Monday, 17 October 2016

A remoaner at the RCJ Brexit hearing, day two

I feel as if I'm watching a massive irrelevance while the nation shunts itself into a siding and waits for the rails to rust. 

I hope I'm wrong, but I think it's grubby political expediency, random acts of idiocy and Macmillan's dreaded  'events, dear boy, events' which will mould Brexit, rather than this court case.

For all the forensic top-gunnery going on here, we're at a seaside Punch and Judy show with freak waves threatening to engulf us.

What is there to see? If you go into an overspill courtroom to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit TV, it's like looking at a box of insects through the wrong end of a telescope. The placing of the microphones depends largely on guesswork and some of the sound is muffled. If you get into the public gallery in the rafters of Court 4, you are dazzled by the elaborate light fittings. I flip up the hood of my mac for a few seconds: it shields me from the wattage but makes me look like a nutter so I settle for the glare. Drawing is illegal.

Below, you can see the bench, a confetti of highlighters in front of the Master of the Rolls, and a row of court staff, but in this classic piece of Victorian court design you - the public - can't see anyone else, and that's deliberate. If the speakers mumble you can't hear them too well as the miking is not aimed at you. To compensate, a transcript is available as soon as the session is over.

Spotter's note: should this case reach the Supreme Court, you'll have the luxury of watching it live and recorded on https://www.supremecourt.uk/

Both photos (by Fred Hatt) are of Anna Noctuelle tied by Mercandbear Fet (Berlin, 2016). I can't push the Japanese-rope-bondage-in-performance analogy too far as it's consensual, unlike Brexit.

On the way here I passed the National Gallery, King's College and the LSE, all royally shafted by Brexit. Now I feel insulated or isolated from real life. This courtroom is marooned. We're living Desert Island Discs. There's a bible, in one of those naff modern translations. And we have Shakespeare, kind of - 'It is perhaps unsurprising that it was Henry IV who wanted to kill all of the lawyers,' says counsel ambitiously, although 'Let's kill all the lawyers' is uttered by Dick the Butcher in Henry VI Part II. We're doomed to listen to eight music tracks chosen by referendum before we start to kill and eat each other. What's our one luxury? Still being in the EU, for now.

The Attorney-General stands up. The 60-odd people in the public gallery become watchful as cats. Even though we can't see him. A pregnant woman strokes her bump reassuringly. The Master of the Rolls removes his wig for a couple of seconds and scratches his head. Don't we all. He asks the AG a question. The AG answers. The Lord Chief Justice asks the AG the same question, rephrased.

Now James Eadie QC: 'The prerogative, it has often been said, is the residue of powers left in the hands of the Crown. We submit that words need to be added to the end of that description of the prerogative and the correct and true principle is that the prerogative is the residue of powers left in the hands of the Crown by Parliament.'

We had a civil war to sort out this kind of stuff. Seems like yesterday. Or tomorrow. Parties and lawyers on the claimant side have received threats of violence.

Mr Eadie describes the argument between him (for the Government) and Lord Pannick: 'There is an element of two ships passing in the night because we both assert a constitutional assumption upon which Parliament has legislated.' Is one of them a rescue ship? Will it see us?




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