The behaviour today in Parliament of our Attorney General, Geoffrey “Comb Over” Cox, was nothing short of disgraceful and regardless of whether you can make mud stick to Johnson, he must go. The background, of course is the unlawful prorogation of Parliament, as determined by the 11 most distinguished judges and legal minds in the UK, not by a narrow majority, but by an 11-0 landslide. His record as an MP demonstrates he puts the nasty back into the Nasty Party.
When it comes to providing legal advice to the Prime Minister, one of three things must have happened. Firstly, Johnson may not have asked for legal advice on the lawfulness or otherwise of proroging Parliament. In which case Cox should do the honorable thing and resign. Secondly, Johnson may have asked for legal advice on the lawfulness or otherwise of proroging Parliament, was given the correct advice, and ignored it. In which case Cox should do the honorable thing and resign. Thirdly, Johnson may have asked for legal advice on the lawfulness or otherwise of proroging Parliament, was given incorrect advice, and followed it. In which case Cox should be sacked.
The judgment (no “e” after “g” in a legal judgment) of the Supreme Court found that a Prime Minister cannot prorogue Parliament. The first question was whether the Prime Minister’s action had the effect of frustrating or preventing the constitutional role of Parliament in holding the Government to account. The Court found it did. The next question is whether there is a reasonable justification for taking action which had such an extreme effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy. The Court found there was no justification. The conclusion was
“It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason – let alone a good reason – to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks… We cannot speculate, in the absence of further evidence, upon what such reasons might have been. It follows that the decision was unlawful.”
EU Exit is immaterial. The ruling applies to any PM attempting to prorogue Parliament for a lengthy period without reasonable justification and therefore denying Parliament the right to hold the Government to account. It protects our democracy from dictatorships, especially those with no Parliamentary or popular mandate.
The Attorney General’s position today was aggressive, reluctantly saying he respected the Court’s judgment whilst saying he disagreed with it and being highly disrespectful to fellow MPs on the Opposition benches. Johnson’s line was similar; disagreeing with the ruling but “respecting” it. This approach undermines the independent Judiciary, and is entirely inappropriate. It is also signalling support for a right of a Government to rule by decree without democratic Parliamentary oversight. That has to be wrong in anyone’s book and, therefore, not surprising that 11 out of 11 Judges found it unlawful.
The position of Attorney General provides the PM with a shield if he asks legal advice and follows it. He can claim good faith in the event it all goes wrong. But someone has to pay for what amounts to giving unlawful advice to the Queen, resulting in her Order in Council being declared null and void. If the PM has a shield, however flimsy, the Attorney General must go. If we assume the PM acted in good faith, no matter how great a leap of faith that is, then Cox has put him in an unforgivable position with his unlawful counsel. Maybe there are no other lawyers willing to take up the position, That might explain why he is still in post.