Thursday, 8 December 2016
The last four days have seen an unprecedented gathering of law lords hearing the case brought by Gina Miller and others for the express purpose of frustrating the UK’s leaving of the European Union. So blatant was its purpose that in the time honoured manner in which the Prime Minster declares full support for a minister about to be sacked, their lordships felt the need to emphasize that this was not a challenge to Brexit, merely a matter of law. How we laughed!
But seriously, these stalwarts of the legal profession brought their still incisive minds to bear on the knotty problem of what Parliamentary sovereignty and representative democracy mean and whether or not the government should be allowed to govern. Not that this action, in any way, was brought in order to delay, obfuscate, confound or otherwise jeopardise the smooth progress towards becoming a self-governing, independent country again.
Oh no, there was never the slightest intention that the challenge would stir up old enmities, deepen the divided between inners and outers or in any way lessen the new-found confidence and optimism felt by the majority who have waited decades for their voices to be heard. Of course not; what a ridiculous accusation; how could we think such a thing? No, no, no, no... it was merely to clear up a trifling point of order, that’s all. We know this to be the absolute unvarnished truth because they felt the need to keep telling us it was so.
But the glare of the public spotlight is a hard taskmaster and after four days their lordships – and lady – were glad to bring proceedings to an end after a mere four days, pull off their support stockings, slacken their corsets and relax in their private chambers. A small evening gathering was organised to allow the tribunal to celebrate the end of the public phase of the process and recover their humanity, let down their hair and just be themselves.
As always, when much-maligned professionals get together they feel a clanship and a certain siege mentality about the way they are viewed by outsiders. Politicians feel unfairly judged by the electorate, policemen feel unfairly targeted by reformers, doctors feel insufficiently respected by their patients and philosophers... well they feel, so they are. The judges quite rightly feel impugned as inhuman automata, pilloried as they are in the press whenever they set an axe-wielding repeat offender free... for the third time.
It’s not fair; they are as human as the rest of us. They get no special privileges, they will plead, and they have to suffer much of their human indignities, such as growing old, under the harsh gaze of critical observation. One of the eleven was holding forth about his own travails and declared that, as soon as their judgement was announced in January he would also announce his retirement. The others protested that, nay, he was a mere stripling but he would not be dissuaded.