Leave.EU and other pro-Brexit campaigners launched a social media campaign questioning the impartiality of judges on the Supreme Court within minutes of this morning’s ruling against Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament.
The first post on the Leave.EU page ran with the text: “Today a panel of unaccountable lawyers have totally overturned our constitutional order in a desperate attack on the democratic will of 17.4m British voters. This is a dark day for our country that will not be forgotten by the pro-Brexit majority.”
It was accompanied by an image of the Supreme Court above a headline that echoed the Daily Mail’s infamous “Enemies of the People” front cover from 2016, which launched a similar attack on the judiciary.
This was followed by posts individually targeting Lord Reed, Lord Sales and Lord Kerr, with statements designed to question the basis for their support of the unanimous ruling by the court.
The post targeting Sales described him as “one of arch-Remainer Tony Blair’s ‘closest allies’ who defended his Labour government’s decision against holding a public inquiry into the Iraq War”. It added: “Is it any wonder he’s found against the government?”
Another described Lord Kerr as a member of the “liberal elite… who was often found sitting in European courts in Strasbourg before his appointment to the Supreme Court”.
According to CrossCheck, a collaborative journalism project led by First Draft, which first flagged the posts, Brexit Party pages for Hampshire and Swansea were among those re-sharing the images.
The campaign follows a similar pattern to other attacks on UK institutions, including the judiciary, the BBC and parliament itself, which have been made by pro-Leave campaigners and some quarters of the UK media following the referendum to leave the EU.
A subsequent post on the page labelled the recall of parliament following the court’s decision as a “coup against the British people” adding that “these pathetic saboteurs can’t avoid the British public forever!”
The language used online in both pro and anti-Brexit campaigns has been criticised for creating a toxic environment. Phrases such as “enemies of the people” and “saboteurs” have regularly been used by pro-Brexit campaigns, while pro-Remain campaigners recently labelled Johnson’s suspension of parliament a “coup”.
The Leave.EU campaign has been particularly aggressive, with social media posts attacking journalists, migrants, MPs and judges. We should expect more attacks on the judiciary, parliament and any other institution seen to stand in the way of the Brexiteer movement in the coming days.
Jasper Jackson is the digital editor of the New Statesman