The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Interesting Times
We are undeniably living in interesting times. On Friday, we witnessed the inauguration of the forty-fifth president of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, who was able to overcome some missteps that would ordinarily prove fatal to others in most election campaigns and to win the requisite number of votes in the Electoral College, although not those of the majority of citizens. It is doubly ironic that this system was established by the Founding Fathers, principally to ensure a numerical balance between the Northern and Southern States by including certain individuals, identified by race, as less than entire persons, a factoid that would later come to resonate with the Trump campaign’s motif of exclusion.
According to Akhil Reed Amar, a noted Constitutional Law Scholar at Yale University: “At the Philadelphia convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South: “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College—a prototype of which Madison proposed in this same speech—instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count”.
Also on Tuesday of this week, the much-anticipated decision of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Wales on Brexit is scheduled for delivery. There, their Lordships have to decide whether the decision of England to leave the European Union should be purely an executive decision by the Government of the day in accordance with established principles of treaty making and unmaking that accord that power exclusively to the Executive or whether, in agreement with the opinion of the lower court, the decision is primarily one to be made by Parliament, especially since any withdrawal might impact negatively on the applicability of European laws that have become part of the British legal system.
Of course, it is open to their Lordships to hold, without doing violence to accepted constitutional theory, that the decision to withdraw from a treaty still remains within the exclusive remit of the Executive and that the relevant laws are not thereby necessarily affected but remain alive subject to later Parliamentary adoption or repeal. The inescapable reality is that the people whom the members of Parliament notionally represent have already signaled their intention to leave Europe. How significant a role this will play in a decision that promises to be an intriguing mixture of realpolitik and constitutional theory remains to be seen.
Interest is not solely confined to the extra-jurisdictional. Here, at home, a story that is gaining significant printed press inches and talk show minutes is the decision of the governing administration to dispose of its interest in the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited [BNTCL] to the Sol Group. This has evoked cries of unfair competition or, rather, its likelihood from a competing bidder and retail competitor, Rubis Inc. The regulation of fair competition in the jurisdiction falls to the Fair Trading Commission, an institution that this writer currently has the honour to chair and is therefore precluded, in the interest of equity, from further public comment at this time.
Of equal interest locally, is the re-emergence, within recent days, of no fewer than two political groupings that have declared an interest in contesting the 2018 general elections. What has struck me as most eldritch about this development so far, is that the debate surrounding one group has been concentrated on the identities of its presumptive candidates, while, contrastingly, the other “third party” has chosen not to reveal its potential candidates at all, doubtless a risky strategy in a jurisdiction where general elections are pejoratively referred to as beauty contests in both the literal and metaphorical senses of that term.
It is to be noted too that no matter how many parties contest an election in Barbados any new grouping is referred to as a “third party”; a tacit and grudging acceptance of the predominance two party system that has witnessed the interchange of governance for at least the last sixty years between the Barbados Labour Party [BLP] and the Democratic Labour Party [DLP]. The time may be auspicious for a third party, given the cocktail of the success of the unorthodox Trump campaign, the surprising results of relatively recent referenda in a number of jurisdictions and the closeness of the electoral result in 2013 that might have indicate either a popular indecisiveness between the two principal parties or a populist disenchantment with both. Film at eleven!
Condolences to the family and close friends of Adrian “Boo” Husbands who entered secondary school a few years after me. “Boo”, as he was familiarly known, once expressed to me some years ago, an interest in studying law, though he also confessed at the time that he did not expect to live to a ripe old age. We were most recently in contact last year when he invited me to a reunion of some old boys that was being organized. I could not make it as I was scheduled to be abroad. I did not know then that that would have been the last time I would have enjoyed his dry wit and elfin sense of humour.
Rest in peace, “Boo”. You have marked well.