Judges at the Supreme Court have ruled that Boris Johnson’s five-week prorogation of Parliament was unlawful – he was legally wrong to do it and MPs must meet again at their earliest opportunity.
By unanimous judgement, all 11 Supreme Court judges overruled the High Court to say that the courts may rule on whether the prorogation was legal.
They said prorogation would be unlawful if it frustrated or prevented unreasonably the ability of Parliament to act as legislature and hold the Executive – the government – to account.
If it did, there was no need for the court to consider if the Prime Minister’s motive was unlawful.
Baroness Hale, president of the Supreme Court, said this was not a normal prorogation; it prevented Parliament from carrying out its role.
Parliament has a right to a voice in how Brexit comes about. No justification for taking action to stop Parliament from doing so has been brought forth.
The court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful, void and of no effect because it stopped Parliament from carrying out its constitutional functions without justification.
The prorogation is also void and of no effect.
Parliament has not been prorogued and it is for Parliament to decide what to do next, including meeting as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister need not take any further action in this matter.
This is an enormous defeat for Boris Johnson. He has wasted Parliament’s time since September 9 and MPs will certainly have something to say about it when they reconvene – in the very near future.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Labour branches and constituency parties across the UK are being asked to support a series of moves intended to restore democracy in the party – and This Writer couldn’t be happier because they are based on a motion that I drafted.
The summer of 2016 was a long and difficult one for Labour Party democracy. There was the rebellion and attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn that ended with him being re-elected as party leader with a larger mandate. And there was the election of six new Constituency Labour Party representatives to the ruling National Executive Committee.
All six places went to members of the Corbyn-supporting Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (although one of the candidates, Ann Black, has since proved to be less loyal than some of us might have hoped) – giving Mr Corbyn a narrow majority.
It seems right-wingers in the Labour Party decided to dispense with the rule book – and party democracy – and introduced a plan to put two new members on the NEC to overthrow Mr Corbyn’s majority. The idea was that Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour would be given representatives on the NEC, who would be nominated by the leaders of those party groups, who are both anti-Corbyn, rather than elected by their memberships who support the party leader.
The resolution to add these new members to the NEC was passed as part of a package of 15 changes to party rules at the national conference in September. They were pushed through against the wishes of delegates who wanted to vote on each matter separately, and who demanded a card vote. Instead, then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis refused both demands – breaking conference procedural rules in the process. The full story is here.
This is where I became involved. I raised the matter with my local Labour Party branch, and wrote a motion pointing out that Mr Lillis broke conference rules, that the changes he imposed are therefore undemocratic and may not be enforced, and that the decision should be nullified.
That motion was supported by Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party and is to be considered by the NEC as soon as possible.
I publicised the matter on This Blog, and I know other CLPs have passed similar motions. I was also contacted by Steve Burgess, a Labour member based near Manchester, who raised issues with the wording of my motion and with my opinion of Ann Black, who was present as a speaker at the CLP meeting when it won members’ support, despite her comments in opposition to it (a dialogue with Ms Black followed in the comment columns of This Blog, ending with this article, after I finally lost patience with her).
Mr Burgess thought my motion needed to be modified in order to pinpoint exactly the faults in Mr Lillis’s behaviour and the breakdown in party democracy that followed. He has devised a series of five motions which he urges Labour Party branches to consider passing and taking to their CLPs, and from there to the CLP representatives on the NEC. He has gained the support of Corbyn-supporting group Momentum in this, and his motions can be found on an unofficial Momentum website, here.
The introduction to the page suggests, “These are the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party, since [they defeat] a constitutional amendment that undermines the will of conference to direct and veto changes to the supreme ruling executive body which controls everything from expulsions to shortlists and membership in the Labour Party.”
Some might think that I should be offended by what appears to be an attempt to seek credit based on work that I have done. Well, I’m not offended.
It is extremely flattering to have created the basis for “the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party”. It is unlikely that they would have appeared as the do – possibly at all – without my original work.
I think Mr Burgess has produced an interesting and exhaustive piece. It’s a little long-winded – I was told my own motion was extremely long, and it is much shorter than the series of five that he has produced.
My feeling is that other BLPs and CLPs may wish to render the actual motions down to the basic demands, with everything else tacked on as supporting information.
