British newspapers react to judges' Brexit ruling: 'Enemies of the people'

The high court determined that MPs must have a say on triggering Article 50. For some front pages, this was a display of judicial independence too far

On Thursday morning, the high court ruled that parliament – and not the prime minister by use of prerogative powers – would need to trigger Article 50 to start the UK’s exit from the European Union.

On Thursday evening, a portion of the British media exercised its own prerogative: to attack the judges behind the ruling.

DAILY MAIL: Enemies of the people #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) November 3, 2016

Some lawyers and legal experts thought “enemies of the people” was perhaps a little over the top:

Here's a reasoned piece of journalism (not):

— James Turner QC (@JamesTurner37) November 3, 2016

This is getting completely out of hand. If The Daily Mail speaks of Judges as enemies of the people, democracy is being undermined. Shame!

— Nigel Pascoe QC (@nigel_pascoe) November 3, 2016

"We want UK judges deciding on UK legal matters!"

- UK judges decide on UK legal matters.


— Law and policy (@Law_and_policy) November 3, 2016

Others homed in on the finer detail:

Is the free GIANT map of Britain for use when we're hunting down the ENEMIES OF THE STATE?

— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) November 3, 2016

"I mean, being OPENLY GAY is one thing but... WORKED WITH TONY BLAIR???" 😱

— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) November 3, 2016

How about that fencing, though?

If the worst they can say about you is you're an OPENLY GAY EX-OLYMPIC FENCER TOP JUDGE, you've basically won life.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 3, 2016

The Telegraph also pits the judges against “the people” and turns them blue, to hammer home an unspecified point:

"Do they look evil enough?"

"I was thinking the same."

"Try a blue filter."

"There we go."

— Jack Tindale (@JackTindale) November 3, 2016

There are, though, reasons beyond the fact that they’re silly to object to headlines like these:

Daily Mail - a U.K. news organisation - in complete opposition to the rule of law :

— emily bell (@emilybell) November 4, 2016

Today's a bad day for the constitution
Not because of #Brexit case but attacks on independent judiciary & rule of law

— The CBA (@TheCriminalBar) November 4, 2016

Editors of @Telegraph might want to ask (fired) colleagues in Hungary or Turkey what its like to run a paper in country w/o rule of law.

— R. Daniel Kelemen (@rdanielkelemen) November 3, 2016

Mind you, Kelemen is professor of political science and Jean Monnet chair in European Union politics at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and sounds suspiciously like one of those “experts”. As does this Bagehot chap:

The Telegraph versus Walter Bagehot

— Jonn Elledge (@JonnElledge) November 4, 2016

Telegraph columnist (but pro-Remainer) Mary Riddell appears to be giving Friday’s edition a miss:

Ignore anti-judge venom in tomorrow's press, and give thanks for an independent judiciary upholding the principles of our democracy

— Mary Riddell (@MaryRiddell) November 3, 2016

Meanwhile, over in Daily Express-land:

The opening paragraph is quite possibly the biggest overreaction in newspaper history.

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 3, 2016

Spare your pinch-zoom fingers; here’s that first paragraph:

Today this country faces a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches.

It’s not just as bad as the second world war, though, as the Express goes on:

Truly, November 3 2016 was the day democracy died.

Onward to dystopia then:

The front page attacks on the 3 judges for basically just doing their job is scary. This is fast becoming a dystopian land.

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 3, 2016

Being told to also check out the Express and Telegraph front pages. Not sure my poor, defeated, British heart can take it.

— Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes) November 3, 2016

By contrast, the Sun’s take is fairly tame, plumping for the cosy familiarity of foreigners, elites and a blink-and-that’ll-be-funnier-than-actually-seeing-it pun. It’s almost as if they don’t genuinely believe that Brexit has been blocked after all.

THE SUN: Who do EU think you are? #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) November 3, 2016


Claire Phipps

The GuardianTramp

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