The unsavoury scenes in the US Senate do at least serve one purpose: we can be relieved and delighted with the system we have here in the UK.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tearfully and sometimes angrily denied sexual assault accusations before a panel of senators.
Before that on Thursday we had the grotesque sight of an alleged victim of sexual violence being subject to cross-examination. As one Congressman pointed out, this wasn’t her going for the job interview.
The 53-year-old Kavanaugh will likely end up on the Supreme Court with a job for life, because the political will exists to put him there. Republican politicians, not least President Trump, have made it clear Kavanugh retains their support. One imagines they will expect reciprocal backing when controversial policies are being put to the test in the Supreme Court.
This distasteful spectacle, where a woman is hauled before the world’s media, where we learn the sexual habits of a young Kavanaugh, and where the concept of selection by merit seems almost secondary, is a by-product of the US appointment system.
Candidates for the Supreme Court are heavily vetted by White House staff, interviewed by the president, then subject to this ‘confirmation’ process. Judges are political pawns put forward at the behest of politicians. Even if their subsequent judgments are unquestionable, the system which put them there surely is.
This is nothing new, of course. What has changed in the last couple of years is prominent voices have started to call for parliament to scrutinise Britain’s top judges. The Article 50 rulings last year spawned these calls, with former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith arguing for parliamentary hearings to examine candidates when a vacancy has to be filled.
At present, the government is minimally involved in selecting Supreme Court justices, with candidates applying for the job rather than being nominated and the Lord Chancellor limited to offering guidance to a selection commission.
It’s silly to pretend that UK justices are apolitical, but that doesn’t mean we need to know their politics. Their elevation is because they are the best at what they do, not that their views chime with the ruling party. Our process ensures scrutiny and fairness without turning it into a circus.
Looking across the pond at the media briefing, the backbiting and the maneuvering, we should be eternally grateful for what we have.