Cheap Fares and the Rule of Law

Paul Sieghart

The English judiciary does not often produce national cult figures, and less often still two at a time. There are many wise and learned men – and even a woman or two – on the judicial bench, but only Lords Denning and Scarman have become darlings of the media in the 1980s – praised for their plain speech, their courage, their humanity, their championship of the underdog, and their implacable opposition to bureaucratic arrogance. So perhaps it was predictable that there would be howls of anguish when both these tribunes of the people struck down the Greater London Council’s splendid new scheme for cheap fares on London’s buses and underground trains. Had it only been their supporting brethren in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords who had done such an illiberal thing, no one would have been much surprised: judges, after all, are cautious men, and everyone expects them to be among nature’s conservatives. But what rankled was that it should have been Lord Denning who delivered the leading judgment in his court, and Lord Scarman almost the longest of the five speeches in his, both roundly condemning the scheme as illegal.

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