Key players involved in Supreme Court prorogation case

Boris Johnson, John Major, Gina Miller
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As the Supreme Court considers legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament, here is a look at the key players in the case before the UK’s highest court.

The court hears appeals on cases of the greatest public importance where it is considered there is an arguable point of law.

Now the Supreme Court, which will sit as a panel of 11 justices for only the second time in its 10-year history, must reconcile contradictory judgments issued by the English and Scottish courts.

– Gina Miller

Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller (Aaron Chown/PA)

The investment fund manager and campaigner first came to public prominence in 2016 when she launched a legal challenge to then prime minister Theresa May’s decision to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50, starting a two-year countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU.

Read on...

The High Court ruled that the prime minister did not have the power to trigger Article 50 without the authority of parliament, a ruling ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2017.

– Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson met European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg for a working lunch on Brexit on Monday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Johnson was appointed prime minister on July 24, after refusing to rule out proroguing parliament during the contest to succeed May as leader of the Conservative Party.

The Queen prorogued parliament, on Johnson’s advice, on August 28 after Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lords Leader Baroness Evans and chief whip Mark Spencer flew to Balmoral for a Privy Council meeting.

A handwritten note of Johnson’s dated August 16, replying to advice on prorogation, said parliament sitting in September was a “rigmarole introduced … to show the public that MPs were earning their crust, so I do not see anything especially shocking about this prorogation”.

An unredacted version of the note leaked to Sky News revealed Johnson wrote that the “rigmarole” had been “introduced by girly swot (former prime minister David) Cameron”.

– Joanna Cherry QC MP and others

Joanna Cherry, the lead claimant in the proceedings brought in Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)

Joanna Cherry, a barrister-turned-MP and the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokesperson, is the lead claimant in the proceedings brought in Scotland.

The case is brought by a total of 79 petitioners, including Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.

– Sir John Major

Sir John Major speaks on Brexit during a Best for Britain event in South Sheilds (Scott Heppell/PA)

Major served as prime minister between 1990 and 1997, taking over from Margaret Thatcher and defeating Labour leader Neil Kinnock in the 1992 general election before losing to Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997.

In July, after Johnson refused to rule out prorogation, Major told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it would be “utterly and totally unacceptable” for any British premier to shut down parliament.

The former prime minister said he would bring a judicial review against any attempt to do so and intervened in Miller’s High Court case in September. His lawyers have been given permission to make oral submissions at the Supreme Court hearing.

However, Major himself controversially prorogued parliament ahead of the 1997 general election, which prevented a report on the cash for questions scandal being considered by MPs.

– Baroness Chakrabarti

Baroness Chakrabarti at the Royal Courts of Justice for the judicial review hearing into the decision to prorogue parliament (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The peer was director of civil liberties organisation Liberty from 2003 to 2016, during which time she was described by the Sun newspaper as “the most dangerous woman in Britain”.

Following her appointment in 2016 as the chair of an inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party, Chakrabarti was nominated to the House of Lords and subsequently appointed Labour’s shadow attorney general.

– Raymond McCord

Raymond McCord, one of three bringing a legal challenge in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The victims’ rights campaigner, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997, is one of three individuals bringing a legal challenge in Belfast, arguing that a no-deal Brexit would damage the Northern Ireland peace process.

Unlike in England and Wales and Scotland, cases in Northern Ireland cannot leapfrog straight to the Supreme Court, so McCord’s case was heard by the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Monday – and he has also been given permission to intervene at the Supreme Court.

– The Supreme Court justices

For only the second time in the court’s history, an 11-strong panel of justices will hear the joined cases – the first time being Miller’s Article 50 case.

The panel will be headed by Supreme Court president Lady Hale and also includes deputy president Lord Reed, who will become president in January when Lady Hale retires.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Who elected Miller? How do we deselect her? If women like her were to build the world we’d still be waiting for fire. We’d all be tied up by what didn’t suit them whether it was a majority decision or not.

    2. Sexist comment that, there was absolutely no need to make a ‘women like her’ comment, or to equate incompetence to a woman building a world, particularly as no man built The World or a World either.

      Your comment is sexist because you need not have put in the derogatory comment the way you did.

      Being a machine-troll I suspect you have no comprehension of subtlety, or the deeper nuances of human language, so here let me educate your dumb machine arse (presumably where your bargain-basement cpu is located).

      This is how your comment should look;

      ‘Who elected Miller? How do we deselect her? If PEOPLE like her were to build The World, we’d still be waiting for fire. We’d all be tied up by what didn’t suit them, whether it was a majority decision or not.’

      apart from that, your comment was …. pointless, meaningless, and if we were waiting for YOU to build a World, we’d still be waiting for you to work out what plasma is, what atoms are, how they go together, and that the sun isn’t a big ball of fire you should prostrate yourself to.

    3. I watched a fascinating segment of the submissions. Almost everything was based on case law some of which went back to 1913. Also, supposedly authoritative opinions from academics’ published works were introduced as guidance to how the complexity of matters in dispute could be unpicked to discern compelling underlying logic. This was a spectacle of reasoned argument and general thoughtfulness rarely encountered in Commons debates. Indeed, the presentation I viewed was not a speech/oration but rather discursive development of a theme with interjections from among the judges. Few minds in the Commons would have been capable of this mode of discussion akin to a seminar.

      Yet, impressed though I was, I came away convinced that this kind of hike through case law ought be unnecessary. It seemed an attempt at divining what might loosely be called occult constitutional intentions from a series of previous rulings deemed authoritative by virtue of having been decided by senior judiciary. It bears resemblance to scholars in dispute over the meaning of a passage in the Bible trying to justify opinions by reference to other passages within a body of writing (translation) full of slightly differently cast repetitions (some perhaps even contradictory). In both cases appeal is made to some elusive underlying supposedly utterly authoritative source, if only that could be pinned down.

      Matters of the kind discussed at this appeal ought not have to be settled by mental gymnastics seeking an underlying pattern from case law alone.

      This appeal and events leading up to it vividly demonstrate desperate need for a written constitution. This would specify roles and powers of the players. It would be the starting point for legal disputes. A body of case law might emerge as almost inevitable ambiguities are resolved but always there would be the intentions (known or second-guessed) of the draughtsmen of the constitution to fall back upon. When an aspect of the constitution becomes mired in case law it becomes time to consolidate (or revamp) in an amendment to the constitution.

      Historically, our ‘make it up as one goes along’ constitution based upon custom, practice, and occasional innovation, may have offered flexibility and means for reconciling differences. This appears to have worked because the players, even when odious or silly individuals, grasped that some give and take coupled with a sense of honour delivers better outcomes than bitter disputes and civil war.

      Behaviour of Johnson and his cronies makes clear that assumptions about openness, decency, and honour, no longer hold. Hence requirement for a written constitution with our Supreme Court as arbiter.

      The task of writing will consume time, effort, and passionate argument. Perhaps it should begin by rewriting Magna Carta with all the population in mind rather than just barons and to fit modern circumstances. Once agreed, its stipulations would guide the structure and wording of the constitution.

      At very least the present nonsense of prerogatives must be banished. Either the head of state can exercise genuine prerogatives rather than make believe ones at behest of a prime minister or prerogatives pertaining to parliament and other political institutions could be placed entirely in the hands of the Supreme Court. Whatever, the chosen path the simplest way forward is through brushing aside the undergrowth of the Act of Settlement and, if such an Act is deemed necessary for present times, rewriting it.


      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international licence (sic).

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