UGLY scuffles greeted Tuesday morning’s prorogation of Parliament, shutting down debate on Brexit until 14th October. But even as the House of Commons went dark, two legal cases aimed at thwarting the prorogation were travelling in tandem through courts either side of Hadrian’s Wall.
In Scotland, a group of 79 claimants, led by Scottish MP Joanna Cherry QC, sought a ruling that the prorogation was unlawful because it was done (obvs) with the ulterior purpose of preventing Parliament from scrutinising the executive.
The England ’n’ Wales counterpart litigation was started by the Brexiters’ Great Satan, Gina Miller, and supported by interventions from Shami Chakrabarti, the Welsh and Scottish devolved Governments, and Sir John Major.
Proroguing Parliament is a power exercised directly by the Queen, theoretically on advice from the Privy Council but in practice from her Prime Minister. As such, it forms part of the uncodified exercises of executive power known collectively as the Royal Prerogative.
Historically, it was thought that the courts had no role in supervising any exercise of the Royal Prerogative. That presumption was partly overturned in 1985 when the House of Lords ruled that some, but far from all such actions could be subject to judicial review. The determining factor is not whether or not a decision it is an exercise of prerogative power, but its subject matter: does it touch on exclusively political business, particularly matters of ‘high policy’?
Looking at Boris’ decision to prorogue Parliament, the two courts reached opposed conclusions. In Edinburgh’s Inner House of the Court of Session, Lord Drummond Young pushed hard at the legal boundaries of justiciability of exercises of the Royal Prerogative, ruling that the courts can ‘decide whether any power, under the prerogative or otherwise, has been legally exercised’. It was up to the Government to prove they had valid reasons for the prorogation, ‘having regard to the fundamental constitutional importance of parliamentary scrutiny of executive action’.
Having concluded that it could interfere with the decision to prorogue, the court went on to do so. Unambiguously, unanimously, and expressing itself in terms you don’t normally find in dry decisions on constitutional law. The court gave Boris the mother and father of a kicking. This was ‘an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities’. The purpose of prorogation was ‘to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account…and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no deal Brexit without further Parliamentary interference’.
Down in London, a Divisional Court headed by the Lord Chief Justice couldn’t agree less. It strongly disagreed that ‘the jurisprudential stage has now been reached where there is no longer any exercise of common law prerogative powers which is immune from judicial review’. The court rejected Lord Pannick’s submissions (on behalf of Ms Miller) that this prorogation offended against a developing doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. It held that there were no legal standards against which Boris’ motives could be judged as improper, that this was all ‘high policy’ anyway, and that the Court had no jurisdiction whatsoever to review the decision.
Of the two courts, the Scottish Inner House is nominally the senior. It ruled that ‘the Prime Minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect’. The Government did not ask the court to suspend this ruling pending appeal. As a result, Parliament is not and never was prorogued.
Both judgments are now the subject of conjoined appeals to the Supreme Court, which will hear the cases next Tuesday. This didn’t stop Boris in the meantime setting the attack dogs on the out-of-touch, elitist, enemy-of-the-people, bewigged Scottish Remainer gits. The Daily Mail exclusively revealed the disgraceful truth that one of their Lordships likes holidaying in France and that another has a morally contemptible taste for what Hitler would have termed Entartete Musik, namely jazz.
Cabinet Minister Kwasi Kwarteng piped up to have his crack at the beaks. He told the BBC that “many people are saying – I’m not saying this – but, many people are saying that the judges are biased. The judges are getting involved in politics”. He omitted the necessary qualification that the people saying this, many or otherwise, are chumps with a Barbary ape’s understanding of the constitutional position of the judiciary and the importance of the rule of law.
Part of Boris’ motive behind prorogation was, as the Scottish court found, to stymie the executive and avoid scrutiny. But it was more to force Parliament’s hand and to send Jeremy Corbyn charging, trumpeting, into the elephant trap of an early General Election. That part of the plan failed, for now. As things stand, the opposition has Boris boxed in. He can’t get a majority for an election, and Parliament lacks the courage and unity of purpose to do anything meaningful to stop Brexit.
