The European Union has a habit of working with the establishment figures in countries to topple governments that attempt to implement mandates the people have given those governments that happen to contravene the EU’s interests. That’s what’s happening now in Britain. Virtually the entire UK establishment is lined up in support of the EU’s agenda. My pessimism is a product of the fact that I’ve never won by betting against the establishment. I want to be wrong here. I really, really do. But so far I’ve been correct when I put my chips on the establishment’s colour on the roulette wheel.
That’s an email to me from one of Canada’s top lawyers, an old friend, and a massive cynic about the motives of the lawyerly caste of which he, and I for that matter, are a part.
It’s hard to argue with that diagnosis of the insider, elite class in Britain, isn’t it? Now that Boris has scraped together a so-called ‘deal’ that for Brexiteers like me is just barely acceptable, even that had to be torpedoed by the Remainers. The main instrument this time was not the top court, the UK Supreme Court, that recently obstructed Boris and the Brexiteers by simply making up out of thin air an entitlement for them, the very same eleven unelected ex-lawyers, to do what judges had never been allowed to do for the past three centuries, namely to police the boundaries of the use of the proroguing power – taking from the politicians and the electoral process the ability to determine what is and is not ‘reasonable’.
Wow! And don’t get too smug in Australia because in a much enervated form our top judges have likewise given themselves a similar sort of ‘we get to decide what laws are proportional’ power under the guise of the judicially-invented ‘implied freedoms’ power.
But that’s another story, however sceptical all of us might be about a few top judges having this power when a bill of rights was explicitly rejected, not to mention of the judges being any better at deciding what’s reasonable and proportional than anyone else, or about how it might be used more against one side of politics than the other.
But this time in the UK it was not the judges doing the obstructing. This time it was in part that loathsome man the Speaker John Bercow who occupies a position in Britain that depends on the holder of the job being seen to be, and in fact largely being, impartial and disinterested. Mr Bercow has wholly thrown that garb aside in his quest to stop Brexit. He blatantly favours the Remainer MPs. He’s even allowed backbenchers to takeover the business of the House of Commons, against longstanding convention. And in a system based much more on convention than ours, with these conventional rules being left to be policed by the political process, there is nothing to be done till the next election. Well, if it helped the Remain cause I think all of us suspect that a quickly instituted lawsuit would get to the UK Supreme Court and the top judges would ‘discover’ they could police the actions of the Speaker. But as the shoe’s on the other foot, Brexiteers are wholly stymied until the next election – an election the Remainers in parliament (estimated to be over 70 per cent of MPs, despite both the Tories and Labour running last election on a pledge to deliver Brexit come what may) won’t allow. How can they stop it?
Because then Prime Minister David Cameron threw out the window the long-established Westminster rule that a Prime Minister can dissolve the House and seek an election.
Cameron did so to shore up his chances of forming a minority coalition government with the Lib Dems a few years back. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster this Fixed Term Election Act that lies at the heart of most of the problems.
Another main figure in the Remainer rearguard action is the Tory MP Oliver Letwin. He, together with some other committed EU-ophiles on the other side of the House, keep introducing legislation to bind the hands of Boris. When the last such attempt, the Benn Act, looked to have been circumvented when Boris got a barely tolerable deal out of the EU, Letwin and his fellow EU henchmen MPs sabotaged that too with another piece of legislation they got passed in a single day with the help of Speaker Bercow and virtually the whole of the establishment class. Of course this can only happen when MPs who were elected promising to deliver Brexit were in fact lying through their teeth to their voters.
And that brings me to the massive amount of disdain, disgust and disillusionment in which the political class, and democracy, are now widely held in the UK. And those three ‘D’s are wholly warranted. Whether Britain does or does not get out of the EU in the next 5 or 6 years, there will most definitely be an accounting. It will in part take the form of many of these Remainer MPs, the ones who promised to deliver Brexit while crossing their fingers behind their backs, losing their seats.
It needs also to take the form of the Tories running at the next election – whenever that may be – on a promise to do something about the now politicised judiciary. (And stop with all the bunk about ‘any criticism of the judges is a criticism of the rule of law’. That’s patent nonsense when the rule of law has collapsed into rule by judges.) The Tories need to promise to get rid of all of the Tony Blair constitutional innovations (so the statutory bill of rights, the move from a House of Lords top court to a Supreme Court and more). The Fixed Term Parliament Act should definitely also go. And so must the Act that in effect lets the judges pick the new judges, their successors.
Also possible is that people in Britain will start to take to the streets. If it were France where this was playing out there would have been protesters in yellow vests out there for ages. The Brits have more respect for authority. But that is breaking down, and once broken it will be hard to rebuild.
Meanwhile, I have arrived at the position where I have total disgust for much of Britain’s establishment class, people unable or unwilling to lose a referendum and respect the will of the majority. They might win this short-term. They won’t long-term.
Next column I’ll outline the establishment class’s fight with the voters in the US.
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