Who's running the country?

Not Dominic Cummings, that's for sure

Boris Johnson may well wonder who’s running the country, I say in my latest column for the Law Society Gazette.

Print deadlines mean that the piece was written before the prime minister sacked his adviser Dominic Cummings and his communications director Lee Cain. It refers instead to the decision of the House of Lords a week ago to throw out part 5 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its entirety and considers what the government might do to regain control of parliament. You can read the piece in full online.

I refer in passing to the shift of power from the executive to the legislature resulting from Gina Miller’s two successful actions in the Supreme Court (pictured). Yesterday, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the UK’s highest court was “facing an overhaul” that could leave it with a new name and fewer judges.

This looks like a rehash of a paper written in July for the Policy Exchange judicial power project by Professor Derrick Wyatt QC, a distinguished former academic and practitioner.

I drew attention to some practical problems with this proposal in a piece published in August. I don’t think I am betraying any confidences if I say that Wyatt wrote his paper as a contribution to academic debate rather as an over-ready reform.

And I certainly don’t think the Telegraph story is worth the sort of detailed refutation offered by one newspaper this morning. Lord Falconer, Labour’s shadow attorney general, speculated that the proposals might be the “last gasps of the so-called weirdos at No 10 who answered to Dominic Cummings”. Given that the prime minister is reportedly planning a policy re-set with a new group of advisers — and given that he will rely on the Supreme Court in the coming months to resolve the most difficult Brexit-related challenges — the last thing he will want to do at the moment is to sack members of a court whose tenure is protected by statute.

Of much more concern, I suggest, is the potential crisis in the courts of England and Wales that I reported yesterday. It takes a lot for the lord chief justice — normally the most mild-mannered and understated of men — to deliver such a blunt demand for the money that the courts need to deliver justice.