Douglas Carswell

12 AUG 2016

The Court of Appeal has got it right: leave Labour alone, M'Lud

The debate about who should be able to vote in Labour's leadership contest is none of my business. Labour's internal rules shouldn't be the business of anyone except the Labour party's. So I'm delighted the Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court's verdict, and let the party decide. The implications are profound.

Whether you're a member of any party or none, this ruling has consequences for you – and for our democracy. Parties should to the greatest possible extent set their own rules and arbitrate their own disputes about the application of those rules. Courts should not normally intervene.

Some argue that an activist judiciary is one of the checks and balances necessary for good government. They tend to be people who don't like what the majority voted for. Or lawyers with an inflated sense of what should be determined by lawyers.

Judges aren't elected by anyone. They aren't accountable to anyone. In this country, they aren't even subject to confirmation hearings by anyone who is elected.

So the notion of a judge interfering in politics is the opposite of a check. It's a power grab.

Judicial activism has been emboldened by the EU. Until we joined, it was impossible for Acts of Parliament to be struck down in court. Now they can be if they conflict with EU law: both in the ECJ, and in our own courts.

The courts could yet have an impact on our exit from the EU. A prominent law firm is preparing a legal challenge aimed at forcing Parliament to vote on triggering Article 50 – in the hope that the majority of MPs would vote it down, and block Brexit.

That would be deeply anti-democratic. Parliamentary sovereignty is shorthand for the sovereignty of the people. The referendum makes the will of the people crystal clear.

There may be a temptation for judges to get involved in the Brexit process. I hope the courts will act judiciously.

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