BY JAMIE FOSTER
The Supreme Court has issued its judgment – 8-3 – in favour of MPs being given the opportunity to vote on triggering Art 50. While I have the greatest respect for our independent judiciary, and while I have yet to read the judgment, it fascinates me to imagine that it could in anyway put the genie back in the bottle.
As many of you have realised I have been fighting my own demons over the festive period. Depression, like ‘Brexit’ is a very difficult concept to pin down. It brings both darkness and, (if one is extremely lucky), moments of extraordinary light. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced both in my life; and a combination of the two in the last month that I had never anticipated could be possible simultaneously. Many kind friends have suggested that I turn to ‘experts’ for help. Having spent a charmed life surrounded by experts I remain sceptical but hopeful that they will at some point identify themselves.
One of the difficulties, for me and for those seeking to find solace in the judgment, is that nothing is ever entirely what it seems. The great challenge that led to the judgment was the suggestion that the ‘people’, having been asked to make a decision, had been insufficiently well informed to cast such a fundamental vote; or worse still lied to. Amusingly, it turns out that a similar problem occurred when the House voted on the replacement for Trident. Apparently, had they known that a missile, (unarmed and fired to test a new submarine and an entire defence system), had veered towards Florida, they may have voted differently. Labour, (then led by a man who refused to bend his knee to our highest authority at the time, and a lifelong opponent of a ‘deterrent’) is demanding more information. While Corbyn’s media training seems to be having an effect, he still appears to lead an Opposition better able to clamour than to place their own cards firmly on the table. I have a certain sympathy for that position at the moment, suffering as I am from my own lack of a plan.
It strikes me that whatever else the judgment tells us, it tells us three fundamental things:
Firstly, democracy is based on the idea that weight of numbers is a public good in itself, when choosing a way forward in a civilised society. The idea that the less well informed should be barred from casting a vote runs counter to the European jurisprudence that prisoners should have a vote. Prisoners, (not as individuals, some of whom this won’t apply to, but as a group), are essentially defined by having made poor decisions based on either being lied to or not having sufficient common sense to properly interpret data. The European stance is that such people’s votes count.
Secondly, it may just be my old fashioned take on our Constitution, unwritten though it is, that Her Majesty still holds a hand in this game, whether or not she chooses to play it. I must admit to being a late convert to ‘feminism’, having seen good evidence recently that women are better at life than I am. We have a female PM, a female head of the ‘Supreme Court’ and a Lady on our money who, it strikes me, is the nonpareil ‘expert’ on British politics alive today. I can’t help thinking her son would make a better ‘Chief Negotiator’ than any of the trained diplomats available to her. This may be a romantic delusion, but I can’t help thinking that a Prince may be better placed to take counsel and then show courage under fire, given the stakes. It would be a brave commoner who would match the Brussels’ balls to his racket in the situation we find ourselves in.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the judgment would seem to follow the EU jurisprudence which suggests that compromise is more important than principle. Apparently no one in Brussels is yet aware that the UK voted to leave and still require telling, despite Art 50 making clear that it is a duty on a member state to have imparted that information at the time. It will be very interesting to see what they do when they find out.
I am strangely optimistic. As a Brexiteer I admit to using language during the campaign that was neither kind nor appropriate. ‘Remoaners’ and “Remainiacs’ were blanket terms I utilised to express frustration and anger at the thought that we, as an island nation with a proud history, were prepared to throw away centuries of our own tradition rather than renegotiate what still appears to me to be a deal that benefits the ‘haves’ more than the ‘have nots’. What I absolutely didn’t do during the campaign was lie to anyone, although I remember one passionate young Tory in Plymouth bravely scream at me that I had. My gentleness and desire to remain a lawyer was a useful attribute at the time as I am sure his features look better unreconstructed.
Reconstruction is a painful process but, given our skills, determination and expertise I remain hopeful. I will wait patiently and look out at the sea. The City, Covent Garden and the Mall remain where they are. As yet a nuclear deterrent appears to me to have deterred the worst case scenario. What is left of my life, my dreams and my ambition, when normalcy reestablishes itself, I have no idea. I hope the world I emerge into is compassionate and inclusive enough to include me and show me compassion, despite my obvious failings. I suspect I am not alone in this view.