The unanimous ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court that the prime minister acted unlawfully in closing Parliament should have been game over for him, but these are strange times.
Their ruling was certainly bad news for Boris Johnson and he was dragged back from the United States to address the House of Commons.
Opposition parties hoped to watch a humbled man offer his “mea-culpa” for having ill-advised Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, Mr. Johnson delivered an uncompromising speech that echoed the frustrations of the Brexit majority in the country. For once they felt a politician was telling it the way it is.
The opposition had no problem with castigating the prime minister, but when he described Parliament’s new law to stop a no-deal exit as a “Surrender Act,” one labour MP, Paula Sherriff, told him he should be “absolutely ashamed of himself.”
He claimed the law had given away the U.K.’s bargaining position with the EU, but to her he was using language that might endanger MP’s safety. When he dismissed that as “Humbug,” they went nuts.
The opposition parties not only have a problem with criticism, but also with how much further they can undermine the prime minister and his minority government. The last thing they want is an election, which they could well lose.
Remainers may dominate Parliament, the media and academia, but not the electorate. A point not lost on the Attorney General, Sir Geoffrey Cox, AKA “The baritone barrister.”
Prior to the prime minister’s appearance, he excoriated Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party by claiming, “They could vote no-confidence at any time, but they are too cowardly … This Parliament should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won’t.”
And for his coup de grace, “The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.” The Remainers’ triumphal return after getting parliament reopened wasn’t supposed to have been like this.
The out-going Speaker-of-the-House, John Bercow, later complained, “There was an atmosphere in the Chamber worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the House.” This was surely code for, the Remainers lost.
It is hard to fathom just what the government hoped to achieve by shutting down parliament for just a few days extra as MPs still had enough time to pass the “Surrender Act.”
However, the “prorogation” as it is called, did scare the bejabers out of the Remainers and now both sides are considering risky, off-piste routes to try to win the Brexit battle.
Parliament is nervous that Mr. Johnson might try to introduce emergency powers to force a no-deal Brexit through on October 31.
One plan being rumored is to try to replace him through a no-confidence vote, once the time is right, and install a Remain supporter as prime minister.
To stop this leading to a risky general election, another idea is to call for a cross-party, government of national unity made up of Remainers. This is not to be confused with Abraham Lincoln’s well-meaning attempt to attract Democrats in the second half of the American Civil War.
A more accurate parallel — and with about as much chance of success — would be if the Confederates had tried to form a unity administration with disaffected Republicans.
Replacing an elected government to thwart the democratic will of the British people really would amount to a coup, so it’s hard to see those ideas going anywhere.
The big winner out of the proroguing Parliament debacle was the U.K. Supreme Court, which was only founded in 2009 and is the brainchild of the former Trotskyist, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
This was the second time the U.K.’s highest court has overruled the U.K. government on Brexit. The first was to assert that Parliament would have the final vote on the EU withdrawal terms.
Although sharing the same name as the U.S. legal body, the U.K. court differs in many ways. The American Supreme Court upholds the U.S. Constitution at a federal level, but Britain doesn’t have one to defend, rather it has common law derived from legal precedent.
Also, the U.K. Supreme Court judges have no confirmation hearings and are appointed. When their function was just to uphold U.K. Common Law, no one minded, but this was also changed by Prime Minister Blair.
In 2005, his government introduced reforms so that judges could only be selected if they, “demonstrate a lifetime’s commitment to Equality and Diversity,” which could add a progressive filter to their judgements.
The Courts decision to overrule the government was defended by Stephanie Boyce, deputy vice-president of the Law Society, “We are all bound by law to accept that ruling — even those who wish it had gone another way.”
So how about the establishment also being bound by the Brexit ruling of the British public?
• Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.