George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator.
Published time: 25 Sep, 2019 by www.rt.com
Britain never had a “Supreme Court” in the way it never had a “Constitution”. Yet somehow the political system seemed to work after a fashion, if in a typically British way.
When I was serving for nearly 30 years in the British Parliament, the “Law Lords” shared a rickety corridor and a single secretary high above the chamber of the House of Lords. They were the final court of appeal, all of them members of parliament, albeit by appointment rather than election.
Before Tony Blair set up a separate Supreme Court (who else would be responsible for the distinctly un-common law “modernisation” of a US style “Supreme Court”), the delicate balance between legislature, executive courts and Crown was something to behold. A Heath Robinson Affair no doubt. But it worked.
The seismic re-writing of an un-written constitution by 11 unelected unremovable justices over the prorogation of parliament effectively abolishes the Royal Prerogative exercised by British Prime Ministers for centuries. It begins the unravelling of the notion that the PM and the Government represent the “Queen-in-Parliament” and on matters in which parliament itself does not preclude them, can exercise executive authority. From now on, many, maybe most things, will be ultimately decided not in parliament by elected MPs but in courts by unelected judges. Judicial Review just went nuclear.
This may be a good thing, it may be a bad thing, but it cannot be denied, that no parliament ever agreed to this un-elective surgery. Thus the constitution of the country has been radically re-shaped without a vote being cast. Adding insult to injury, the state itself will pay the costs of the case through legal-aid.
The irony is that Boris Johnson’s ill-fated prorogation of parliament for around an extra week than would be normal at this time of the year and this stage of a parliament served him no purpose whatsoever and this would have been the case even if he had won the case.
If, as the Court decided, Johnson had set out to “stymie” (a Scottish Golfing term meaning to frustrate) well he plainly didn’t succeed. No sooner than he announced it the Benn-Burt Bill passed through both Houses of Parliament in record-quick time which trussed him up like a turkey, forcing him to abandon his “No-Deal Brexit” negotiating strategy with the EU and to beg them for another three-month extension of British membership – for starters.
It is true that the prime minister set out to frustrate the ability of the parliament to “stymie” him. But it is also true that the parliament itself has set out to frustrate the decision of the British people to leave the EU. And not for a week but for three long years.
Although both sides made clear in the Brexit referendum that the people’s decision would be final, then jointly triggered Article 50 which set the clock ticking towards exit, then jointly stood for election in 2017 in Theresa May’s foolhardily unnecessary election promising to respect the result of the referendum, the narrow outcome of that election put Brexit in trouble from the beginning of this parliament.
It is a parliament overwhelmingly “Remain” at heart which gradually recovered its confidence to frustrate the electorate. Its confidence was richly boosted by the support of the richest people in the land (indeed the world – everyone from George Soros to the American banks have had their “tuppence-worth”), the deep state, the EU itself, the financial sector (virtually unanimously), international capital (as opposed to the much smaller “national bourgeoisie”) and most of the printed media and all of the broadcast media. A cacophony of clamour to stop Brexit by hook or by crook has steadily grown and the court case is merely a part of this.
No one can now predict where this goes. The prime minister’s efforts to force a new election to change the parliamentary arithmetic seems doomed to fail. Thanks to the fixed-term parliaments act two thirds of MPs have to vote for an early election. The opposition cry simultaneously “Tories Out” and “Tories In” by virtue of their refusal to allow an election. Ably assisted by the Speaker of the House the “rebels” are now in charge of the parliament and can, for now, do as they will.
They may force Johnson or a replacement “non-partisan” prime minster to seek an extension which – by the terms of the Benn-Burt Bill – can be at the pleasure of the EU as to its duration. Or they may – drunk on success – seek to revoke Article 50 altogether and remove the clock thus effectively returning the whole matter to the status quo ante.
But the people of England have not spoken yet. Wales voted for Brexit, Scotland did not. But England voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. The political class are counting on ennui wearing down the Brexit 17.4 million by the passage of time and literally years of scaremongering – Project Fear.
My own experience in the Midlands and the North (I spend my weekends in one or the other) suggests that this whole series of betrayals has hardened resolve rather than weakened it. My own feeling is that the electorate will exact a terrible vengeance on the politicians when the time finally comes to face them. And that if they fail even then, Britain and British democracy will never be the same again. And I don’t mean that in a good way. A terrible beauty may be born.