Prorogation, Parliament and why we should all care about our rights

  Posted: 27.09.19 at 12:24 by East Devon Liberal Democrat PPC - Eleanor Rylance

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An opinion piece written by East Devon Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Eleanor Rylance.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court judge unanimously declared that the prorogation was unlawful and void. I am a remainer, but I am also a law graduate, and had the prorogation been allowed to stand then everything I thought I knew about the law would have been turned on its head.

We have in this country a representative parliamentary democracy. We vote for our favourite candidate, and we trust whoever wins the contest to use their best judgment and diligence in reading the huge reams of necessary information, mulling over the consequences, and to vote in the best way they can for the greatest possible number of their constituents, always with the good of the country at the heart of what they do. These are the Nolan Principles.

MPs are law makers. The House of Commons is the crucible for the laws that are supposed to govern us all equally. They say that the Law is blind- whoever you are, whatever your means, origin, creed, job or beliefs, you have an entrenched right to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.

A judgement that shutting down or proroguing parliament was perfectly acceptable to achieve political aims would all of a sudden have placed certain people, namely the government, above the law. And as Lord Denning, bane of my existence from ages 19 to 22 once said, “Be ye never so high, the law is above you”. Even the Prime Minister of this land has to obey the law and is subject to it.

So why should everybody care about a prorogation carried out in order to push through a measure that could not be carried through the House of Commons despite repeated attempts?

Because to do so would set a dangerous precedent, a blue print for any future government to model. Can’t get an unpopular move through Parliament? Want to avoid scrutiny? Just shut down parliament. This is clearly unacceptable when we are governed under a representative parliament democracy.

It’s not by accident that this model evolved- it took hundreds of years and many bloody episodes of unrest and civil strife to bring about a system of governance in which the people had a voice. Our MPs go into parliament to be our voice, to represent us. If they cannot get into their place of work because it has been shut, we the people have no voice.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You cannot happily accept the curtailing of Parliamentary sovereignty to push through something you are happy about without also accepting that it can be used to push through other things you’d be a lot less happy about.

Some principles are worth standing up for because to allow them to be bent or suspended to suit you is the thin end of a wedge.

I’m glad that Parliament has a voice again this week. I am glad that the inestimable Lady Hale speaking for the unanimous voice of the 11 Supreme Court judges, chose to reiterate the sovereignty of parliament. Despite the many growing inequalities in this country, the one that has been strengthened this week is that we are all, be we ever so grand, be we the Prime Minister, equal in the eyes of the law.

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