Prorogation ruled “unlawful” by the Supreme Court, so what is it still doing in the rulebook?

Ella Bending debates Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament.

Ella Bending
7th October 2019
In a unanimous decision, eleven Supreme Court judges declared Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament until 14 October “unlawful […] null and of no effect”. A judicial ruling of this kind has not been recorded for at least fifty years, and the last Monarch to have sanctioned prorogation was Queen Victoria, proving not only how noteworthy current political events are from a historical perspective, but also how archaic the British legal system is to allow this to have happened in the first place.

Crucial to the composition of British society is the overriding idea that the sovereign is the symbolic embodiment of the will of the people. In my estimation, the Supreme Court’s ruling against the signature of the Queen is a knowing decision by the judiciary, emblematically, against the will of the people. Yet, Boris Johnson, with the advice of legal practitioners and the signature of the monarch, is being painted as a democracy-hating tyrant by the Supreme Courts of both England and Scotland, and most of the House of Commons.

"The democratic decision of the majority of British people is still being evaded by Parliament nearly four years after the Brexit vote"

A primary argument against the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament was that meaningful changes to the law which may assist in Brexit negotiations before 14 October would no longer be heard, with the motivation behind this argument being that this was an undemocratic decision by the Prime Minister. Although highly valid, this point also elucidates how absent democracy appears to be in current politics at all, as the democratic decision of the majority of British people is still being evaded by Parliament nearly four years after the Brexit vote. It is a frightening day when the intervention of the Supreme Court is not enough confirmation to the House that their consistent shutting down of any meaningful action towards an exit negotiation after, like it or not, the single biggest democratic decision in British voting history is not getting us anywhere. All that this dispute between the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court proves is that prorogation itself is archaic to an undemocratic extent and has no place in modern politics, and yet it remains in our constitution.

Ultimately, this ruling proves that our legal system is unacceptably outdated in a modern context and, imperatively, failing us in the most important of times.

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