If you’re on Twitter, you might have seen #Page48 of the Tory manifesto trending. This follows a segment on BBC Newsnight which scrutinised page 48 of the Conservative Party manifesto, which reads:
We will ensure that judicial review is available to protect the rights of the individuals against an overbearing state, while ensuring that it is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays.
The point in the manifesto seems to be a response to the government’s prorogation of parliament, which they were taken to court over.
Labour peer and former barrister Lord Falconer was asked by Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis whether this manifesto policy shows “a shifting away from a legal framework to a political framework”.
He agreed, saying:
It is and I’ve read that – and I’d spotted it some time before you asked, it’s an absolute echo of what the government’s response was to the prorogation case, where the Supreme Court said the prime minister had acted unlawfully in proroguing for a long period of time.
They said it was conducting politics by another means, so I read that bit of the manifesto as meaning there’s not going to be any more prorogation cases, so if Mr Johnson becomes prime minister again, he won’t be restrained by the courts from acting unlawfully.
The Tory candidate Tobias Ellwood disputed this reading of the manifesto, instead suggesting it’s “something to be put for the justice secretary, but I’d be hesitant to go down the route [of prorogation] again. We saw what happened with the Supreme Court.”
When pressed by Maitlis on whether he thought it was an abuse to try and shift the British constitution for political ends, Ellwood swerved the question:
I think that the interpretation of what you’re reading there is something that you’d have to have to put to the justice secretary. I didn’t write that part of or any part of the manifesto.