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Supreme Court: serving or subverting democracy?

By Mal Fletcher - posted Wednesday, 25 September 2019

A good many Brits may be asking just that question, following today's ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's recent recommendation to the Queen, that Parliament should be recessed, was illegal.

The recess process, known as proroguing, takes place in the lead up to a Queen's speech, in which the head of state outlays her government's major policies for the new parliamentary season.

Today, many Brits will today be asking whether, in this unprecedented judgement, democracy has been served or subverted.


In summing up the unanimous decision of the twelve justices, Lady Hale reiterated the Court's commitment to stay out of party politics. She did, however, add that the circumstances of this prorogation are 'unlikely' ever to occur again.

With due respect to the eminent her and her fellow judges, I think this is misguided. This type of situation, where courts are involved in questions about proroguing, will almost certainly recur, simply because the Court has now opened the door.

Like it or not, we will see other cases in which a prime minister, in calling for a recess, is threatened with court action.

To a degree, despite its protestations to the contrary, the Court will be perceived, by many members of the public, to have strayed into politics.

The 1689 Bill of Rights is the closest thing Britain has to a written constitution. It says: "proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament."

This suggests a valid question: why was the Supreme Court ruling on a question of established parliamentary procedure in the first place?


Especially when the current parliament has long attempted to frustrate the will of the electorate, as it was expressed in a legally valid - and therefore binding - referendum.

The dominant public perception - and not just among Leave voters - might well be that the eminent justices have worn their Remain preferences on their sleeves.

I cannot see in Parliament's recent behaviour any respect for the majority's wishes.

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This article was first published by 2020Plus.

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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