In the previous post, the BFD covered Charles Day’s argument that the UK Supreme Court’s decision is “a constitutional outrage”. In this second instalment, James Kirkup offers an opposing view.
Yes, this a political setback for Johnson, but, Kirkup argues, it is hardly a disaster for British democracy, much less a body-blow to Brexit. Quite the opposite.
Take five minutes to read the Court’s judgement on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, where you will find a crystal-clear elucidation of principles that everyone – but perhaps especially those who favour leaving the EU – should celebrate and defend.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the overwhelmingly Remainer media-elite jerking themselves into a stupor over what they imagine the judges said.
It appears to be necessary to point out what the Court has not done and not said. The judges have not ruled that Boris Johnson lied to the Queen, even though many people who really should know better are saying this […]
In fact, the court took no position on whether Johnson’s reasons for seeking prorogation were honestly stated […] professional journalists and countless #FBPE tweeters are simply wrong when they say that the court has found that the PM “lied to the Queen”.
What the judges actually said, Kirkup says, is that Parliament is still the ultimate source of British democracy.
The ruling is actually simpler than that and about something more important: the constitutional primacy of Parliament […] One paragraph, number 55, of the judgement should be shared as widely as possible, plastered on front pages, taught to school children and possibly tattooed onto the skin of anyone, of any party, employed as a Government special adviser:
“Let us remind ourselves of the foundations of our constitution. We live in a representative democracy. The House of Commons exists because the people have elected its members. The Government is not directly elected by the people (unlike the position in some other democracies). The Government exists because it has the confidence of the House of Commons. It has no democratic legitimacy other than that. This means that it is accountable to the House of Commons – and indeed to the House of Lords – for its actions, remembering always that the actual task of governing is for the executive and not for Parliament or the courts.”
So, what the judges ruled is that Johnson’s actions “had the effect of frustrating or preventing the constitutional role of Parliament in holding the Government to account”.
Parliament, to repeat, is the heart of our constitution […]The people express their will at the ballot box: they voted to leave the EU, so we must leave. They also elected the current House of Commons in 2017. From that Parliament, the Government of Boris Johnson draws its authority; nowhere else.
When Parliament thwarts the executive, that is the will of the people being expressed by the people’s representatives. Parliament cannot frustrate the Will of the People because its authority comes from those people; what it does, it does in their name and with their authority. And if the people are unhappy about that, they can choose another Parliament when the next election comes.
That’s all very well, but will Brexit or Remain be a done deal by the time Parliament deigns to allow the people to vote on its actions? The people also voted to leave the EU. Parliament is also constitutionally bound to respect that decision. Parliamentarians who refuse to do so should be voted out on their arses.
But, as we have seen, too many parliamentarians are determined to Remain, come Hell or high water. They are also refusing, as Charles Day noted, to call an election. In other words, they will do anything they can to frustrate the people’s will. If the Remainers have their way, Britain will be forced into a humiliating “deal” that effectively makes it a puppet state of the EU, in perpetuity.
Whatever your politics, wherever you are on the Brexit question, you should take comfort in today’s laser-sharp restatement of parliamentary primacy. But those who should cheer most loudly for the Supreme Court today are the Eurosceptics and Brexiteers, who fought so long to bring power back from the European level and to restore Parliament to its rightful place at the apex of the British constitution.blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/09/brexiteers-should-cheer-the-supreme-court
That’s all very well and good, but when Parliament goes rogue, as it has, how much damage will it be allowed to do before being held to account?