‘Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows’.
Those are the words of the Enacting Formula – the standard pattern of words which, with certain variations, precede the clauses of Bills at Westminster. In a single sentence, they capture the meaning of Parliamentary sovereignty.
They clearly don’t say that the legislature is the only source of this sovereignty – in other words, of law-making power. Rather, they tell a story. It is one of that power being shared by the Queen, through the executive branch of government, with the legislature.
That’s why it’s said that we’re governed by the Queen-in-Parliament: it is the place where the monarch, her Government, and the legislature come together. Parliament should work with harmony of a stately dance (come to think of it, “stately” is le mot juste), in which each dancer has his or her part to play. Some of the most riveting steps in their movements came about because of the English Civil War. The dance continues to this day.
The best way of understanding the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday is to grasp that it reads the dance very differently – and, frankly, wrongly. “As long ago as 1611,” its ruling declared, the court held that “the King [who was then the government] hath no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him”. The Court clearly has that civil war, and long-run up to it, very much in mind.
But the King (or, in this case, the Queen) is no longer “the government” – a truth that the learned judges seem to have forgotten as soon as they uttered it. Government is now a shared exercise between “the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty” and those “Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons”. Or, to put it another way, Boris Johnson in no way resembles a Stuart Monarch. Quite apart from anything else, Charles I did not offer the Roundheads the chance to vote him out of office.
Neither is Dominic Grieve John Hampden; nor Lady Hale, Sir Edward Coke; nor Dominic Cummings “Black Tom Tyrant” – the Earl of Stafford, Charles I’s formidable adviser, who was eventually sacrificed as a scapegoat. If anyone thought they were. Above all, this Gollum of a Speaker is not, repeat not, John Lenthall.