia-Ukraine today and Britain-Ireland a century ago, the more some striking differences emerge. The British parliament by that time had long echoed with mighty voices condemning British policy. William Gladstone was already loudly and passionately endorsing Irish Home rule in the 19th century, because he lived in a state with law and civic institutions that allowed him to do so. Who is Russia's Gladstone today? Elisabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre set the tone for an emerging if hard-fought future. The progressive or reformist visions of Nikolai Rostov or Pierre Bezukhov, by contrast, are very deliberately presented as at best futile and at worst fatuous. Two centuries later has that changed?
Or take your more contemporary
comparisons to the Middle East. Speaking of proud dads, you and I
certainly agree that nothing will be resolved by marching Dad's Army to
the Kremlin doors. The involvements in Iraq and Libya (although I'd
certainly not put them in the same box, as many do, in terms of the
policies or planning behind them) have certainly led to grievous numbers of
innocent civilian deaths.
And yet, since you invoke that region (in which the Russian role has been heinous), ever more anomalies arise. They lead us to examine
more closely this apparent "law of the excluded middle", namely, that
we either (a) declare all-out law or (b) lend some moral support to a
few isolated dissidents and otherwise sit back and lament British
history, because after all it's "just as bad". Yet no one better than
professors in our respective institutions would know that there are
certainly options between those two extremes. Observers from Mars might
well wonder why they such options scarcely discussed, at least if they claimed
for themselves the same political values which you claim in your
approach to Russia and Ukraine.
So back to your Middle East comparison. In the past century the Jews have faced one
of the most systematically planned and executed genocides in history, on the
heels of a millennium of antisemitism. Yet,
as we are sternly and tirelessly admonished, that is "no excuse" for the way a rather
small landmass became the Israeli state.
When it comes to perceived Jewish "imperialists", countless
campuses in Britain and elsewhere, in a curiously mellifluous harmony
several dozen states that have loads of time on their hands to shuttle
through UN resolutions (most
of them far worse human rights abusers with few if any resolutions
at all). None of those forces seem to be at a loss about concrete
actions to be taken about a state they deem to be criminal. Suddenly
they snap into the most vibrantly concerted action. Suddenly no one seems stumped about what to
do or about how to move beyond sheer words and gestures.
Suddenly no one is at a loss to scream the rawest and most incensed
invective and to shout down anyone who ventures disagreement.
During that same century, indeed on the heels of previous centuries, Russian
governments have orchestrated genocide
(notably the Holodomor), they have
committed murders of millions of other innocents, they have impoverished
populations stretching over colossal landmasses from Central and Eastern
into Asia, not to mention their own role in grossly
Middle East tensions through the pernicious distribution of antisemitic
and support for brutal dictators (claiming yet further innocent
victims--indeed along altogether racist lines), and Russia still counts
among the most abusive
nations despite being under declared war or informal attacks from
one, and indeed aggressively initiating such attacks itself in each
regions you yourself enumerated above.
And yet now, just as suddenly, it seems the best approach is to
to prudently weigh and balance all factors with Ciceronian sobriety, to
feel deeply "sensitive" to
all sides, to "understand" Russia's "legitimate" concerns, to assess the
situation all with all the probity supplied by historical
context, and to draw comparisons with Western nationalisms and with the
evils of the British empire: and therefore to actually do nothing
more in practical terms (if I'm understanding correctly) than set up a
few Goethe Institutes. When
did you last see an anti-Russia boycott campaign at Birkbeck? Where
was that "die-in"? Where is that blood-in-the-face outrage? I
understand one of your colleagues is institutionally barred from
research in Israel. Has that same institution kept you away from
With no slight chill in my spine, I suspect no one there could even easily think of any particular reason for such action against Russia. I suspect (though I'm happy to do the experiment with you--just say when) that if we were to stand outside the Student Union polling for attitudes about Russia and Israel, very different "policies" would indeed emerge, explaining indeed why we view and treat the two so differently, and why we manage to look at Russia and see nothing worse than a morality tale about how the British have mistreated the Irish. So it seems there are all sorts of things that could done. The barriers arise not from pragmatics, but from sheer will -- and from core values.
(I guess the standard line would be: “Yes, but the US helps Israel”. Except that the US has shed exponentially more innocent blood at home and abroad than Israel has ever done, while none of the BDS-crowd, not even the American ones, ever call for an anti-US boycott. In fact the BDS-ers I know seem to be flying to the US every five minutes—only for "constructive engagement" of course, and never to lie on a beach in Honolulu or Miami or to dine in fancy NY restaurants.)
