September 25, 2019

Horse 2600 - No Good Reason To Prorogue Parliament

Effective at 11:30 am BST today, Her Majesty's Parliament at the Palace of Westminster will be opened again, following an 11-0 decision by the Supreme Court that the Prime Minister's advice to the Monarch to prorogue parliament was unlawful. Brexiteers immediately brigaded social media claiming that the courts have usurped power from the people despite the fact that they only made their decision because of the application the law, that the Queen has usurped power despite the fact that she had her power curtailed by the operation of the law. As per operation of the law, the Crown can not unilaterally prorogue parliament. Lady Brenda Hale in her address said that it was impossible to conclude there had been any reason "let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks".

All of this put together says that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remains a kingdom of laws; governed by the rule of law, and where the law itself continues to be respected. As for the argument that Brexit is about Britain taking back control, it is worth noting that this decsions was madr by British judges, following British law, following the British constitution, on behalf of British citizens, in the capital of Great Britain. To all those chanting "our laws, our sovereignty" in the streets on Saturday, is this sufficient? This is as British as British Scones with Robertson's British Jam; with a dollop of British cream on top.

Politically, this has been absolutely perfect for Boris Johnson. He was installed by the members of the Conservative Party to deliver a no deal Brexit. At this point in time, even if parliament manages to pass the necessary legislation needed to dissolve itself and force another General Election, it takes a minimum of 25 days for that to play out. Sep 25 + 25 = Sep 50, and as the deadline of October 30 is Sep 60, even if you allow for the fact that the General Election would be held on Sep 54 that is still only 4 working days to negotiate a deal with the EU for any incoming Government. I think that that means that by default, Boris Johnson would actually deliver a no deal Brexit.

The most singular thing that I can not comprehend about all of this (among the fifteen incomprehensible things before breakfast) is whether or not Boris Johnson played this like some kind of grand chessmaster playing a Kafkaesque self-Zugzwanging Double Gambit, or whether or not he thought that this was genuinely feasible, or whether he like the two Prime Ministers before him was given such an impossible puzzle that nobody could ever hope to solve it. This could be like moving a Knight to Kamchatka and wanting to put a Hotel on it. In a world of two tone black and white, this is one step beyond madness.
Conceivably this could be the end of his Premiership but having won no meaningful vote on the floor of the House of Commons, yet still delivering the thing he promised, maybe it was worth it for him? What I do know is that someone who should have gone into political irrelevance like Clement Freud or Giles Brandreth and become a treasured member of Radio 4 panel shows, will now go into history as either the champion of Brexit and/or the most hated man in Britain, in a series of insane events that rival the lead up to the Parliament Act 1911 for significance.
Of course being a keen student of the murky art of constitutional comparison, I immediately thought of 11-11-75 and whether or not the advice from a sitting Prime Minister to prorogue parliament would be meaningful here in Australia. The answer that I can come up with is that it's irrelevant as Section 5 just hands the power to the Governor General to do with as they wish. In that respect the Governor General has more power than the monarch in the UK but seeing as we have a written Constitution, that power is explicitly defined.

As for the pressing question of what happens next, one only needs to look at the immediate past. Boris lost the majority, and control of the House of Commons' business, and every Commons vote, and the Scots appeal case, and the absolute PM prerogative power of prorogation, by losing the Supreme Court case, nil-11. I think that the Supreme Court which has found that Mr Johnson acted unlawfully and stopped Parliament from doing its job without any legal justification, kind of makes his position at Number 10 untenable. The Supreme Court, which is the highest appeal court in the United Kingdom has ruled that the law is above you; even if you are the Prime Minister.

1 comment:

Simon Grady said...

"In a world of two tone black and white, this is one step beyond madness."

I see what you did there.