I know several CLPs have already submitted motions based on mine; hopefully more will submit motions based on his.
I’m pleased to have started this but I knew that it wasn’t something I could manage alone, so I am delighted that others are doing their own thing with it.
By “reconsider her position”, I mean Ann Black should resign and make way for somebody who is willing to represent Labour Party members, if she is determined to deny the facts.
Readers of This Blog will know that Ms Black has taken issue with me for sending a motion to Labour’s National Executive Committee, calling for it to nullify rule changes that were wrongly imposed at the party’s conference.
Then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time, broke the conventions under which voting is carried out at the conference – its rules, if you like – in order to deny delegate a chance to vote on 15 rules changes separately, and by card (which gives an accurate number of votes ‘for’ and ‘against’) rather than by hand (which doesn’t).
The package of changes included one that would put members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour on the NEC who would not be elected by their respective membership, but nominated by the regional leaders. This would have changed the composition of the NEC in a material way, as the balance of power would have changed from a narrow majority in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to a narrow majority against him.
I have reported on these facts, and on the motion that was raised by my local Labour branch and passed at a Constituency Labour Party meeting which Ms Black attended. You can read my report on it here.
Ms Black, it seems, is not happy with the result of that meeting and has been trying to claim that the motion is based on errors ever since. She is either mistaken, or she is deliberately attempting to mislead Labour Party members. If the latter, then I think it is time she handed in her resignation.
It would indicate that she got onto the Welsh Labour Grassroots ‘Left Slate’ under false pretences and should make way for somebody who actually represents the views of that organisation, including respect for democracy.
Her latest comment to This Blog was received on Thursday, when This Writer was at a meeting of a local organisation, of which I am vice-chair of its board of trustees. The meeting was 30 miles away from my home and took all day. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything but put up a few articles and call it a day. I spent yesterday (Friday) working to get caught up on the blog, and also dealing with other matters (don’t forget that I am a carer and this site is a spare-time occupation).
In the meantime, I received a message on Facebook from a Labour member elsewhere in the country, who has been communicating with me because he is interested in submitting a motion to his own CLP, similar to mine. He told me he had been in communication with Ms Black and she had said she had submitted comments to my blog but I had not published them.
Is it paranoid of me to take this as an implication that I only publish comments that support my own opinions? That would be outrageously offensive.
You can see from the foregoing that I have been busy, and you can also see – from the comment columns attached to other articles – that I publish comments of all kinds, reserving the right to respond if I think it is necessary.
This is the first chance I have had to respond to Ms Black, so I think I’ll make her a special case. After all of the foregoing, I’m sure you’ll want to know what she had to say – and I certainly have a few things to offer in reply. She begins:
Life is too short to pick up all the errors online and elsewhere, but here goes:
Oh, I’m in error online and elsewhere, am I? How interesting that she frames her comment with such an assertion from the start.
1) Lifting the motion from a website. I said this because someone in Lewes submitted a motion with text identical to that on voxpoliticalonline, right down to mis-spelling Christine Shawcroft’s name as Shawcross. Clearly they had the same origin. I don’t believe Mike gave his surname at the Brecon meeting, but accept that he wrote the motion and Lewes lifted it, rather than both lifting from the voxpolitical original. Interestingly after I’d corresponded with Lewes they amended their motion to keep the sense but correct most of the inaccuracies in Mike’s version;
This refers to her claim, voiced at the CLP all-member meeting, that I lifted my motion from another website. I commented on this in an email to branch members, who knew that I had published the motion on Vox Political. As a result I received a rather incredulous reply from one member, asking: “She thinks you plagiarised yourself?” Yup.
She accepts now that I wrote the motion and the website where she read it was my own. She says she was confused by a motion that went to Lewes CLP(?) that was exactly the same, including the misspelling of Christine Shawcroft’s name (which is simply a typo. I try to ensure everything is right but sometimes errors creep in).
She says Lewes has since amended its motion to remove the inaccuracies in mine – presumably these are limited to the misspelling of Ms Shawcroft’s name and, possibly, an amendment of the claim that the CAC committee’s conditions are rules, even though they are de facto rules for the running of conference, as we have discussed already. If that’s what she wants to call an error, I think she’s in a minority.
