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What the papers say: The ‘enemies of the people’ row rumbles on

17 February 2017

8:37 AM

17 February 2017

8:37 AM

The Article 50 court cases sparked an angry backlash in the newspapers, with the judges involved famously labelled ‘enemies of the people’. Yesterday was the day the Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger hit back: Neuberger criticised politicians for being slow to defend judges and said the attacks on the justice system risked undermining the rule of law. One of his (unspoken) targets was the Daily Mail, which rallied against the ‘out of touch’ judges involved. Was the coverage too much? The Mail says not. In its editorial this morning, the paper offers a rare compliment to Neuberger, saying that his ‘outstanding intellect and integrity’ is not in question. But the paper goes on to say it doesn’t accept the charge that the coverage of the court cases around Article 50 risked undermining the rule of law. It calls the judges part of a ‘narrow, self-selecting elite’ and says that it’s obvious the final verdict made by the Supreme Court was a ‘matter of opinion as much as law’ – with the paper pointing to the split decision by the Supreme Court to back up its point. It’s inevitable, the Mail says, that when ‘the judiciary moves into the political arena’, the motivations for the decisions they make will fall into the public interest. Yet rather than jeopardising the rule of law, the Mail concludes by saying it should be thanked, rather than criticised After all, its relentless focus on the judiciary in this case actually ‘strengthens it and gives it legitimacy’, the Mail says.

Although the Daily Mail came in for the heaviest criticism for its coverage of the Article 50 case, it’s the Sun which is most stinging in its response to Neuberger’s comments. ‘IS our most senior judge so arrogant he believes himself above all criticism?,’ the paper asks. ‘Yes’, seems to be the answer, says the Sun, which suggests it’s no surprise the Supreme Court president is ‘so dismissive of the USA’s more transparent system of elected judges’. On one point, Neuberger is right, the Sun does concede, saying that the judge is correct to ‘stress the importance of the rule of law in society’. Yet he is also missing something ‘equally vital’: ‘the independence of the free Press’.

It’s something of an understatement to say that Donald Trump’s presidency is shaking things up. Yet that’s exactly what his defence secretary James Mattis did yesterday when he said the US would cut back on its funding for Nato if other countries were not prepared to spend more on their own defence. ‘Washington deserves sympathy,’ says the Daily Telegraph, which points out that the US forks out ‘3.61 per cent of its enormous GDP’ on the military ‘whose duties include defending Germany, which spends just 1.19 per cent’. While some have criticised the US for its approach – or interpreted the comments as a wavering in the US’s support for the alliance – we should remember that Nato is a ’collective defence pact, not an American-bankrolled war machine’. What is important though is that we don’t forget the role Nato can play in keeping the West safe. After all, ‘if the West appears divided and reluctant to act, Russia will feel emboldened,’ – an outcome, the Telegraph says, is in no one’s interests.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, it’s Donald Trump’s view on Israel which is the talking point in the paper’s morning editorial. ‘The casualness and carelessness’ with which he hinted that a two-state solution to peace in the middle east might not be the way forward was the most worrying part of his press conference this week with the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s becoming increasingly clear, the Guardian says, that Trump is ‘dangerous’. The paper says his ‘lack of knowledge and steadiness, combined with a determination to wade in’ should trouble us all. Whatever Trump suggests, we must remember that a one state solution isn’t the answer. An outcome like this, the Guardian says, ‘would be wrong, and disastrous’, with the paper saying it would relegate ‘Palestinians to permanent second-class status’. The international community must continue to insist to Trump that the two-state solution is the only way forward. And the Guardian concludes by saying that this needs to include Theresa May; it’s more vital than ever that ‘Britain pushes for the two-state solution without stinting’.

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