Fraser Nelson

It just keeps getting worse for Gordon Brown

It just keeps getting worse for Gordon Brown
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“So fair and foul a day I have not seen” – Macbeth Act 1, Scene 3

Can this beautiful May afternoon get any worse for McBrown? Em, yes. Stuart Wheeler has been granted permission to hold a High Court hearing over the Government's refusal to hold a referendum on the renamed EU Constitution. Even Open Europe didn’t expect him to get a full hearing on this – but he hired a top QC and at the High Court Mr Justice Owen has said Wheeler has an “arguable case.” The hearing is due on the 9th and 10th June – which raises questions as to whether the issue is now sub judice. CoffeeHousers may think “this is mad, Wheeler has a snowball’s chance in hell.” But people said the same about his getting the hearing in the first place. This government has created such a net of legalistic traps that its own EU policy may very well be caught up in it itself. He regards Labour’s manifesto pledge to hold a referendum as a contract, and argues it has a duty to honour that contract.

As The Telegraph puts it:

“The action does not attempt to cause the courts to over-rule Parliament's ratification of the treaty: it is taken against the executive, not the legislature, and is based on the established legal doctrine of "legitimate expectation", which has successful precedents.” 

To lose such a vote to a 73-year-old like Mr Wheeler would be indeed a farcical outcome from Mr Brown. But it would fit nicely into a long line of farcial defeats he has suffered so far.

P.S. Lord Leach, OpenEurope chairman, has this to say:

"This decision renders the Government’s attempt to ratify the Lisbon Treaty sub judice. The Treaty is now in the House of Lords, where it is receiving the thorough scrutiny denied to MPs by the Government’s business managers in the Commons. The Government can - and should - now stay its hand pending the outcome of this judicial review." 

Lords had been expected to vote on this 11 June, a day before the Irish referendum.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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