Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Little has changed as dust settles on ruling

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Editor's Viewpoint

The historic verdict by the Supreme Court yesterday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully by proroguing Parliament has been acclaimed widely as a victory for the sovereignty of Westminster.

Its historic role is to hold the Executive to account, while the courts pronounce on the legality of their decision-making.

Therefore both can be easily cast into the role of "an enemy of the people" (Donald Trump's preferred term of abuse) which are hell-bent on frustrating the popular will.

Certainly, the Prime Minister cut an unrepentant figure at the United Nations yesterday, saying that he would "respect the verdict" but underlining that he also "strongly disagrees" with the decision.

Mr Johnson has firmly ruled out resigning despite many calls from senior figures for him to do so.

However, if the reports are correct that Attorney-General Geoffrey Fox QC advised the Prime Minister that prorogation was legal, perhaps it is Cox rather than Johnson who should, in the time-honoured phrase, be "considering his position".

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that her party "always respected the principle of the separation of powers upon which our constitutional law is founded", while her deputy Nigel Dodds, who was a barrister long before he became a politician, concurred that the ruling must be respected.

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However, Mr Johnson is as likely to heed Michelle O'Neill's call for him to resign as Sinn Fein is to return the £1.5m gift to her party from William E Hampton's estate.

Parliament resumes its sitting today, and Speaker John Bercow could barely contain his glee outside Westminster yesterday following the ruling.

In real terms, however, very little has changed. There is no indication that the tight Parliamentary arithmetic has changed, or worryingly for those who seek to subvert the result of the 2016 referendum, that Mr Johnson's popularity with his supporters is likely to suffer because of his reversal yesterday.

While it would be dangerous nonsense to describe the eminent Supreme Court judges as "enemies of the people", there is undoubtedly a political/media class, including many in Labour if not its leader, for whom the 2016 result is a deviation to be ruthlessly corrected.

This fundamentally anti-democratic axis is impervious to the reality that in theory the UK leaves the EU on October 31.

The only variable now is whether we leave with a deal or crash out without one.

It would be a much better use of the 36 days left if our politicians concentrated on avoiding the latter.

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