Theresa May Urged By Tory MPs Including Dominic Grieve And Anna Soubry To Speak Out On Article 50 Ruling Backlash

The media backlash has been likened to 'Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe'.

The criticism of the judiciary over the recent Article 50 ruling is “chilling” and reminiscent of “Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe”, Dominic Grieve has said as Theresa May is urged to calm the row.

Thursday’s controversial High Court ruling means that the prime minister may not trigger Article 50 without first consulting Parliament.

Tory MP and former attorney general Grieve told BBC Newsnight that he was “horrified” by the way some sections of the media covered the ruling, saying: “The judges did exactly what was asked of them.”

<strong>Former attorney general Dominic Grieve</strong>
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve
Peter Macdiarmid via Getty Images

He also described attacks the judiciary as “chilling and outrageous” and “smacking of the fascist state”, according to the Press Association.

Grieve and other former ministers have warned the Prime Minister she must “make clear” that the independence of the judiciary is a fundamental element of British democracy.

Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said the attacks were “threatening the independence of our judiciary” and had “no place in a civilised land”.

He told The Times: “Some of the things which have been said about the court’s judgment by politicians have been utterly disgraceful.

“All ministers from the Prime Minister down must now make clear that the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to our democracy. You have to respect that even if you think they have got a decision wrong.

“Some members of Parliament do not appear to understand that this judgment had nothing do with subverting the will of the people.”

<strong>Theresa May has been urged to speak up about the attacks on the judiciary</strong>
Theresa May has been urged to speak up about the attacks on the judiciary
POOL New / Reuters

Anna Soubry, a former minister and prominent Remain campaigner, said some media reports were “inciting hatred”.

“I think we have to call this out and say ‘not in my name’,” she told the Guardian.

“It needs somebody like Boris Johnson to step up and speak out. He’s our Foreign Secretary and he knows what the reaction of the rest of the world is as they look at our great country and are horrified. What message are we sending out to the rest of the world? Probably that this nation is in grave danger of losing the plot – and I think we might have done”.

Writing in the Guardian, former lord chancellor Lord Falconer described some newspapers’ treatment of the three High Court judges as a “vicious assault”.

He called on the current lord chancellor Liz Truss to defend them, saying: “She needs to make it clear immediately that the government has no quarrel with the judges and has total confidence in them. Disagreement with the judges is dealt with by appeal not by abuse.

“So far Truss has been completely silent, no doubt waiting for guidance from a prime minister who appears so mesmerised by the fear of what the public may do or think that she is willing to throw constitutional propriety overboard.”

On Saturday, the hashtag #WheresLizTruss also began trending, with many others joining calls for her to speak out...

On Friday, Theresa May’s spokesman said that he does not think the judiciary is being undermined by extreme media coverage.

The Guardian reported the refused to condemn any of Friday’s front pages, despite widespread criticism of the coverage in a number of papers, including the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun and Daily Telegraph.

He said: “I don’t think the British judiciary is being undermined.

“I’m not commenting on newspaper coverage.”

Friday’s front pages included the Daily Mail featuring a line-up of the High Court judges and labelling them “enemies of the people”, while the Daily Express likened the decision to the dark days of the Second World War and claimed this was “the day democracy died”.

The Telegraph and the Sun also came under fire.

Gary Lineker led the charge in response...

Others slammed the front pages as “dangerous”, “vicious” and “irresponsible”.

This came as of the campaigners who brought the legal challenge received a string of death threats for her part in the legal challenge.

Gina Miller, 51, led the action against the government’s plan to commence Article 50 negotiations to leave the EU without parliament’s consent.

But Miller has received online threats, including people saying she should be “shot” and “hung”.

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