Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Charles Proctor

Charles Proctor thinks we're all missing something obvious in the currency row in the Scots independence debate: "Who owns Sterling anyway?" he asks. The Fladgate partner and currency law expert tells me the answer is not as straightforward as it looks. With just hours to go before the independence vote, the posturing continues on both sides of the border: the Scots have been "asserting their legal right" to continue to use Sterling, ("it's our pound and we're keeping it!"). But all three major Westminster parties have been promising to block a formal currency union. So whose currency is it?

Both the FT's Alphaville section and The Times' Law pages have been grateful for Charles' wisdom on this point: "Cash is just an asset for the person who holds it, not for the central bank that issues it. The Sterling monetary system is simply a medium of exchange - inextricably linked with the Bank of England which manages and oversees the currency. If we get a Yes vote on Thursday, the Central Bank and other national institutions of course remain exclusively with the remainder of the United Kingdom. At the same time, Scotland has no intrinsic right to a "share" of the pound, despite the rhetoric coming from Holyrood." So I'm not sure I'm any clearer (but perhaps that's the point): who owns Sterling?? Charles tells me no-one does, but I’m not so sure! I've had this experience in conversation with banking lawyers before; looking too deeply at the legal concepts around money lends an odd perspective, taking hard-nosed practical lawyers into a philosophical, abstract and alien world.  Although this new perspective about money soon reaches vanishing point when I'm back on the high street buying shoes... Charles tells me this is the whole point – money is my purchasing asset because it is the Bank of England’s liability --- ah, so that’s it!

"In the event of a Yes vote", Charles continues, "international law requires the two sides to negotiate an equitable division of assets and liabilities". So like a divorce then? O dear, we all know how that goes...  

Charles not only has a busy practice advising the City's leading banks as part of the Fladgate Banking & Finance Team, but he is also a prolific author (for Butterworths, Sweet & Maxwell, Oxford University Press, etc), his titles including The Legal Aspect of Money, The Law and Practice of International Banking, Payment Obligations in Commercial & Financial Transactions, The Euro and the Financial Markets - The Legal Impact of EMU and International Payment Obligations - A Legal Perspective - so he clearly knows a thing or two about this subject. He has a new book coming out later this year which I can't say anything about just yet, but I'm hoping to get an invite to the book launch so watch this space... He also points out that any decision on the Scots currency after a Yes vote will have knock-on effects for the newly independent country's EU membership. "Sterlingisation would in fact be inconsistent with Scotland's application for EU membership because accession arrangements now commit incoming members to join the Euro at some point."

We will all be watching how Thursdays vote go with close interest. But it's what happens afterwards that could be even more interesting. 


Walking back from Sky News' Westminster studio I stumbled across the Fields of Battle : Lands of Peace 1418 outdoor exhibition in St James's Park.  Billed as an engaging street exhibition it really does stop you in your tracks. It certainly did me, as I took a little detour and 15 minutes time out on my way back to the office.  Very moving.  It features the work of award-winning photo journalist Mike St Maur Shiel and juxtaposes World War I landscapes then and now to mark the centenary of The Great War.  It moves shortly to the Royal Albert Hall to provide a visual accompaniment to a musical performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man at the end of this month (Sunday 28 September).  If you haven't caught the exhibition yet, you might be able to catch up with it then.


Those of you who know me well will be familiar with my passion for stories - also at the moment for all things Cornwall-related.  So you will understand my delight in meeting a new Covent Garden neighbour who has just set up shop selling an exotic version of the classic Cornish pasty, with a fabulous fable served on the side.  The Jamaica Patty Co makes Cornish pasties with a tastebud-tantalising West Indian twist.  And the tale to match is about the recipe for the Cornish classic morphing as it migrated to the Caribbean when Jamaican sailors took them home from English ports and their women then substituted indigenous Caribbean ingredients over time.  Of course I had to try one.  Yum! Now we just need @Lawyer_Eats to review them formally for us.  Over to you Nicky...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Su Anderson

Not everything is as it seems...

Ever wondered the extent to which our history has been photoshopped? How big the element of Spin?  Photo journalist Su Anderson has been opening my eyes to the impacts and ethics of photo manipulation, its potential to distort the truth and the rules that photo journalists live by.

I met Su on Twitter, intrigued by an article she had posted on the ethics of image manipulation in the press and how history as depicted to us (both in words and pictures) is not always the immutable truth we believe it to be. “Growing up in the US I was taught that Word War II began in 1942.  It was only when I moved to the UK in 2009 that I realised this was just a national point of view!”  I made contact with her IRL to find out more. In conversation I discovered this is a subject very close to her heart, ever since studying it at Syracuse University as part of her degree in photojournalism and cultural anthropology.  When she moved to the UK her first job was as a Forensic and PR Photographer for the Scottish Police Services Authority, where she ran the picture desk for the entire police force, providing a forensic photography service as well as press photos for the force.  She, more than most, knows the co-ordinates of that line between truth and presentation of facts.

“Photo manipulation is clearly dangerous because of its potential to mislead.  For example to put a political leader in a better light, or to remove someone from a group shot when allegiances change.  Who could forget the cringe-worthy episode of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, found out in 2010 for doctoring a photo to present himself at the front of the red carpet procession of world leaders at the Middle East Peace Talks.  In truth he was out of favour and had been relegated to the back.  The photoshopping was so poor though, his ruse was quickly rumbled.  And of course, being exposed by a blogger (Egyptian Wael Khalil) meant the reaction in cyberspace was vivid.  Spoof versions of the photo manipulation went viral: Mubarak winning the World Cup; breaking the 100 meters World Record; and landing on the moon; to mention just a few.”

But the doctoring of images isn’t just a problem of the digital age.  It has a long case history as Su’s article demonstrates.  “History is rife with photo manipulation long before Photoshop existed,” she warns me. “In fact one of the most famous full-body images of Abraham Lincoln [from the Library of Congress, picture above] is not at all what it seems: Lincoln’s head, taken from a seated portrait, was placed onto the body of 7th US Vice President John C Calhoun. And this was years before Oprah’s head was placed on Ann-Margaret’s body!

For more choice examples of historical photo manipulation you can read Su’s full article here. For my part, I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a history book the same way again…


Ironic attending BFI screening of retro equal pay flick Made in Dagenham, just as new statistics reveal gender pay gap widening. 

The film was being shown at the South Bank to mark the imminent opening of the stage musical (9 October, at London's Adelphi Theatre) starring some time Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who was there in person to introduce the film.  

You tend to think of unequal pay as a thing of the past.  Well I do, at least.  Call me na├»ve but I thought the 1970 Act had dealt with the issue - certainly by now. And the very retro feel of the 1960s-set film / stage production only encourages that view. But a recent Fawcett Society study reveals that changing employment patterns today resulting from the recession are "fuelling a widening inequality gap".  

Now that's definitely something to be making a song and dance about.

Honoured to be invited to Hardwicke Chambers' first ping pong event of the new season.  The set is planning a series over Autumn and Winter, culminating in a grand final at Holborn's famous Bounce next year.  Love the pic of the evening posted by fellow guest Legal Cheek (see right).
Served up with pizza and beer, this is a very contemporary take on corporate entertainment. You can count on Hardwicke to do things differently.  What a breath of fresh air!

A fun metaphor for the daily ping pong of advocacy in the courts?