As the Article 50 litigation reached the Supreme Court in early December, sections of the media were already sharpening their knives in preparation for the likely failure of the government’s appeal.
The target of this sharpening was the judiciary. The Daily Mail, for example, portrayed the Supreme Court Justices as ‘eleven unaccountable individuals‘. The paper published a short biography of each judge, ranking them on a scale of one to five for ‘Europhilia’, by which it meant their degree of perceived bias in favour of the respondents’ case.
The explanations for these rankings were frequently risible. Lord Carnwath is apparently a five-star Europhile; the clinching factor, if one were needed, his reputation as an ‘acclaimed viola player and lover of European culture‘. Lord Sumption, on the other hand, is a ‘Eurosceptic‘ because he was once mildly critical of the European Court of Human Rights, an institution which has nothing to do with the European Union. (That he is also a French speaking historian of the Hundred Years War, and owner of a – very lovely – château in Berbiguières in the Dordogne, passed curiously unremarked.)
However, to observe the absurdities of this kind of journalism is not only far too easy but also entirely beside the point. What matters is its mere existence, demonstrating as it does that elements of the media are seeking to recruit the judiciary as combatants in the socio-cultural war which is rapidly becoming the dominant theme of British politics.
For anyone interested in judicial independence and the rule of law, this is an unwelcome turn of events.