YESTERDAY’S Supreme Court judgment against the Government was a punch to Boris Johnson’s solar plexus.
Brexiteers should not kid themselves about that. Boris has been winded.
Lady Hale, head of the Supreme Court, has long been seen as a quintessential liberal blue-stocking[/caption]
But the verdict is wider and more damaging than that.
In the longer term, it could make life immeasurably hotter for judges and senior lawyers in Britain.
From now on, their political leanings, their family and professional backgrounds, their social media records and all those juicy perks they enjoy at their Inns of Court are going to be fair game for public scrutiny.
Where do these top lawyers live, which clubs do they belong to and what are the political views of their spouses? All these — and more — will in future be legitimate fare.
There will also, surely, be demands for Supreme Court judges in future to be subjected to the sort of public confirmation hearings that have long soured American judicial appointments.
Your honours, welcome to the boxing ring. Don’t forget to insert your gum shields.
How did you vote in the EU referendum? Actually, don’t bother with that one. We can probably guess that most of you and your pals voted Remain.
But let’s consider other questions. Who did you sit next to at your last posh dinner? What charities do you support? Who gave your children their work experience internships? Do you have any overseas investments? Did you pay tax on them?
ALLEGE JUDICIAL BIAS
From now on, the impertinent lower orders may want to know such things and it won’t be any good drawling: “Mind your own business, peasants.” Because you sacrificed all that yesterday.
You just blew your hallowed status.
In the past, senior members of the judiciary were generally left alone by the media and politicians.
The “separation of powers” created a safety zone between the sweaty, raucous world of street politics and the almost ecclesiastical realm of The Law.
Why do judges wear wigs and gowns? Because they need to be seen not as individual personalities but as blind servants of something greater, something unbendable and dignified called The Law. That was why MPs and many journalists did not criticise these lofty legal figures.
The beaks, in turn, left political argy-bargy to parliamentarians and the scurvy hobgoblins of Grub Street. The prorogation of Parliament was precisely the sort of matter the lawyers left to politicians. We did not want our senior jurists to be open to pressure from ministers who might later offer them titles or jobs.
The moment there was a possible conflict of interests — of citizens being able to allege judicial bias — judges were moved off cases.
That happened in the late 1990s, when Lord Hoffmann was one of the Law Lords considering the case against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Lennie Hoffmann had failed to declare that his wife worked for human-rights lobby group Amnesty International, which had long criticised Pinochet.
This is a country that voted to leave the EU and now sees a political establishment trying to block that
Hofmann was obliged to stand aside from the Pinochet judgment.
What do we know of the 11 judges who reached yesterday’s unprecedented decision? Not much. Yet.
But let’s alight on the head of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale. She’s the beady-eyed old nanny goat who read yesterday’s verdict in the court.
Brenda Hale has long been seen as a quintessential liberal blue-stocking. If she’s a Leaver, I’m a Martian.
Fifteen years ago I saw Lady Hale at a Commons select committee hearing and wrote a mildly disobliging account of it for a national newspaper. Legal stooges kicked up a frightful fuss, saying I was out of order for questioning a judge’s political sympathies.
Well, they should brace themselves for plenty more of that sort of thing now.
What’s sauce for Boris is sauce for Brenda Hale. Her Supreme Court questioned Boris’s motives in proroguing Parliament. The British people can now question her motives in reaching that verdict.
They might be interested, for instance, to learn that she has just been given a cushy position at an Oxford college run by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the left-wing Guardian newspaper.
Rusbridger is a prominent Remainer and he is a supporter of Gina Miller, who brought the Supreme Court case against the Government.
Corrupt? No. But it doesn’t look great, does it?
No matter how you dice it, yesterday’s verdict was snortingly controversial. Does that make it strictly political?
Lawyers will say the case was heard solely on the black and white detail of legal statute.
I’m afraid that won’t wash. Just look how Labour Party conference delegates cheered when they heard yesterday’s news — they punched the air and whooped — and try telling Sun readers this judgment was not political.
The Brexit battle has electrified a previously indifferent electorate. The establishment can no longer get away with patting the citizenry on the head and saying: “Trust us.”
This is a country that voted to leave the EU and now sees a political establishment trying to block that. It sees a Parliament, a Commons Speaker, the BBC, civil service and big business trying to stop Brexit.
After yesterday, alas, many people will suspect the Supreme Court of joining the forces of Establishment Remain.
MOST READ IN OPINION
Oddly enough, Boris could benefit from this thudding legal intrusion on our politics. It makes him look more than ever like a refreshing outsider, a bold challenger to the hated status quo. But for top judges, the quiet life may have gone.
In courtrooms you sometimes hear barristers say: “No further questions, m’lud.”
This time, the questions are only just beginning.
Boris Johnson could benefit from this thudding legal intrusion on our politics[/caption]
Gina Miller, who brought the Supreme Court case against the Government, celebrated outside the court alongside other campaigners[/caption]
Just look how Labour Party conference delegates cheered at the ruling – try telling Sun readers this judgement was not political[/caption]
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