The curious case of the usurped executive
The witty farmer who blogs at An Englishman’s Castle brought Philip Johnston's prize-winning essay to our attention.
Johnston’s essay was published in the Times. In it he argues that “we will look back on the Blair years as marking a serial assault by the State on the civil liberties of the citizen.”
Johnston suggests that the assault occurred because Blair had such a huge Commons majority, the opposition party imploded, terrorism fears grew, and technological developments facilitated the State becoming Big Brother. This seems an odd way of saying that Labour MPs did not care to defend liberty on repeated occasions.
And it is not entirely true. On 31 January 2006 Blair's Government was defeated over proposals to outlaw religious hatred, which were correctly seen as an assault on free speech, while on 9 November 2005 the government was defeated over plans which would have allowed police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge.
For some reason Johnston barely mentioned the European Union, a huge violator of British liberties. Perhaps Johnston figures that Parliaments since 1972 have allowed EU violations to occur, so Blair’s government is only partially responsible. (When the history of this period is written, the pathetic pusillanimity of Parliament – and the brave voices opposing the EU - will not be forgotten.)
I think there are two reasons to hope that liberty can be reclaimed, and they lie in the history and the traditions of the British people and in the British Constitution. The first reason follows.
1) The curious case of the usurped executive
According to the British Constitution, new laws can only be passed with the Sovereign’s Royal Assent. However, today The Queen is always forced by the government to give her Assent to laws passed by Parliament.
This is the current state of affairs despite the fact that under the British Constitution, The Queen is the head of Government, not her Prime Minister.
Liberty might seem to have advanced with the election of a Prime Minister who acts as the head of Her Majesty's Government and holds de facto executive power, but has it?
With the Prime Minister in Parliament, at the head of his party, there is no executive power that can curb or check the power of Parliament. There is no executive power that can defend the people’s liberty from a party or government that decides to ride roughshod over British freedoms, or to sell out Britain’s independence.
The British Constitution forbids any foreign power from having sovereignty over Britain. Nevertheless the Queen has been forced to give her Royal Assent to EU treaties that undermine Britain’s sovereign independence and place the freedom of all British citizens at risk.
In her Coronation Oath, which is her covenant with the British people, The Queen swore to govern the people according to their laws and customs. These laws and customs protect liberty and justice, which have nurtured British creativity and prosperity.
In contrast to her Prime Ministers, the Queen is the constitutional executive with the best interests of all the people at heart. She has the confidence of the people. They have not gone to the polls to say so, but in many other ways they have indicated they support The Queen.
Is this because The Queen has refrained from refusing her Royal Assent and has not been drawn into any political controversy? Perhaps.
Or perhaps the British people retain a deep understanding of the greatness possible in those Sovereigns who forget themselves and act only in the highest interests of their people, with whom they are bound in covenant.
The subjects of The Queen have a right to hear from Her Majesty when the sovereignty of her nation and her throne are threatened.
Drawing on the Sovereign’s ancient right and duty to protect the liberty of her people, Your Own Choice will petition The Queen to refuse her Royal Assent to any new treaty that reduces Britain’s sovereignty and gives expanded powers to the EU. To sign the petititon urging her to refuse her Royal Assent, please go here.
2) A curious case of compassion and megalomania
The second reason that governments infringe on the liberties of their citizens will be developed tomorrow along with the innovative British thinking that opposes it.