"Is power slipping away from Parliament" is the headline to an article by Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph. Whilst not that long an article, Johnston manages to briefly question whether Parliament is its own judge, the potential influence of the Judiciary and the 'Referendum Lock' Bill.
To a certain extent Johnston's headline is misleading, in that the power to govern this nation is not slipping away as the facts show that power has been deliberately ceded to the European Union by successive governments.
It is necessary, in turn, to question several statements and assumptions that Johnston makes. Discussing the Chaytor judgement by the Supreme Court, he writes:
"Few people will consider the court’s decision controversial. Why, after all, should MPs be above the laws they make? But imagine if the court had to decide whether a motion tabled by the opposition in the Commons was really a matter of confidence in the government and could, therefore, topple it. Or if judges were invited to rule on whether a decision taken by a prime minister at an EU summit represented a transfer of sovereignty and should therefore trigger a referendum. Are these not matters that should remain within the exclusive domain of Parliament?"
It is always a retrogade step in any judicial process of deciding wrong doing if those who are to judge are drawn from colleagues of the person being judged. It therefore follows that where a Member of Parliament is guilty of wrong-doing then they should be subject to the due process of law. Where I do disagree with Johnston is on his second example provided, one that would result in a change to our constitution. It appears to either have been forgotten, or is being deliberately ignored, that MPs are elected to represent the views of their constituents and therefore any changes to our nation's constitution is not solely that of Parliament - it is for the people to decide by means of a specific referendum. To argue, as some politicians do, that the people have had that choice at the time of a general election is misleading, deceitful and is but a smokescreen response; especially when considering that, in our case, membership of the European Union is deliberately ignored by the political elite.
"In the past, we have fought wars, dislodged kings and taken to the streets over the question: who governs Britain? The answer still matters."
In that factual regard, he is totally correct and it may well be that the people will, again, take to the streets, only this time not to dislodge a monarch; but this time MPs.
Johnston raises an interesting question when he writes:
"But some MPs are beginning to question whether ministers are deliberately trying to rebalance our constitutional arrangements so as to give the courts a greater say and diminish the power of Parliament."
With the Lib/Lab/Con political elite being wedded to membership of the European Union and the desire for 'ever closer politcal union' it follows that political system of government must also conform to that of the Union. So why has it taken so long amongst our MPs to realise that 'rebalancing' our constitutional arrangements is something that must and will happen - and as with all matters EU, it will be done slowly and by stealth.
In conclusion Johnston writes:
"Parliament should no longer be a sovereign body able to do whatever it chooses, and should be subject to checks both from within and from outside. The big difference, however, is that at least we elect MPs and can hold them accountable for their decisions, whereas the same cannot be said about the judges."
There are two points in this extract from his article.
In certain areas Parliament should - and I would contend never has had - the right to do what it chooses, as the real government of this nation is the people. Most definitely it should be subject to check from both within and from outside, yet Parliament has assumed/taken many powers, all with the tacit approval of the people who have never fully understood what was being done in their name. As in so many other instances, in the respect of assuming powers politicians have again been deceitful as the ramifications have never been fully explained.
With regard to the latter part of this extract, Johnston is guilty of the crime of so many of his journalistic colleagues. Yes, we can and do elect our representatives, but can only hold them accountable once every 4/5 years. Whilst there is supposed to be a recall system introduced, the political elite have ensured that the electorate will only be able to recall their MP once Parliament has ruled whether a recall is warranted.
That our constitution has been altered by our membership of the European Union is without doubt and, as stated earlier, it has been carried out without the express agreement of the people. What is more damning is that at the time of joining the forerunner of the European Union, the European Economic Community, not only did the proponents of joining lie to the British people but that the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, also lied - not only to Parliament, but to the people of this nation.
When - not if, you note - we walk away from membership of the European Union, a big discussion must be had on our constitution and what changes are needed to ensure that never again may politicians with vested interests subject the British people to the humiliation of being governed by a foreign entity. Never again must our politicians be allowed to assume the power of 'carte blanche'. Returning to a quotation used earlier:
"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
James Madison, Federalist 51
In other words, when re-writing 'the rules' the power of government must be limited; any changes to the constitution must have the approval of the people; any changes to society, be that educational, health, law & order, whatever; these too must have the approval of the people. In short, the sooner the UK adopts a great deal of the Swiss democratic system, the safer the British people will be to live their lives in the manner of their choosing - and not that of our politicians!