Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The PQ Crick Prize for Best Piece

Deborah Mabbett and Nick O'Brien
At the Orwell Awards last night, Nick O'Brien was awarded the Crick Prize for Best Piece 2018 by co-editor Deborah Mabbett. His article entitled 'Administrative Justice in the Wake of I, Daniel Blake' was the overwhelming judges' choice who write "This article is a quintessential PQ piece. It starts from I, Daniel Blake and its depiction of the inhumanity of the benefits system and finishes with Grenfell Tower. It considers Daniel Blake’s testimony daubed on the wall of the job centre, claiming the right to be treated as a citizen and not as a client, a customer, a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar or a thief, and uses it to build an argument about how administrative justice might be reformed and citizenship reimagined to make it possible.

As the article notes administrative justice has been neglected compared with the other main branches of justice – criminal, civil and family – and starved of resources and research, but it is at least as important. Nick O’Brien reviews the history of administrative justice, from the Attlee Government and the extremely pertinent reflections of W.H. Morris Jones in his 1949 Fabian pamphlet Socialism and Bureaucracy to Richard Crossman’s Socialism and the New Despotism in 1956 and the interest in the Scandinavian experience of Ombud institutions, such as the Danish Ombudsman, championed by Peter Shore and Andrew Shonfield among others in the 1960s, and which led to the creation of the UK’s first Ombudsman. The article then shows how the Ombudsman initiative was diluted and changed into something less radical (a familiar story), so that much of the work of the current Parliamentary Ombudsman and Health Service Ombudsman is devoted to ‘service’ complaints about the NHS. The article concludes with an illuminating discussion about how the system of administrative justice might be reformed to achieve the vision of W.H.Morris Jones and rebuild trust between citizens and government, citing Danielle Allen’s idea of an Aristotelian ‘political friendship’ where law is a practice in which every citizen may be involved through deliberation, legislation or enforcement. O’Brien challenges the pessimism of those like David Goodhart, who argue that a limit must be placed on diversity if a society is to remain cohesive. If the institutional architecture is put in place to create a connected society much higher levels of diversity are possible."

You can read O'Brien's article here.