WELL, at least the newspapers haven’t gone into hyperbolic pants-on-fire meltdown this morning over yesterday’s High Court ruling that MPs must have a say on triggering Article 50.
The case was brought by Gina Miller, an investment manager who partly used her own money to argue in court that the Commons should vote to trigger Article 50, the mechanism that allows Britain to leave the EU.
The government said it would appeal – as allowing MPs to vote on something so important clearly cannot be allowed.
For those of you who keep away from the front pages, here are a few examples (warning: you may need to wear gloves while handling this lot).
The Daily Mail goes for ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE below pictures of the three ‘out of touch’ judges who made the ruling. One of them, and please prepare to be shocked, is “an openly gay ex-Olympic fencer”. That is quite an elaborate insult, so let’s deconstruct it. “Openly gay”: better and more honest than “secretly gay” surely. “Ex-Olympic fencer”: normally we value Olympians in this country, but perhaps I missed the memo about fencing being a disreputable sport.
The Daily Express, which never knowingly says anything even remotely sane about Europe, goes for WE MUST GET OUT OF THE EU, a headline laid over the Union Jack. This subtle approach continues in the intro: “Today this country faces a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches.”
Wow. Three judges decree that Parliament should have a vote on whether we leave Europe, rather than letting the prime minister to decide for herself. And that’s worse that the Second World War. And there is more: “Truly, November 3 2016 “was the day democracy died”. Or the day the Daily Express finally lost its marbles.
So the people who want our country back suffer a bad attack of apoplexy when three British judges decide something for Britain. While you puzzle over that one, let’s move to the Sun. The paper goes for: “WHO DO EU THINK YOU ARE?” above a picture of a smiling Gina Miller.
A feeble effort really, although a smaller headline puts the boot in: “Loaded foreign elite defy will of Brit voters.” This is a less than coded reference to Miller being from Guyana – even though she has lived in Britain since she was ten and is now 51. That is nasty stuff and surely close to racism.
Incidentally, Miller says she is often referred to on social media as a “foreign-born” “rich bitch”, while some charmers in the City call her the “black widow spider”.
The Daily Telegraph leads off with: “The judges versus the people”, and the Guardian opts for: “Turmoil for May as judges rule that Parliament must decide on Brexit.” Hardly snappy, but factual rather than rampantly emotive.
The Times prefers: “May is urged to call snap election over Brexit ruling”, and the i-newspaper puts is straight: “Brexit plan in tatters.”
It is easy when reading some of those headlines to wonder what sort of a country we will be when Brexit happens. Yesterday’s ruling won’t change the Leave vote. We are still on the way out, one way or other. But the job of extricating ourselves from Europe just got much more difficult. And that’s a good thing. For a narrow vote in favour of leaving has somehow been turned into the “voice of the people” – a dubious phrase if ever there was.
David Davis, the Minister For Whatever Brexit Means This Week, appeared on the TV news last night wearing that shrug he usually wears. He said the government had “the biggest mandate in history” with 17 million votes.
Pardon me, but isn’t the mandate in fact 17 million minus all those who voted to remain? A much narrower mandate, and a closer reflection on a country that remains divided.
Those of us in the Remain lobby lost by a ratio of 52 to 48 – a margin which Nigel Farage once said wouldn’t be enough of a victory to count (but only if the vote had gone the other way, naturally).
We now need a sensible way forward, not the hate-filled hyperbole on show in many of today’s front pages.