Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Taking Back Control

Another day, another disaster for Boris Johnson. In ordinary times, the decision by the Supreme Court that determined his prorogation of parliament was unlawful and, in effect, he lied to the Queen would be career ending. The lectern should be pitched in Downing Street and Johnson is there, crying crocodile tears down the world's cameras. Alas, this is not to be. Downing Street has "leaked" its displeasure to Laura Kuenssberg, saying "We think the Supreme Court is wrong and has made a serious mistake in extending its reach to these political matters." And this is the line most of the right have taken. Despair is stalking the land tonight alright, but this time it's team leave who are left to grieve.

You didn't need much in the way of legal training to note the government's case before the Supreme Court was tissue thin, and the position led by Lord Pannick on behalf of centrist celebrity much more convincing. All the government could muster was a plea this was none of the court's business, whereas the remainers arranged documentary evidence of the Prime Minister's intentions and cited precedent to bolster their case. Watching proceedings on Thursday, the clincher for me was the bring up of the Unison tribunal fees case. Readers will recall the coalition government of the Tories and LibDems (yes, remember, the LibDems) hiked up fees for employment tribunals. Ostensibly to deter bogus claims and tackle the culture of ambulance chasing, the real reason was to strengthen bullying bosses and tilt the balance of power in the workplace even more in their favour. The Supreme Court found it unlawful on the grounds it went against the spirit of justice by restricting the availability of legal redress. As such, while there were no rules preventing Johnson from proroguing parliament, he was hoping to restrict his accountability to parliament as well as frustrate its normal operation ahead of the Brexit deadline. As such he acted against the spirit of a system in which parliament sits supreme. And the court agreed.

Does this mean the sky has fallen in, like government supporters and Brexiteers claim? Well, only if your present and future schemes are unconstitutional and depend on manoeuvres dodgoir. If you were ever serious about "taking back control" and affirming the superiority of parliament vis a vis the EU, then our leavers should be cheering that the Prime Minister's accountability to it has now entered the corpus of the UK's ludicrous uncodified constitution. So no, the protestations this is undemocratic and places a dead hand on British politics are complete bollocks. If liberal democracy is your bag, then you need bars against arbitrary powers and their exercise. It is also worth noting the court's judgement does not check the power to make laws. There is nothing stopping Johnson from tabling legislation enhancing the powers of the Royal Prerogative, apart from the hilarious disappearance of his majority.

The obvious wider question is if your project for government is transformative, whether the Supreme Court could be used by disgruntled employers and other groups against a programme of the sort unveiled at Labour Party conference this week. And yes, of course it could. If we've learned anything from Labour's own struggle with itself and how the media have systematically defamed and traduced the party and its objectives, every little thing, every avenue to sap our energy and thwart our attempts at remaking the country and redressing the balance of class forces will be leveraged and used repeatedly. You can see it now - cases against Corbynism's disposal of private school property, forcing big pharma to relinquish monopolies on medicine, and the rest. And our strategy in response? It has to be twin track. Observing the constitutional way of doing things, including the proper drafting of legislation that leaves no ambiguities or conflicts with existent and unrepealed legislation. No more half-arsed laws. And the second? Mobilising our movement.

Despite its pretences, while no one is above the law the law itself is the product of contradictory social relationships. The lawyers and solicitors who work in it, and the judges presiding over it neither are nor separate from the rest of society. As privileged and, sometimes, literally bewigged members of the ruling class the law is there for the protection of their property and, obviously, their interests. And we have seen plenty of judgements handed down and precedent set confirming this over the centuries. But, as per the Conservative Party, the existence of the bourgeois interest does not necessarily mean a unanimity around what constitutes that interest. If the state is a general committee for attending to the ruling class's common affairs, the apparatus of the courts is another means for securing it - even if it means one sectional interest of the ruling class loses out. Today's judgement was political whichever way you diced it, and the 11 Justices - of different political persuasions and undoubtedly opinions on the vexed question of Brexit - made a decision they thought was best not just in law, but for the relationship between the courts and conventional politics. And, coincidentally, congenial to the social layer most supportive of the rule of (bourgeois) law: the liberal elite. Only a naïf would suggest these were of no consequence.

