Parliamentary sovereignty is a precious thing. We fought a civil war and chopped off a king’s head to establish that it is only a parliament, with the consent of its electors, that can govern, that can determine the politics of a nation. It was the promise of parliamentary sovereignty, of real representation for all, that agitators from the Chartists through to the Suffragettes struggled and fought and went to the wall for.
It has its limitations, of course, which any true democrat must reckon with. Every struggle to expand the franchise was met by the introduction of checks and balances, the creation of ‘cooling’ upper chambers, and unaccountable, supranational institutions that were about tempering the public clout. But the principle that every man and woman must be led by those duty bound to make real their desires, as expressed at the ballot box, remains as important today as it has ever been.
However, today’s Supreme Court ruling, which insists, against the government, that parliament must vote to trigger Article 50, was never about parliamentary sovereignty. Outside the court, the claimant Gina Miller said the ruling upheld the principle that ‘parliament alone is sovereign’. That she, a Remainer, a supporter of an institution that diminishes parliament out of a fear of the electorate who votes for it, can say that with a straight face is staggering. Elite Remainers clearly believe their own propaganda — they really do think we’re stupid.
Everyone has a right to bring legal challenges against the government. The rule of law, like parliamentary sovereignty, is a hard-won principle. But this was never about clarifying the rules – it was an explicitly political campaign from the very start. Miller and the politicians, journalists and myriad anti-democrats cheering her crusade against Brexit were not motivated by cool devotion to constitutional process; rather, they were made ‘physically sick’ by the Brexit vote, in Miller’s own words, and they threw their money and clout and influence at stopping it.