A pyrrhic victory for democracy.

by Pseud O'Nym

The Supreme Court ruling that the proroguing of parliament was unlawful has been welcomed by some as a victory for democracy. But is it?

As I’ve written many times, I voted to remain, but more people voted to leave, and because we live in a democracy, I dealt with it and moved on. But lots of people didn’t. Now if the case the Supreme Court ruled on had been financed by a large number of disgruntled remainers who had raised the funds needed to bring the case, I’ll admit I’d have had less of a problem with that than with one wealthy woman bankrolling the whole thing. For a well-argued case why this is not especially helpful for democracy, I’d urge you to read this.

My second problem is that it gives Boris Johnson the chance to appeal directly to the 17.5 million people who voted to leave and claim that a cabal of various elites is thwarting their wishes. Whilst this may or may not be true, he can assert it to be true and on the face of it, the facts bear him out. Who brought the case? A businesswoman who had already been to the Supreme Court before about Brexit, someone who has never reconciled herself to the referendum result.

My third problem is with the Supreme Court and the unintended consequences that might stem from this verdict. Britain doesn’t have a written constitution, instead we have a bewildering array of conventions and precedents built up and built upon over centuries. But conventions and precedents only work when they’re adhered to, if the people they are applied to feel they have some legitimacy, a reason to obey them. If not, they won’t. If I, along with 17.5 million other people, had voted to leave, only for 11 judges to seek to prevent it from happening, I’d be asking exactly whose interests does the law serve?

Which leads me on to my final, and most important problem, namely in what universe is this verdict going to help heal the divisions between the opposing camps. Equally, had the verdict gone the other way, the same question would still be relevant. Actually, thinking about it, it isn’t simply a case of healing the divisions between leavers and remainers, its also healing the divisions between the moderates and ultra’s on both sides.