So it seems we can rehearse all the history and draw all the
like. Yet far from consulting facts in order to choose policy
accordingly, we merely end up with already pre-fabricated policy, for
which facts are then selected altogether post hoc in
order to support that policy.
And perhaps that was never a surprise.
I only ask again - what is "the West"?
My line has always been that relations between Russia and Ukraine mirror those between England and Ireland... the same jokes at the expense of the "little brother" - and the same history of conquest and hard-won independence. Though Irish independence cost far more blood from 1916 onwards (and several uprisings before then) than did the relatively peaceful disengagement of Ukraine from the USSR - up until 1914.
Moreover, English constitutional law was shaped by A V Dicey, who was a die-hard opponent of Irish Home Rule - and of trade unions and local government. The internal armed conflict from 1969 to 1997 in the UK can be compared with the Chechen insurgency in Russia. And the McKerr (shoot to kill), Finucane (murder of a solicitor) and other Northern Irish cases against the UK at Strasbourg have not been resolved to this day - refusal by the UK to conclude an effective investigation.
So, while trying to avoid the pitfalls of moral relativism, I would be very cautious about seeking to intervene in any way. The English must resolve their own problems, probably without Scotland and maybe without Wales and Northern Ireland; and the same goes for the Ukrainians and the Russians.
I do hope, Eric, that - unlike Owen Smith, who seems to favour armed intervention - your absolutely justified moral outrage and concern does not justify a repeat of the disasters of Iraq and Libya.... ,
I'm now on the ferry to the Netherlands - my daughter's wedding on Saturday! England was a staunch supporter of the 80 years war of the Dutch for liberation from Spain, for example Philip Sydney at Zutphen. The Dutch burned the English fleet in the Medway in 1667, but we are friends again...
Thank you for your good wishes, Prof. I am looking out of my window across a beautiful, leafy campus, and feel very excited about the new job.
I agree that for some a ban does not help, as it forces those women who choose to wear the banned item either to remain hidden at home or to break the law when leaving their homes. But that is true of all bans -- people have to make choices when something is banned. Governments bring bans into effect to protect society or individuals from potential harms (from speed limits to banned substances and beyond), and while those bans may cause some controversy we largely accept that some level of regulation is required in order not to return to Hobbes' state of nature. (Incidentally, it was you who taught me about Hobbes and Mill many years ago...)
The question is whether the burkini or full veils or other religious attire causes harm, to society or to individuals. There is a part of me -- the feminist, perhaps -- that does see how banning certain practices can effect change in the way that men 'more-or-less coercively dictate[d] their wives', daughters', sisters' or mothers' apparel in countless cultural contexts'. Banning Female Genital Mutilation, or child marriage, or removal of children from schools under a certain age, have all played a significant part in that process.
Hi Rosa -- On these points I'd recommend a well-mellowed Shiraz or Chardonnay. Nothing too acidic.
I'm taking a 'purely' secular point of view. It's the only one a secular
democracy under the rule of law can coherently take, whatever its
traditions or majority culture may be.
democracies have well-established rules of "reasonable accommodation"
that are perfectly plausible. An employer will certainly have no
for going out of its way to frustrate religious practices beyond what is
required for the job. Ultimately, however, the qualifier 'reasonable'
gives the game away -- that infinitely malleable standard will
inevitably depend on particular contexts and circumstances. To stray
further is to subvert democratic foundations: Do we count all 'religions'? Or only religions that are sufficiently established (but
then what does that mean?) or with enough adherents
-- but then how many? What counts as a religion? Who decides what a
religion requires? A democratic state has no competence, and ought neither
to seek nor to claim any competence in deciding those matters. What it
therefore maintains is a power to determine reasonable accommodation,
even if it means that some must indeed choose between their faith and
their preferred employment.
Again, on France, I
agree that regulations outside spaces of state administration claim no
obvious justification and the norm of laïcité ends up invoked with
great rhetorical flourish but little substantive force.
I know many will resent the analogy, but a choice in favour of the burka is like a choice in favour of sexual slavery or sexual masochism. Yet people do make such choices. As long as all parties concerned exercise free, informed, adult discretion and inflict no harm on a non-consenting party, a secular state can have no plausible grounds for impeding the choice. Assuming no family or community coercion, a woman donning a burka is certainly exercising an individual choice, but the sheer fact that a woman exercises an individual choice in no way means she is eo ipso exercising a feminist choice -- no more than everything gays choose are gay choices, no more than everything Christians choose are Christian choices, no more than everything Marxists choose are Marxist choices; no more than everything ethical philosophers choose are ethical choices, and so forth.