Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Miller 2 at the Supreme Court: day 1

As with the Proms, you may get better sound and vision if you watch the Supreme Court on the live-stream, and today it's more like the Proms than usual as you have to queue. Someone here got up at 2am to drive from Wales.

There is enough bright-eyed consitutional law expertise in this queue to set up a new nation. Enthusiasts from LSE and King's College London include the nephew of a Supreme Court justice from another country and a descendant of Mohammed.

Protests against prorogation are silent and dignified (the abrasive counter-protest is to turn up later). A disconsolate Hulk is joined by RoboCop but otherwise there is hardly any visible policing. Law tutor and PhD student Robert Craig, who has arrived on a bike, is shielded by a friend with a coat while he changes out of his brown trousers - symbolic garb of the sentient part of the UK at the moment - into the pin-stripes that complete his three-piece suit, ready for his TV interviews.

Time to go in and we're told we can't take in liquids. A lot of bottles are instantly emptied against the walls of the court, giving it an unseemly air. A man is not allowed to take his big Europe flag beyond security.

I'm forced to wonder what will happen to the Supreme Court carpet (Welsh leek, Northern Irish flax flower, Scottish thistle, Tudor rose) in any Brexit aftermath.

Lady Hale stills the courtroom by calmly pointing out that the matter in hand has nothing to do with how or when the UK leaves the EU. Then R (on the application of Miller) v The Prime Minister and Cherry and others v Advocate General for Scotland begin. The man next to me takes out his opera glasses.

As legal commentators take flight we hear the skittering of fingers on keyboards, together with the occasional forbidden peeping and chirruping of devices, some in lawyers' hands. For the morning's queue-and-court experience try @louise_rowntree.

In my limited amateur experience, the more important the case, the earlier the bundle malfunction starts, and this case is no exception, but even so it's a huge relief to be in a legal arena. Crude political jabber is absent.

We are in the realm of the grown-ups, who aim to conduct reasoned arguments using facts and laws as a basis for interpretation, rather than whipping up tribal emotions for undisclosed ends. David Pannick is made for voice-overs selling life insurance. With a reassuring warmth in his voice, he is calm, earnest, clear, steady of pace, and not rattled when interventions from the bench change the rhythm.

Lady Hale is wearing her silver dragonfly brooch. Because of the dwindling insect population I have spotted only one dragonfly in my garden this year. We should be concentrating on the environmental crisis in front of our noses, not squabbling about boundaries.

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