2) I took no part in running the meeting, either to curtail or extend discussion – I’m not a member and would not dream of intervening;
Nor did I suggest that she did. She was a guest speaker whose speech was primarily a long attempt to justify the actions of the NEC over the summer – the moratorium on meetings, the ‘purge’ of party members in the run-up to the leadership vote, and so on.
3) Ditto the vote on the motion, where I gave my views, but as always it’s up to local members to decide;
Again, I did not suggest otherwise. Was it appropriate for her to comment as part of a discussion among CLP members, where she was not a member? I didn’t have the chance to call for her not to take part on the day – I tried but was not able to be heard. It seemed to me that her comments as an NEC member might carry more weight with members than they deserved. As it turned out, I need not have worried.
4) However where Mike says that there was “a huge amount of support”, the vote was recorded as 17 in favour, 11 against, two abstentions. I can understand why calls for a card vote at conference were seen as having “a huge amount of support” if that’s your definition;
Yes, the vote was recorded as 17 for the motion, 11 against, and two abstentions. In fact, one of the ‘against’ votes was intended to be for the motion but the lady doing the voting was 96 and was not able to get her hand up in time. I was only made aware of this fact at a branch meeting on Wednesday, otherwise I think the vote should have been run again to allow her vote to be recorded accurately. The motion had nearly twice as much support as opposition.
Even taking the vote as recorded, it’s 56.67 per cent in favour against 36.67 per cent against – almost as large a majority as Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” first Labour leadership election victory. I think support for my motion was big enough – don’t you?
5) Mike and other speakers for the motion said that it was nothing to do with Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC. Which raises the question of why he put them into his motion and why they are mentioned in most of the commentaries here and elsewhere about rule changes at conference.
This comment seems to be suggesting that the motion is about eliminating the nominated representatives to the NEC, and the illegitimacy of the way the vote was carried out is simply a means to that end.
It seems to me that this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack – Ms Black is suggesting that my motives are other than I have presented them – in an attempt to undermine support for me, as the person putting forward the motion, because she cannot defeat the logic of the motion itself.
What a nasty, underhanded way to behave! Is that the behaviour we would expect from a member of Labour’s highest authority? I don’t think so.
I could argue, in opposition, that Paddy Lillis intended to gerrymander those undemocratic, nominated-rather-than-elected, members onto the NEC and denied delegates their right to a card vote, taking each of the 15 rule changes separately, in order to achieve that. Such a suggestion would have more validity than Ms Black’s, because the facts strongly support it.
We have seen evidence, since I wrote my motion, that the 15 rule changes were not sent to the NEC as a package, but as separate measures; that the CAC members were misled into believing they were to be taken as a package; and that there is no precedent at all for new rules to be forced through as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ package at an annual conference, meaning the claim from the platform that it was standard practice is a lie.
None of the above changes the facts as laid out in my motion – that Mr Lillis broke the rules (or conventions, if you like) under which votes are taken at conference, meaning the result of that particular vote is therefore his will and not the will of the conference, and should be disregarded.
I mentioned Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour representation on the NEC in the motion in order to make absolutely sure that there could be no doubt about the package of measures to which I was referring. If I had not, it seems possible (if not downright likely) that attempts would have been made to confuse those measures with some other conference vote, or otherwise render my motion invalid or void.
I have no wish to deny Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour an opportunity to have representatives on the NEC – but I do believe those representatives must be democratically elected by the memberships of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour, not unelected nominees of the regional parties’ leaders (or, in the case of Scottish Labour, the leader herself, having taken it upon herself to seize the seat on the NEC that was offered to her).
There are serious and legitimate concerns here, but it’s helpful to get the facts straight first.
It is indeed – but Ms Black was trying to distort them.
I think she needs to reconsider her position, as a matter of urgency – not just regarding this matter, but also her position on the National Executive Committee.
Looking at the recent controversy over the NEC’s support for a report attacking members of Wallasey CLP, that contains accusations of criminal behaviour without solid evidence to support it, I wonder how Ms Black voted on that matter?
This behaviour should not be tolerated. We need representatives who will actually represent us, rather than peddling lies and distortions.
Am I right?
Send me your opinion using the comment box below. Please indicate whether you are a Labour member or not.
You loved yesterday’s meme about Iain Duncan Smith so here’s one about Chris Grayling. Feel free to share it across the Internet and tell all your friends to do the same [Image: 38 Degrees].
