In principle, the constitution of
In practice, things work a bit differently. The whole process has to be guided by a coherent policy. Political parties have come into existence to provide that. Members of the legislature join one party or another. The party with the largest number of members in Parliament forms the Government. The Government decides what laws are put before Parliament for a vote. The party has powerful tools to make sure that the vote goes its way. It can deprive members who vote the wrong way of a chance to serve in the Government (which is something most of them want), or even take away their membership. The parties decide who will be allowed to run for election to the House of Commons, and who will be appointed by the Government to the House of Lords. The political party that forms the Government thus has almost complete control over Parliament.
That’s fine, as long as each party is driven primarily by a desire to guide the nation’s affairs according to a policy that it believes serves the best interests of the people. But it breaks down when the primary motive of the party in power becomes merely a desire to hold on to power – and that seems to be the situation now. When that happens Parliament must have the courage to take back control, to resist the Government by refusing to pass its Bills.
The people of the
The Government’s political bluff seemed harmless enough, when nobody expected anything but a solid Remain vote. The point of it was to make it look as if their declared policy of remaining in the EU was backed up by an unassailable “mandate from the people”. But, with incredible irresponsibility, they forgot to give any serious thought to the possibility that their bluff might be called.
When it was, they were trapped by
their own rhetoric. Rather than admit
the Prime Minister resigned. His
successor chose to perpetuate the deception, as the only way to keep her party
united and in power. She stridently and
caustically asserted that
Before the High Court, the Queen on behalf of various claimants has, through the claimants’ lawyers, asked for relief from the Government’s high handed proposed action, and has been granted it. The judges ruled that neither the Government, nor “the people” through the referendum, have the power to make the decision that the Government claims has been made, because it is a decision that only Parliament could make. (They were very careful to avoid suggesting that Parliament should decide one way or the other, or even that Parliament should consider the matter at all: Parliament is sovereign, and the Courts may not presume to advise it.)
Great damage has been done. The Government has convinced everyone that Brexit has been decided. It is now almost impossible for anyone in the press or the broadcast or social media to voice a dissenting opinion, or even to imagine one: everyone has been brain-washed. We are in a totalitarian vortex. It will take courage to resist its dangerous pull.
But the law is now clear. Sooner or later, the Government will have to
ask Parliament to decide whether the
That decision must be made clearly and openly, and Parliament must make it alone, on its own authority and judgement alone. It must choose what it believes is best for the people and the nation it represents. It must consider three things: the benefits of being inside the EU; the benefits of being outside the EU; and the costs of moving from inside to outside. It should give careful consideration to the result of the referendum, and bear in mind that the majority was both small and dubious. It must not be intimidated into believing that it is bound by it. It must have the courage to make its own decision.