Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Rule of Law (republished)

Many books deserve a fulsome recommendation. A very few fall into that rare category of "books every citizen should read". One small book out this year more than exceeds the criteria for inclusion in this limited list [the criteria should be (1) the writer has something VERY important to say AND (2) it is written in plain, readable language]

Lord Bingham of Cornhill ['Tom Bingham' is the name on the book] has been Master of the Rolls (head of England and Wales' civil justice system); Lord Chief Justice (head of the judiciary of England and Wales) and the Senior Law Lord (in the House of Lords Judicial Committee - the highest court in the UK before it became the Supreme Court). When he writes about the law, he knows what he is writing about! (Times' Profile)

"The Rule of Law" [London: Allen Lane, 2010 ISBN 978-1-846-14090-7] is a short, but incredibly powerful and useful book. It explains - in a very readable way - a central concept in English Law. He sets out a history of the idea, then explains what it means. It is no obscure academic principle, but the foundation upon which liberty rests. Every citizen should read this book - because it explains the meaning and importance of the idea - and sets out how easily it can be threatened.

The book is also a superb introduction to English Law. In succinct terms Lord Bingham explains (in a way unrivalled by any textbook I've seen) -
  • sources of English Law (chap 3)
  • principles of the English legal system (Chap 9)
  • Judicial Review (Chap 6)
  • Human Rights Law - including key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (Chap 7)
  • principles of International Law (Chap 10)
  • Sovereignty of Parliament (Chap 12)
If you are studying (or about to study) Law - [particularly those subjects traditionally known as 'English Legal System' and 'Constitutional & Administrative Law' (or the Open University's W100, W200, W201, Y166) - this is a book you will find very useful - both for understanding key concepts and for exam revision.
But this is not just a book for law students. Students of politics and history will also find it useful - as indeed (as I've already said a few times) ANY CITIZEN.