So I made a somewhat ill-advised flippant comment about Iain Duncan Smith’s latest commentary on the Article 50 court case on Twitter this morning and it’s made me think.
Make him take the Life in the UK test! https://t.co/YMM2TmFeBr
— Milena (@elmyra) December 7, 2016
(IDS’s piece is linked from one of the embedded tweets in there, but don’t click, it’s Daily Mail.)
My tweet, as well as most other commentary I have seen on this article frames IDS’s comments about the courts and their relationship with the legislative and executive arms of the state as ignorance. Didn’t he learn in school about separation of powers? Well, of course he did. And as a former cabinet minister whose department got taken to court repeatedly for the harmful, discriminatory, and unlawful nature of his policies, he has intimate personal experience with separation of powers, and how in a democracy the judiciary is the people’s last line of defense from a malicious executive. As does Duncan Smith’s boss Theresa May.
IDS’s comments are not born of ignorance or misunderstanding. They are a deliberate attempt to undermine the judiciary, one that is fully sanctioned by this government. This has, of course, been going on for some time. The way it has previously manifested is through Brexit. “We don’t want European judges to tell us what to do! They might safeguard some immigrant scum’s human rights!” But as Brexit is becoming a reality, the government, helped along by the fascist gutter press, is seizing the opportunity to further undermine British courts too. The Supreme Court has been labelled undemocratic because unelected (a feature of the system), biased (untrue), and – worst of all apparently – dull (a court is not reality television). IDS’s comments are simply the sequel to the Daily Mail declaring the High Court “enemies of the people”. Except now it’s not just the fascist gutter press spouting, well, fascism, it’s a sitting government MP and former cabinet minister.
So let’s be clear: seeking to deliberately undermine the judiciary in order to increase the power of the executive is a feature of fascism. Let’s not minimise this as ignorance, dismiss it with jokes, or hope it will go away. We must call it by its name, and we must resist it and fight it. We must treat it as the clear threat to democratic institutions that it is.