This article is taken from the August/September 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.
A light on prorogation
Patrick Lawrence’s article on the Supreme Court’s prorogation decision is welcome (“ERROR OF JUDGMENT”, JUNE). As he notes, the Supreme Court’s analysis of justiciability plainly conflated the existence of the power to prorogue with the manner of its exercise. By requiring the government to have “reasonable justification” to exercise the prerogative power, the decision will surely now render other uses of the prerogative a matter for the courts.
The government would likely have had more success if it had acted more honestly. The stated advice to the Queen that five weeks’ prorogation was required to write a Queen’s Speech was patently disingenuous. If, as Lawrence observes, the prime minister’s advice had made it clear why high policy required the prorogation, he would at least have forced the Supreme Court to confront the fact that it was making a decision on a political issue. But paradoxically a witness statement to this effect would itself have been a submission to the court’s jurisdiction.
Prorogation had hitherto been seen as potentially a “reserve power” of the monarch, i.e. one which the monarch can exercise (or decline to exercise) in disregard of advice from her ministers. It was notable that the proclamation of the prorogation allowed a week of parliamentary time before it came into effect. The future release of State papers may disclose whether this was due to intervention by the palace, insisting that parliament should have time to enact a Bill preventing the prorogation.
Down with gown
While I agree with Sam Ashworth-Hayes (“MORE TOWN, LESS GOWN”, JULY) on the problems caused by a super-abundance of students and degrees, he missed the social, environmental and economic deprivations of “studentification” — when an area previously occupied by families becomes overwhelmingly full of student rentals.
Peaceful, neighbourly areas full of children, adults and OAPs become messy, perpetually noisy, dangerous areas where no-one knows anyone else outside of their multiple occupancy let. This ties in nicely with Dan Hitchens’s article (“THE COSA NOSTRA IN SUITS”, JULY) which mentions land-banking by large building contractors as a cause in the housing shortage. This is true, but the shortage of family-sized housing, and some OAP housing, is exacerbated by large swathes of what were nice suburbs being turned into hellholes.
I was part of the Nottingham Action Group that tried to do something about the University of Nottingham’s reluctance to provide on-site student accommodation. We faced the delusion that there was a thing called a “student area” where normal rules did not apply: for example, students enjoyed randomly walking into the road to scare motorists, and then laugh (while filming on a phone) at the supposedly “up-tight” driver telling them off.
Come the holidays, the area would empty to become a ghost town. Finally, studentification hastened the death of the high street. As students didn’t cook, butchers, bakers, greengrocers all closed. Other types of shop became mobile phone outlets or off-licences. The corner shops did, however, survive.
There are similarities here with tourist traps becoming full of holiday lets that price out the locals and ruin the sense of community. Holiday lets appear to be moving up the popular consciousness. “Student areas” should too.
Too many chefs
The Secret Author hit the nail squarely on the head regarding the Cheltenham Literature Festival (“THE FAME GAME”, JULY). Some years ago, my wife and I attended a superb talk given by Hannah Rothschild about The Baroness, her biography of her great-aunt, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. After the event, we made our way to the signing table where half-a-dozen or so attendees were waiting for the author. At the next table a queue snaked out of the marquee and, possibly, across half of Cheltenham.
On enquiring who would be signing at the next table we were informed it was a “celebrity chef” who had written her latest cookery book. As Hannah said of our small group, “quality not quantity”. I had this vision of John Moore (one of the original founders of the Cheltenham Literature Festival) slowly turning in his grave.
Corse lawn, Gloucestershire
While President Biden and his progressive pals condemn recent decisions of the US Supreme Court, encourage protestors to picket the homes of justices and remain mute in the face of one attempted assassination, Joshua Rozenberg’s article about the need for, and value of, judicial independence in the UK (“INDEPENDENCE: A TWO-WAY STREET”, JULY) was a reminder that we may be, in Shaw’s words, two countries separated by a common language and yet yearn for the rule of law.
God forbid the UK Supreme Court should ever rule the people and be allowed to vote on such matters as a right to terminate a pregnancy or whether to employ a government agency to destroy an industry without Parliament’s permission.
Michael J. Bond
Mercer Island, USA
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