Judges are not immune or insensitive to wider politics. As we transform Labour into an actual party/movement as opposed to just being one on paper, we have to mobilise around our policy areas, raise the temperature, make our cases in the workplaces and communities, online and offline, of helping generate an irresistible head of steam for change. If, for example, the country is decidedly cheesed off with big pharma, rip off prescription charges, and how they've exploited the guaranteed market the NHS has provided them for decades, the less likely the law is going to find for them in cases disputing the legality of whatever Labour is compelling them to do. Because, ultimately, the legal profession wants to stay relevant, wants public support, and wants to sustain whatever legitimacy it has in the eyes of the public. A canny Labour government would recognise this, and leverage its support in the country to neutralise mischief, legal or otherwise, before it properly gets going. A reminder then is mobilisation outside of parliament isn't decorative: it is vital and integral to our plan.

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9 comments:

Speedy said...

are any of these proposals costed? In particular for the post-Brexit Britain thrown to the capitalist dogs JC et al desire. Yeah, I can see 32 hr weeks working in that context, when GDP has dropped by 10 per cent and manufacturers have been thrown to the dogs. Maybe it is their way averaging out the unemployment/ zero hours contracts...?

nonetheless, can't complain in the sense that it is everything I'd like to see if only they'd win, but more of a wishlist - setting out their stall for their imagined post-electoral future.

scrapping prescription charges for eg, I am quite happy to pay them as I am happy for people who can't afford to pay not to. It's an additional but fair tax. How about reforming sourcing instead?

not so much the longest suicide note in history, but Santa's longest letter... to think anything else would be naive.

Braingrass said...

Anyone who talks about 'proposals being costed' has no idea how publich spending works. It isn't a household budget. You might be shocked to find out Speedy that taxes come after spending, and not before.

Unity of the oppressed Not the imperialist core said...

Of course speedy will be delighted with Labours proposal to abolish private schools, given speedys love for the working classes!

Oh I remember speedy that grand scale charlatan actually loves the working class when it suits him, a bit like dipper in that respect.

Dipper btw hints that he/she is working class, I am telling you now this guy either works for a hedge fund company or is some sort of gangland criminal.

Having said that,

"In ordinary times, the decision by the Supreme Court that determined his prorogation of parliament was unlawful, and, in effect, he lied to the Queen"

the sentence should finish, "would have only ever happened in an episode of game of thrones".

I mean you know we are not in ordinary times when judges override prime ministers.

It really is a shame that these reprobates didn't intervene when Blair and his crew mass murdered thousands of innocent Muslims. But these judges don't give a fig about that.

"You didn't need much in the way of legal training to note the government's case before the Supreme Court was tissue thin"

Why is that, because of all the other times it happened before!?

The woman who brought this to fruition, this Gina woman basically said on the news today,

"The plebs should not bother themselves with making decisions, the plebs should stick to buying stuff and working"

Seriously a plague on all their rancid houses.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who talks about 'proposals being costed' has no idea how publich spending works. It isn't a household budget. You might be shocked to find out Speedy that taxes come after spending, and not before."

And in many households, spending comes before wages! Still doesn't mean there is no link between the 2 though does it!

I mean when the local council increase council tax by 6%, effectively they move their saving target from their books and onto the residents. yet they still claim to have made a saving! No you didn't make a saving, you shunted the saving over to me and said, your problem now sucker!

The thing about tax and spend is that the Tories have somehow persuaded everyone that sound economics is built on their tax and no spend policy! You can only ever get away with stuff like this if you have the whole of the media on your side!

Speedy said...

For you people who don't know what costed means, it means how much they are going to cost and how they are going to be paid for.

I may not know much about public spending (actually, I know quite a lot) but I would have thought that much would be obvious.

As for WTF's remarks, I have long called for the abolition of private education. I just wish a Labour Party with a bat's chance in hell of getting elected was calling for it.

Ken said...

Off piste slightly, but your website comes up with the tag Not Secure. Have you annoyed someone important?

Phil said...

No idea!

Anonymous said...

“ I have long called for the abolition of private education. I just wish a Labour Party with a bat's chance in hell of getting elected was calling for it.”

Funny you never said so before! But this is the problem, the party you want elected would never ever ever call for it! Although given you are an anti working class pro working class, anti middle class pro middle class charlatan, who you do want to win is a mystery.

I still have you down as far right though

Speedy said...

WTF. No, actually, I have in plenty of comments.

My views are reasonably consistent, as consistent as your foam-flecked rants.

You have a point that the party I might want to be elected, never would though. In so much as it would have had to have followed an alternative historical direction, most likely in an alternative universe in which John Smith had not died.

But I am not here to set out a manifesto for Labour (although, again, I have in the past!). Merely to comment on this or that and learn the odd thing or two. I thought Dialetitian's comments in the above thread were interesting, for example, and both Boffy and Phil have things to say. You, on the other hand, could probably do with getting out more often.