Labour’s Parliamentary party is as divided as ever between an enormous Remain majority on one side, and the Lenin-capped loon and his grisly leadership team on the other. For them the EU is a bosses’ club designed to prevent the sort of Real Socialism that worked so well in the DDR, Venezuela etc. etc. Corbyn would not be even slightly disappointed if his prevarication on Brexit forced the UK off the no-deal cliff; he would blame the ensuing chaos on the Tories and stand a good chance of winning an election off the back of it.
If the Supreme Court sides with the Scots on Tuesday, what practical effect might that have? What is the purpose of Parliament sitting at all if MPs have nothing useful to do?
Parliament exists to legislate, not to block the executive. With a minority Government in office but not power, an election this Autumn is a virtual certainty, whether before or after 31st October. It is far from certain that this alone will persuade the EU 27 to grant the Article 50 extension Parliament has ordered Boris to seek, because If Boris wins a decent majority, Brexit, on whatever terms, will happen.
The current chicanery in Parliament is making no deal more, not less likely. There is a clear Remain majority in Parliament. They should use that majority to stop Brexit, rather than playing party political games aimed at damaging the Prime Minister’s credibility with Leave voters. If the Supreme Court allows Gina Miller’s appeal, MPs who oppose Brexit should defy both Boris and Corbyn, and move swiftly to legislate for a confirmatory referendum. Otherwise, trusting the voters means letting Boris have his election, now.
No mercy for Nasty Neil
‘Nasty Neil’ McEvoy is in the soup again.
Regular readers of this column will be familiar with Nasty Neil, the now-independent South Wales AM (after Plaid Cymru disembarrassed themselves of his affiliation), Cardiff City councillor, and general thorn in the side of the Cardiff Bay establishment.
Styling himself –minus the racist aggro– as a sort of Welsh Nat Tommy Robinson, Nasty Neil follows the whiff of controversy like some ASBO version of the Bisto kids. McEvoy is an obstreperous, uppity, bad-to-the-bone populist who seems well-liked amongst his constituents. This doesn’t go down at all well in the cosy, consensual atmosphere of the Senedd, where any sort of opposition to Welsh Labour is regarded as being in faintly poor taste.
Predictably, Welsh Government apparatchiks have got it in for Nasty Neil. This follows his spectacular decapitation of the Assembly’s Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans, who had to resign his post when McEvoy managed to get a recording of what sounded like the Commissioner and most of his staff going around the office saying that McEvoy (whom they were in the process of investigating) was a d**khead.
Now, Karma has smiled on Cardiff Bay and the politburo have extracted a measure of revenge. Following a four-day hearing before Cardiff Council’s Standards Committee, McEvoy was found to have breached Cardiff City Council’s code of conduct by bringing the council into disrepute and failing to treat a complainant with ‘respect and consideration’. He was suspended as a councillor for four months.
The complaint against Neil McEvoy arose in April and May last year, when a child at a privately-run care home used by the council told his parents he was repeatedly being assaulted. The parents told McEvoy and asked him to do something about it.
Nasty Neil, slightly stretching the received understanding of what it is to be a ‘corporate parent’, demanded access to the child, confronted staff at the home, and (in earshot of the staff) called the director of social services and the police to organise a welfare check when he was refused access.
At the Standards Committee hearing, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (who sees himself as a sort of Batman to McEvoy’s Joker), accused Nasty Neil of acting in a threatening way towards staff with his “chest puffed out”, “shoulders back” and “pointing his fingers”.
“Show me on the doll,” Counsel for Ombuds-Man may have asked, “where Nasty Neil pointed at you.”
She then accused McEvoy of displaying “a pattern of behaviour, that as soon as something doesn’t go your way, you [ask] to speak to the director.” “Can you see, Councillor,” she added, “that it is the way you do it that makes people feel intimidated?”
