Mr Johnson’s newly formulated war narrative appears to be one that depicts the legal system as an untamed authoritarian system, saturated with a cabal of elites who hate the idea of democracy. Put bluntly, Johnson wants us to believe the Judge’s are the “enemies of the people”.
This past week has seen Suella Braverman appointed as Johnson’s new attorney general; a clear signal to all Britain’s nationalists that this government intends to bring the culture war away from the domain of opinion writers and intellectual debate and into government policy. Johnson’s policy agenda is one that seems to be governed by ‘liberal’ outrage: if it upsets those on the other side, then do it!
Braverman is a former immigration lawyer who has represented the government in legal disputes that argue against legal detention. Just last month she argued against the merits of human rights in their current form, writing that they had been “stretched beyond recognition”. Braverman wrote that the remedy to this perceived travesty was for “elected decision-makers” to “take back control” from the unelected judicial elites. By “elected decision-makers”, Braverman implies the current executive (Mr Johnson), and by “take back control”, she means giving all power to a central executive of elites, that she happens to agree with. I doubt very much that this would be her opinion if Mr Corbyn’s cabinet were those decision-makers. She likely would’ve been shouting from Conservative headquarters about the importance of separation of powers.
Braverman, however, was not appointed for her deep reflections on democracy, nor her ability to think in the abstract; it was, simply, to inflict suffering upon the people who aspire for Britain to remain a reflection of liberalism. It’s an appointment that is guaranteed to evoke those nationalist treasured “liberal tears” and contribute to the narrative of institutional bias against Brexit.
As well as successfully excreting liberal tears, this appointment will have connotations for Braverman’s nemesis and obsession: the judicial review. This legal tool allows individuals to challenge the activity of public bodies when a person feels they have acted unlawfully. It exists to empower individuals, in a legal sense, from being exploited by companies or government entities. Braverman feels as though the judicial review has been expanded beyond its remit, giving it the affordance to change government policy undemocratically, without a vote.
The judicial review has been a thorn in the side of Brexit extremists ever since November 2016, when it was used to require the executive to offer parliament a vote of triggering Article 50. Essentially, it allowed our elective representatives to have the final say on a proposition, Brexit, that would mean major constitutional change. Of course, this slowed the process of Brexit and dampened executive power, which inevitably sparked the viciousness of those, like Braverman, who have deified the idea of Brexit. The judicial review is there to empower individuals in a democracy to hold their elected decision-makers to the law. Clearly, then, this is anathema to the collective consciousness that Brexit has enveloped; Braverman cannot allow individualism to overcome the Brexit hivemind – with a homunculus at its helm who is known as Boris Johnson.
This appointment highlights the perfect hypocrisy of those who uphold Brexit: they believe in individual freedom, until it challenges them; they believe in the rule of law, until they’re the ones who are deemed in opposition to it, and they believe in limited government, until government is needed to enforce their will – which of course is all good.
This is a government who governs by trolling and who appoints individuals, not on talent nor merit, but on their predicted utility to make liberals cry. This strategy, however, will have some lasting imprints on our institutions as we now know them.