No? So you think that they go straight from the third to the fifth? Sure, it’s an old joke, but try it out at the picnic tomorrow and you might find someone young enough to think it’s funny.
In fact, the mother country is the birthplace of the English common law, which provides the underpinnings of our own legal system. Today they celebrate the ascension of Mr. Gordon Brown to the office of British Prime Minister.
It has been a rough start for him. His first day in office revealed a plot that included car bombs and driving an exploding vehicle into an airport terminal. The plot was hatched and carried out by five physicians. They still have a better health care program than we do.
In Britain the Prime Minister is obliged to appear in Parliament periodically and to answer questions from M.P.s on all sides of the aisle. Here’s my own transcript of an excerpt from Mr. Brown’s opening statement at his first appearance as P.M. in Parliament:
It’s quite a striking contrast to the current administration on this side of the pond, eh what?
All members of this house and all the people of this country have a shared interest in building trust in our democracy. And it is my hope that by working together for change in a spirit that takes us beyond parties and beyond partisanship, we can agree a new British constitutional settlement that entrusts more power to Parliament and to the British people.
Change with a new settlement is in my view essential to our country's future for we will only meet the new challenges of security, of economic change, of communities under pressure, and forge a stronger shared national purpose by building a new relationship between citizens and government that insures that government is a better servant of the people.
So I now propose that in twelve important areas of our national life the Prime Minister and the executive should surrender or limit their powers, the exclusive exercise of which by the government of the day should have no place in a modern democracy. These are:
The power to declare war;
The power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny; The power to restrict parliament oversight of our intelligence services; … Power in the appointment of judges; Power to direct prosecutors in individual criminal cases;
And the executive powers to determine the rules governing entitlement to passports and the granting of pardons.
I now propose to surrender or limit these powers to make for a more open 21st century British democracy which better serves the British people.
Enjoy your Independence Day.
… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!