Tories, Parliament, and Unelected Judges

Prime Minister David Cameron has told excited and braying Tory backbenchers that a crucial political matter was to be determined by an unelected judge.

And he was cheered by them for doing so.

As Theresa May would put it, I am not making this up.

The Tories, of course, would usually be the first to sneer at the very notion that an unelected judge have any role in a political situation.

But, as ever, the shallowness of knee-jerk Tory rhetoric does not reach down so as to connect with any principle.

By kicking the Jeremy Hunt affair over to the Leveson Inquiry the demands of political expediency were satisfied, even if those of political accountability were left wanting.

This is because none of the key issues which the Hunt affair throws up are actually within the terms of the Leveson Inquiry.

Perhaps Cameron and his colleagues are playing some clever game of roulette – they are maybe gambling on the crisis defusing before Hunt or anyone else gets questioned at the Inquiry.

If so, they could be disappointed.

First, as Paul Bailey wonderfully said on Twitter:

I have a mental image of Robert Jay QC watching this, taking notes, and chuckling quietly to himself.

Indeed.

One quite imagine Jay saying softly and devastatingly, “that is not quite right, though, is it Mr Cameron?

Second, the detail of those emails already disclosed – which would make any fair minded person conclude there was a serious risk of apparent and unlawful bias by Hunt’s Office in the BSkyB decision (as well as a cause for other serious concerns) – is still unaddressed.

The detail of those emails remain when the cheers of Tory backbenchers all peter out.

And one day that detail will need to be addressed and there will be a political consequence.

It would have been better had Cameron said – following Thatcher – inquiries’ inquire, advisers’ advise, and ministers’ decide.

At a stroke, Cameron would have asserted the value of parliamentary accountability and the integrity of the ministerial code.

But he didn’t.

And so instead the Tory MPs commended a political matter being dealt with by an unelected judge.

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