How Labour won the argument
By Matthew Paul
Even though Labour –according to Jeremy Corbyn– ‘won the argument’ last Thursday, the Tories comprehensively won at the traditionally more important business of getting votes. Simon Hart, Stephen Crabb and Jonathan Edwards all held their seats; the two Conservatives enjoying comfortable majorities over Labour (though it was Hart, not Crabb, who took Alun Cairns’ vacant job as Secretary of State for Wales).
Plaid Cymru, as predicted, had a pretty rotten night. They can take a little comfort from Ben Lake’s solid win in Ceredigion, and from seeing their majorities creep up in Y Fro Gymraeg. But the Party of Wales remains a party supported by only one in ten Welsh voters. Plaid made no progress at all outside its core areas; indeed its share of the vote has (with a very slight blip in 2015) been slowly on the slide for twenty years, from the 14.1% it won in the 2001 General Election, to 9.9% last Thursday. This is not a movement on the march.
Plaid’s aggressively anti-Brexit stance, and its ‘Unite to Remain’ alliance with wishy-washy Britnat parties was a huge strategic error. Mistletoe-clad traditionalists in Y Fro know perfectly well that the party is pro-EU and didn’t need reminding. Brexity boyos in the valleys looking for an alternative to Labour found it a massive turn-off.
In Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire, Plaid’s vote share fell; Rhys Thomas having failed to mention frequently enough that he’s a doctor and was in Afghanistan. Jonathan Edwards will be spooked too. He lost half his majority in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and the Conservatives smashed Labour into third place. With a bit of investment in the constituency from CCHQ, there is every prospect of the Tories biting Jonathan on the bum next time round.
While the doorstep in the Pembrokeshire constituencies had been showing solid support for the Tories but no reason for complacency, over in Carmarthenshire it was apparent that the Labour campaign had completely gone to bits. Labour Candidate Maria Carroll, though an avid Corbynite, was for some reason unpersoned by her party and ordered to stay away from Jezza’s big gig at Nantyci showground. The dear leader didn’t mention her or CE&D once in his speech.
Rattled, Carroll put out a video in which she adopted the conciliatory tone of a dying gypsy fortune-teller cursing the drunk driver who knocked her down: “your children and grandchildren will SUFFER!” Even this inspirational message failed to turn things around. Maria Carroll may have won the argument in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr; but only if the argument centred on whether or not she would lose to both Plaid and the Tories, and get the lowest vote in Carmarthenshire in the Labour Party’s entire history. To her credit, she achieved both. She was fortunate not to face a credible challenge from the LibDems, or Count Binface.
In receipt of this absolute shellacking from the electorate, many candidates would step back, slightly abashed, and opt for a moment of quiet reflection. Not Maria. Erupting on Twitter, she blamed every factor for her defeat except unpropitious astrological convergences, her own incompetence, and Oh! Jeremy Corbyn. Broadly speaking, she shared the view prevalent amongst members of the Corbyn cult; that the electorate got it wrong.
Certainly, the analysis among Corbynites seems to be that it wasn’t the manifesto that got it wrong; voters loved the classical socialist idea of taxing the rich until there aren’t any left, then starting on the moderately well off. It definitely wasn’t the leader either; he is a good, kind, honest, decent man who really cares for the poor. And, as we all know, there aren’t any poor Jews. No, it was vile, billionaire-owned mainstream media like The New Statesman, The Guardian and The Pembrokeshire Herald that brainwashed a majority of the electorate into thinking Corbyn was an unpatriotic halfwit who surrounded himself with commies, bomb-scatterers and anti-Semites. What made it worse was that they achieved this by the sneaky, underhand trick of reporting things that Corbyn had said and done.
Carroll tweeted that she wants to see “an end to the abusive power of the media”, and even expressed an aspiration to close the media down, so perhaps The Pembrokeshire Herald has had a lucky break.
