The media has declared war on the judiciary. What now?

Today's front pages should be taken seriously


Pointing out that attacks on the judiciary are an early indicator of democratic collapse feels melodramatic, hysterical even.

All the same, today’s front pages demonstrate that Britain is moving — and has already moved — in a very disturbing direction, and that must be taken seriously.

The Mail declares that the three high court judges who ruled that parliament should vote on Article 50 are ‘enemies of the people’, accusing them of having ‘declared war on democracy’.

‘The judges versus the people,’ the Telegraph splashes, simultaneously attempting to soften the messages and fan the flames.

Its front page also features a comment piece from Nigel Farage, in which the UKIP leader claims that ‘rich elites’ are ‘thwarting’ the will of the people — by which he means that citizens are seeking recourse from the courts, and judges are doing their jobs and upholding the law.

The Sun, meanwhile, chooses to attack the citizen claimants who brought the case, rather than the judges themselves. It’s already been reported that claimant Gina Miller has received rape and death threats following the ruling.

These efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary are serious and disturbing. Both the press and the courts are vital components of a functioning democracy and, while they may vehemently disagree, each should respect the other’s role.

These three judges were not acting as rich elites, or activists, or europhiles. They were doing the jobs, for which they are highly qualified, and shouldn’t be vilified as a result. (remember that yesterday the Mail saw fit to highlight that one of the three, Sir Terence Etherton, has the temerity to be ‘openly gay’).

This is also about more than simply these three judges, or these particular claimants. With these acts of public intimidation, the press and the hard right send a warning to anyone else who might question the government’s approach to Brexit — ‘speak out and you will get the same treatment’.

Of course, it’s unlikely that these sentiments herald the onset of fascism in the UK, but they do contribute to a dangerously febrile political atmosphere. It’s not so long ago that an MP was killed in the street by a man who espoused precisely this rhetoric of treachery, seemingly believing that Jo Cox, too, was ‘an enemy of the people.’

With a snap election looking increasingly likely, the national mood is only going to become more heated. Before that happens, the editors of the right-wing press should reflect on the potential consequences of sowing hysteria and division.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

See also: Daily Mail huffs about ‘openly gay’ Article 50 judge – before line disappears

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17 Responses to “The media has declared war on the judiciary. What now?”

  1. David Lindsay

    I have a soft spot for the House of Lords, which is far more politically diverse than the House of Commons has been in many a long year. But you have been told for 45 years that you could have the House of Lords, or you could have withdrawal from the EU. Having both was not an option. That matter is about to come to a head. The Lords was always going to block the Bill that sought to repeal the European Communities Act for a year, and then send it back to the Commons in an unrecognisable form. Even before that, though, it now intends to do the same to the Bill that merely sought to authorise the invocation of Article 50. Tony Benn tried to tell you.

    Labour MPs may dislike Jeremy Corbyn, or disagree with him, or both. But none of them has left the party. At least, not voluntarily or on policy grounds; there is always Simon Danczuk. Nor has any of them left Parliament. Whereas Theresa May has lost two MPs from both, on two different issues. Corbyn is a dazzlingly brilliant Leader by comparison. Is there going to be a Conservative candidate against Stephen Phillips? I don’t see why, since there isn’t going to be one against Zac Goldsmith, who is also standing against a major Government policy.

  2. Mick

    “Whereas Theresa May has lost two MPs from both, on two different issues. Corbyn is a dazzlingly brilliant Leader by comparison.”

    On the same logic, it’s Theresa May who is the brilliant leader. She only lost two, while Corbyn lost a whole shadow cabinet in thier protest over Hillary Benn going. One or two came grovelling back but it’s still a big tussle over who dominates the Labour Loony Toons episode.

    Duck season, rabbit season, duck season, rabbit season. It’s not Elmer Fudd doing the blasting, it’s each other! We’ve a lull now but they’re still no good.

    Yes, the old man did tell us. I’ve agreed with next to nothing Tony Benn ever said but there always seems one big thing anyone could follow in his speeches. And with me it was the issue of true Parliamentary sovereignty. Parliamentary sovereignty still in jeopardy thanks to modern Parliamentarians!

    Riddles like that are ambrosia to the Remain camp. Slogans like ‘you won’t drag us off the cliff with you’ are unwitting proof that they broadcast their intentions to wreck Brexit with every ounce of their beings. It’s for our own good that the 52% shouldn’t have our way without breaking teeth and nails.

  3. chris owen

    Can the editors be charged for treason?

  4. Jimmy Glesga

    The courts and the press should accept the referendum result. If the remainers had won then their would have been no recourse for the leave. What is happening is the remainers will not accept the result and will use all means to subvert the democratic decision. The press have the right to point this out.

  5. Mick

    “Can the editors be charged for treason?”

    What do the Left care for treason, when it suits them?

    Indeed, as lefty Alan Bennett said on Radio 4 this week, there’s much to admire in traitors. As he says, traitors aren’t constrained. With….. what? Normality? Honour? Decency? Not being a whackjob keen on your enemies?

    Ah, the Left. Upsetting them is suddenly treason.

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