It has long been thought that former Tory leader and serial liar of no fixed moral compass Iain Duncan Cough was not the sharpest tool in the box, but now, with a supremely ill-advised rant for the Dacre doggies at the Daily Mail, he has removed all doubt by effectively walking around Northcliffe House with a “Kick Me” sign on his arse.
Duncan Cough’s intent was to get at the Supreme Court judges who are hearing the Government’s appeal against the earlier finding that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty cannot be invoked without the participation of Parliament. But the best-laid plans, especially emanating from someone so stupid, so often go wrong.
Take his opening gambit: “the decision the Supreme Court will make … puts the 11 Justices hearing the case in the middle of the most vital constitutional question: which body is supreme, the Law Lords or Parliament?” No, Iain, the Supreme Court judges are determining matters of law, which, it is argued, means that Parliament is supreme. But they are the means by which the law is interpreted - that is all.
Have another go: “Do unelected judges (about which the public know almost nothing) have the right to supersede the wishes of the elected members of Parliament, and through them the Government?” We’re talking about the fall-out from the referendum, right? The referendum was not about the wishes of the elected members of Parliament - it was a vote by the electorate. And if the elected members of Parliament had wanted to make it possible to trigger Article 50 without referring back, they’d have made the vote binding.
But they did not. And it gets worse: “The Supreme Court deliberations are important not because of some obscure legal argument, but because in the EU referendum in June (at which the turnout was the largest ever), 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union, and they expect the Government to deliver on that decision”. Let’s take this nice and slowly, shall we? What the Supreme Court is discussing will not block Brexit.
Duncan Cough should have been made to write this out several hundred times before writing this ill-informed tosh for the Mail. And there was yet more to come: “by having the nation's supreme appeal court actually within Parliament, the supremacy of Parliament was assured”. You really don’t get this, Iain, do you? Had the law lords been within Parliament, they would still have been debating the same point.
And that point holds that Parliament is supreme - a supremacy which Duncan Cough and his pals are trying to override. Never mind, though, he can always dredge up “our judges have moved progressively more towards practising judicial activism” (no citation, and none will be provided) and “European human rights legislation … is so broadly worded that it allows judges considerable latitude for interpretation” (ditto).
On he stumbles: “When the High Court decided that the EU referendum in fact had only been advisory, it strayed into political territory and in doing so triggered a constitutional clash”. The High Court didn’t decide the referendum had only been advisory - that was already a matter of fact. Can he get yet more stupid? Oh yes he can.
“Just imagine if the Supreme Court upholds the High Court's decision, and Parliament is required to vote on the triggering of Article 50. What if Parliament rejects the invoking of that article and so stops Britain from leaving the EU at all?” Then Parliament is exercising its supremacy - especially as the referendum was only advisory, as everybody and his dog knew beforehand - except bird brain Iain Duncan Cough.
And on: “During the passage of the Referendum Bill which set out the terms of the EU vote, it was made crystal clear that the British public's decision would be acted on by the Government”. That is totally irrelevant to the legal point being discussed by the Supreme Court. And he isn’t done with the stupid: “There was a good reason why, when England's Bill of Rights was crafted in 1689, article nine made plain that proceedings in Parliament must not be overruled in any court or place outside Parliament. It was to stop such an event as this - a democratic referendum being derailed - coming to pass”.
The Supreme Court discussions are not about overruling proceedings in Parliament. But he does have a get-out clause: “The Government's determination to use the prerogative powers of the Crown to invoke Article 50 - without first holding a Parliamentary vote - stems from the desire to avoid such a constitutional debacle”. It stems from the terminal ineptitude of the Government and clowns like Duncan Cough.
Then we get a new level of stupidity: “It is no good railing against newspapers for seeking to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the interests and backgrounds of our Justices, as though this were some sort of assault on the independence of the court”. Veil of secrecy? Christ on a bike, the proceedings are being televised!
Duncan Cough’s answer to all this? To have new appointees to the Supreme Court hauled before Parliament to mirror the confirmation hearings that will be familiar to those Stateside. But this, too, is arrant bullshit: it would not prevent papers like the Mail trying to bully the judiciary, something with which Duncan Cough clearly has not problem.
Where he does have a problem is with making himself look like an even more dishonest clown than he was known to be in the first place. That’s quite a stunt.
It’s only a pity for his sake that it’s not a particularly cunning one.