You’re surprised? Really? What are you surprised by? The specifics — that 11 non-elected, mostly public-school-educated judges, and doubtlessly Remainers I’d guess, should put the final nail into the lid of Brexit? Yeah, sure — that knocked me for six. Never saw that coming. Or was it the generality that surprised you — we’re not getting Brexit after all? If it’s the latter, I don’t think there’s much hope for you.
What seemed to me fairly plain on 24 June 2016 — that they, meaning our liberal establishment, would never let it happen — became an absolute certainty by the turn of this year. By January it was either no Brexit or Brexit in name only. And yet Leavers still clung on, like a spider will cling to the side of a bath as the hot water rises beneath it. ‘No deal is the default option! It’s the law!’ came the cry. I’m sorry, but have you not been watching? There is only one law. The law is there must be no Brexit. That is the whole of the law.
Even as late as last week, in his kind review of my book The Great Betrayal: The True Story of Brexit, Harry Mount suggested I was jumping the gun, making a rash gamble, because surely, surely, we were going to leave. Quentin Letts, a Leaver, reckoned much the same. Again – have you not been watching, gents? Listen, when the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, is able to tell the country that no matter how many times the people vote for Brexit, she would stop it, and be praised for her decisiveness and commitment to democracy instead of being pilloried, then I think we are in a different ballpark. The rules have changed — and there is only one law.
And so those 11 judges join the pantheon of left-wing heroes alongside John Bercow, Philip Hammond, that intellectually stunted hypocrite John Major and, of course, Tony Blair — all people who, in normal times, the deranged left would like to see swinging from lampposts. But the liberal left has found itself part of the establishment, in its affluence, in its loathing of Brexit, in its epic contempt for the people — and so has used every possible means whatsoever to thwart the wishes of the electorate. It took big money, big business and unelected institutions, the BBC hammering away with its relentless propaganda in the background, the civil service working copiously behind the scenes — everything co-opted to prevent us leaving.
This is not a conspiracy theory. It is not fake news. It is precisely what has happened. A liberal elite which cannot bear to be gainsaid has used every instrument available to it — lawyers (82 per cent pro-Remain), the BBC (probably 90 per cent pro-Remain) and, of course, parliament (75 per cent pro-Remain on 23 June 2016). And the ironies abound: it is the Leavers who were anti-democratic in wishing to bypass parliament, a verdict with which the justices happily concurred. A twisting of the truth until it was turned completely on its head.
I did not agree with Boris Johnson proroguing parliament, but only for tactical reasons. It seemed to me a brutal and dangerous act, while not much could be gained from it, and it played into the hands of his opponents. Further, there was a deliberate deception in insisting that Brexit was nothing to do with the proroguing — nobody anywhere believed that, except the Queen. And yes, now Brenda has been dragged into the affair. But constitutionally it did not bother me much.
There seemed to be two concepts of pristine sovereignty here brought face to face. The sovereignty of parliament on the one hand, and the sovereignty of that referendum vote on the other. Both have force, but for me the sovereignty of the referendum trumped the sovereignty of parliament on this unique issue. It didn’t for the likes of historian Lord Hennessy, who I heard on the World at One. What a wonderful day for democracy, he enthused — expressing precisely the same sentiments as that other great supporter of the UK, Guy Verhofstadt. Democracy for Hennessy and the rest of the liberal establishment resides in one place alone — wherever it can stop Brexit. Unelected judges — fine and dandy. Hennessy and the rest put their faith in parliament not for noble constitutional reasons, but because parliament, too, is determined to stop Brexit. Not mentioned by Hennessy, or any of the others, was that other sovereignty which had been transgressed. There is only one law.
I don’t doubt that our judiciary is technically independent of the government and that this is a good thing. But the notion that their worships are above the political fray is a patent absurdity, today just as much (perhaps even more so) than it was when Jeremy Thorpe was exonerated from court, or ten years later when the operators of cross-channel ferries which killed hundreds also received absolution from charges of manslaughter. Back then the left and the liberals were in no doubt that whatever the technical and historical notions of a separation between the state and judiciary, it was perfectly evident that when push came to shove, the courts became supine servants of the ruling elite. Here’s the thing: they still are, you lefties. But the elite has changed.
The process of denying Brexit began during the referendum campaign, in which the Remain side spent almost half as much again as the Leavers, an enormous majority of parliamentary support and the goodwill of the broadcast media, big business, civil service, academia, luvvies and popular music entertainers. Lies were told during that campaign, but the only ones which were the subject of howled complaint were those from the Leave side (the idiotic £350 million NHS bus, for example). The spin from the Remainer camp (such as on day one, on a poster from Britain Stronger in Europe, the remarkable claim that for every £1 the UK put into the EU, we got £10 back) got scarcely any publicity.
After their shock at the result, the hardcore Remainers went into overdrive. First in the court case which insisted the decision should be taken away from the people and handed over to parliament (which was pro-Remain). Their worships happily concurred, again, with that perpetually busy and self-righteous businesswoman Gina Miller. At the same time the civil service was busy trying to obstruct Brexit by any means possible, while the House of Lords was dragged in to help.
The Leave campaign was vilified not only for its lies but its alleged financial chicanery. The Electoral Commission instigated a prosecution into Arron Banks for his funding of the Leave campaign — he was exonerated this week and now intends to sue the EC. But the allegation against Banks was held by the hardcore Remainers as plain evidence that Brexit had been illegally sold to the electorate. And what part of that electorate? The thick, the northern, the uneducated, the racist and xenophobic. This was crucial for the Remainers, to be able to say that Brexit was not only fraudulently mis-sold but worse, sold to people who were at best simpletons and at worst possessed of unsavoury opinions Which Have No Place In a Modern Democracy. This helped assuage those Remainer MPs who had been forced, for a short while, to admit that they must respect the views of the electorate. Not any more. Now they could write those views off, because they were criminally embedded in the minds of people who were anti-democratic. They stopped saying ‘we respect the views of the public’ and decided they didn’t respect them at all. Meanwhile, our government, led by a Remainer, tried to negotiate with Europe without even having the option of a get-out ‘no-deal clause’, something denied to her by a Remainer cabinet.
Never in our recent history has the weight of the state, of the liberal elite which controls the state, been used so brazenly and relentlessly to crush the aspirations of the electorate. Never before has there been such a concerted attempt to betray democracy. The staunch defenders of democracy who opposed prorogation, the Lib Dems, Labour and the Picts, are not quite so enamoured of the concept that they would want a general election. They want Boris Johnson to resign but will not put their own policies to the test because they know damn well the public is averse to them. Boris Johnson is imprisoned: in office (perhaps briefly) but not in power, unable to win any vote. Brexit is gone and the extension, now inevitable, will have a myriad of stipulations attached. Johnson can try to strike a deal with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, but Farage will exact a heavy price (and rightly so). It is not even clear that, given their great love for democracy, the opposition parties will agree to a general election in November. They know that much of the public will reckon Johnson did as much as he possibly could, and that the Supreme Court verdict might even help him a little.
A caretaker government? All we know is this. We are not getting Brexit. Has that finally sunk home? We are not getting Brexit. That is the law, the only law.
Spectator.co.uk/Radio Rod Liddle vs Anand Menon on the Supreme Court ruling.