There have been unusual clashes recently between the government and the judiciary on both sides of the Atlantic this year already. Is the government above the Law?
Here it was over the need for Parliament to explicitly agree to the commencement of the process for leaving the European Union. Some of the press called the judges ‘Enemies of the People’ for interpreting the Law in a way the Government did not like.
Did they not realise that it would have set a dangerous precedent if the government could have made such a decision without parliamentary approval? A referendum has no status in Law unless one is given it by Parliament, but no such power was stated in the Act authorising the holding of the referendum. What next would this or a future government try to do outside the Law and without parliamentary authority?
In the same way, Donald Trump is now in an unnecessary battle with the judges in America over his use of executive powers to introduce a travel ban. Had it gone through Congress, or had the President produced evidence showing the necessity for such a ban, there would have been no conflict.
This reminds me of the conflicts in Britain in the Seventeenth Century, exemplified by Hamden’s case. Mr Hamden refused to pay Ship Money, a tax imposed by King Charles I without parliamentary approval. This raised the question of the powers of the King versus those of Parliament and those of the Courts. It was one of the steps leading to our Civil War and ultimately to the public execution of the King.
After the Restoration of the monarchy, Charles II avoided such conflicts, but his brother James II did not. It cost him his throne, although not his life.
George of Hanover became King George I in 1714 because he acknowledged the need to work within a constitutional framework, whilst certain other claimants to the throne failed to. I brought this out in Highwaypersons, in a discussion my hero has with a Member of Parliament, in order to give some context and meaning to the Jacobite Rebellion and to show why most British people, including most of the real and fictitious characters in the book, supported King George. It was not just religion, or bigotry.
In Highwaypersons II: The King’s Justice, this issue comes up again. Can even the King overturn the verdict of a judge and jury? Even in the interests of Justice? The book will be published this summer.
I hope all that our ancestors won in those days will not be lost by our giving in to misuse of authority by the Government, even when it claims a mandate from the people. We would then become an elected dictatorship.
I hope our American cousins get this message.