Here’s further evidence that Justice Minister Chris Grayling is not only unjust but actually evil.
It seems he is drawing up contracts which will ensure profits – for the period of the next two parliaments – for private companies taking over probation services, and massive penalties for the next government if it cancels the contracts.
“Taxpayers will face a £300m-£400m penalty if controversial probation privatisation contracts are cancelled after next May’s general election under an “unprecedented” clause that guarantees bidders their expected profits over the 10-year life of the contract,” according to The Guardian.
It seems the contracts would guarantee the income of two of our favourite outsourcing firms, G4S and Serco, both of which have been at the centre of serious fraud allegations. They have received these contracts during a period when Grayling himself had said they would receive nothing.
Clearly he has misled Parliament.
The Ministry of Justice says it is following Treasury guidance by including the clause, making it likely that we are seeing a conspiracy among Tory-led government departments – and that we will see more of the same in other politically-controversial contracts that will be signed before next May’s general election.
In a time of austerity, inflicted on us by the same government!
Isn’t it illegal for one government to tie the hands of the next in this manner?
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, has said she was appalled by the discovery, according to the newspaper.
This is a typical Tory tactic in new wrapping. Remember how the Tory-led Coalition has forced budget cuts on councils and the regional assemblies, meaning in return that they had to cut services to citizens – and take the blame for the choices?
Grayling is clearly hoping that a Labour or Labour-led government of the future that cuts the contracts to G4S and Serco will take the blame for the increased cost to the taxpayer that he is imposing.
He isn’t thinking straight, though. G4S and Serco are under investigation, facing serious allegations of fraud. While they were cleared to work on government contracts in January, this came from auditors working for the Conservative government; a future government may disagree with that decision.
This means that contracts awarded to G4S and Serco would be void – and no money would be due to them.
Whatever happens with the contracts, Grayling himself should face legal proceedings for his own involvement in what amounts to interference with the public finances, after he is forced out of office next year. The favouritism he shows towards the two companies is deeply suspicious and he should be investigated for financial connections to them.
Let us remember, also, that Grayling has no mandate for these actions as nobody elected a Conservative government into office to tie the hands of future administrations. It was not in the Conservative 2010 manifesto, nor was it in the Coalition agreement.
Here’s an article that ticks many boxes. Johnny Voidwrites:
“The body established to lie on behalf of the fraud ridden welfare-to-work industry have launched a new campaign on the back of a report so breath-takingly dishonest it would make Iain Duncan Smith blush.
“According to the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the floundering Work Programme has been a huge success and is set to add £18 billion to the economy. This is based on a report which ERSA commisioned from a consultancy company called Europe Economics who have mangled the figures in an attempt to hoodwink the DWP into giving Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S even more tax payer’s cash.”
You can read the rest of the article here – but we’ve been here before. Look at the issues mentioned:
1. The report claims that around 100,000 people have gained jobs over the last three years as a direct result of the Work Programme – but that claim is based on the number of job vacancies. What about the phenomenal rise in self-employment? What about the question of whether these people are actually self-employed or are merely claiming Working Tax Credits because it is easier than jumping through the hoops placed in front of them by Job Centre Plus?
2. The report ignores the Work Programme’s utter failure to find jobs for people in the Work-Related Activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. These ESA claimants are in danger of losing their benefit entitlement at the end of a year – whether their physical condition has improved or not – and should therefore be a priority but the Work Programme providers are continually ignoring them in a process known as ‘Cream and Park’ – they ‘cream’ off the people they can easily get into work and ‘park’ those – like people on ESA – whose cases are too much like hard work.
3. The assumption that the Work Programme will add £18 billion to the economy is based on a lie. The figure adds together the amount the government is expected to save in benefits and the claimant is expected to receive in extra money, along with “some magical money added on top which they pretend it will save businesses”, as Johnny colourfully puts it. The trouble is, as he points out: “It assumes that everyone who gets a job and keeps it on the Work Programme is a 17-year-old with 50 years of working life ahead of them. 17-year-olds aren’t even eligible for the Work Programme” [bolding mine].
4. At face value, the report shows that the Work Programme is only adding £140 million to the economy at the moment – but it costs at least three times as much, according to Johnny’s article. What does this mean? The Work Programme is costing the UK economy at least £280 million every year.
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