After last week’s judgment which reasserted the Sovereignty of Parliament, this country’s judiciary came under sustained attack from the Europhobic part of the press, as Zelo Street noted on Friday. The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Telegraph were all guilty of what looked like incitement. And when the independence of the judiciary comes under attack, that is the most dangerous of roads for the press to take.
Quite apart from the likes of Paul Dacre, who is chauffeured from his Home Counties mansion to his reassuringly expensive Belgravia pied-à-terre to the Northcliffe House Führerbunker calling “out of touch” on anyone else, or, similarly, servants of Rupert Murdoch calling “moneyed elite” on others, the assault on our judges for daring to interpret the law - in other words, do their job - needed to be confronted.
And the person who should have been doing the confronting was Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who is not the only member of the Cabinet to have risen from nowhere to a job that she shows every sign of not being able to do. As the BBC reported, “Bar Council urges Lord Chancellor Liz Truss to condemn ‘unjustified attacks on judiciary’ over court Brexit ruling”. There was a difference between free speech and incitement.
For Labour, Richard Burgon warned “It's Lord Chancellor’s job to defend independence of the judiciary and her silence cannot continue”. And then Ms Truss broke cover, after a fashion, to tell “The independence of the judiciary is the foundation upon which our rule of law is built and our judiciary is rightly respected the world over for its independence and impartiality … In respect of the case heard in the High Court the Government has made it clear it will appeal to the Supreme Court. Due process must be followed”.
Was that it? Sadly, yes it was. No mention of the shameful attacks, the impugning of judges’ motives, the “activist” smears, the suggestions that it would all be different if judges were elected - God help us - the digging up of judges’ private lives, and the all-too-predictable salacious and judgmental raking over of every detail. Nothing at all.
The Secret Barrister spoke for many when passing severely adverse comment on Ms Truss’ lack of intervention: “Cowardly, mealy-mouthed, vapid non-comment by a paperweight politician wildly out of her depth. Liz Truss might as well have stayed silent”. Why could she not come out and tell the press that they were out of order (also avoiding passing comment was Jeremy Hunt on The Andy Marr Show (tm) this morning)?
Simples. Theresa May is a weak Prime Minister finding it inconvenient to not get her own way all the time. Her Government has a slim majority, there have been resignations from it recently, many of her own back benchers backed and campaigned for Remain - including her good self - and to keep the Brexit show on the road, she needs the backing of the press and their shock troops. Ms Truss’ statement was a show of rank cowardice.
Who runs this country, the politicians we elect or a cabal of unelected billionaires and their activist editors? It’s not a difficult one to answer, and Liz Truss should have no problem doing so. It’s a clear choice - stand up for democracy or leave it to someone who will.