Maria Carroll wasn’t alone on Thursday night. The Beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, was finally told that his forty-year long end of the pier show was being shut down. Labour were turfed out of Sedgefield; once Tony Blair’s rock-solid stronghold. Redcar, Grimsby Fishdocks, Satanic Mills East, and a host of other seats which have been Labour since the dawn of time all voted with some enthusiasm for Boris and Brexit.
The strategy of forcing opposition parties to treat a first-past-the-post election as a referendum on a subject about which they didn’t agree worked an absolute treat for the Tories. Even so, a competently led Labour Party with a clearly defined position on Brexit could have won. In one credible poll, 43% of Labour voters who switched sides said it was leadership, not Brexit, that was their main concern.
For the time being, Corbyn remains at the helm of his stricken party, anxious to ensure that whoever succeeds him is chosen on his terms and from his cult. Any Tory with £3 in his pocket would do well to sign up to Labour now, for the unmissable opportunity of helping to elect Richard Burgon or Rebecca Long-Bailey as the Lenin-capped loon’s successor.
Entertaining as it may be to watch the Labour Party disintegrate, the Tories can allow themselves only a short gloat. Reality will start to bite soon, when they get stuck into what may not be the entirely effortless task of Getting Brexit Done.
Cadno’s Carmarthenshire Election Special – Part 1
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from this old fox.
What with things being the way they are, Cadno might have been silenced for good. But this is election time. It’s the season to be jolly with holly and —- golly gosh! What larks the election is!
Let’s start with Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr.
Jonathan Edwards is the incumbent and Plaid’s treasury spokesperson is likely to take some beating. He has had substantial media exposure for his virtually lone hand pummelling the various Conservative Brexit ministers and pushing the interests of his constituents, whether on miners’ pensions; WASPI; or rural regeneration. Jonathan Edwards has also had the Liberal Democrats and Greens step aside to give him a clear run as an unequivocally ‘remain’ supporting candidate. That is a largely symbolic step, given both parties’ performance last time out.
If God loves a trier, he must have a special place in his heart for the Conservatives’ Havard Hughes. If ever a candidate’s social media profile suggested that he was a wing nut short of a complete cuckoo clock, Havard’s is the one. It’s a tough sell for Havard Hughes. The policies that the Conservatives have delivered for the constituency in the past decade can be counted on the fingers of one thumb.
Last time saw a revival in the Labour vote as David Darkin, who moved from his home in Llanelli to former county councillor Anthony Jones’ spare room to get local credibility, rode the coattails of a successful Labour national campaign. This time, the red rose has put forward Maria Carroll as their candidate. Maria Carroll, Cadno is happy to clarify following recent media reports, is not an anti-Semite. She simply is unlucky enough to know one hell of a lot of them online and welcome them when they joined the Facebook group she administered which advised Party members accused of anti-Semitism. Some of those concerned turned out to be anti-Semites. It’s just bad luck.
The Brexit Party Limited’s candidate is Pete Prosser. What we do know about Pete Prosser is that he paid a fee to be selected as the BPL’s candidate. If his experience is like that of the 317 Limited Company candidates dropped in the cack by Nigel Farage when he pulled the plug on them, he must have deep pockets. 14 people like his Facebook page as the company’s candidate. Cadno thinks it’s best to leave it there.
While the Brexit Party Limited’s General Election website (you have to see it believe it) claims it can win in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Cadno thinks it safe to say such an outcome is highly unlikely. In spite of improving their parties votes in 2017, both Havard Hughes and David Darkin were well adrift of Jonathan Edwards at that election.
By definition, all Plaid Cymru seats are marginal; however, Jonathan Edwards’ is less marginal than others. It depends on whether enough leave voters are brassed off with Labour’s interesting Brexit proposals (renegotiate a deal and then – potentially – campaign against it) to take one look at Havard Hughes and think ‘as swivel-eyed loons go, we could do worse’. Or whether enough Conservatives think Maria Carroll MP is a price worth paying to get rid of one of their party’s most significant parliamentary goads.
It should be fun finding out.
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