6 ways to foil Johnson’s plot to suspend Parliament

by Hugo Dixon | 28.08.2019

The prime minister’s request to the Queen “to prorogue” Parliament can and must be stopped. But kicking him out of office is not the only way – and maybe not the best.

Boris Johnson wants to suspend Parliament in the week of September 9 – and only bring it back on October 14. The idea is to make it hard for MPs to stop Johnson from dragging us out of the EU – “do or die” – without a deal on October 31. 

This is an outrageous anti-democratic manoeuvre. Here are six ways the prime minister’s plot might be foiled, some of which could be pursued simultaneously.

Cabinet resignations

Amber Rudd, who once slammed the idea of proroguing Parliament as a device of “Stuart kings” in reference to Charles I’s battles with Oliver Cromwell, should resign from the Cabinet. So should any other minister who cares for the principle that the prime minister serves Parliament. Resignations on their own won’t stop Johnson in his tracks – but it might just get him to think again.

Legal challenge

Although the Queen normally takes the prime minister’s advice on when to suspend Parliament, this is not a normal situation. Johnson is clearly flouting the will of Parliament. The courts cannot stop the Queen proroguing Parliament but they might rule that the prime minister is wrong to advise her to do so and that could have the same effect. SNP MP Joanna Cherry has already launched a lawsuit to stop Parliament being prorogued. Today she said she would seek to fast-track it.

Humble address to the Queen

MPs could pass a motion in the form of a “humble address” to the Queen asking her not to suspend Parliament. This might give her a good reason to reject her prime minister’s advice.

Law banning prorogation

MPs could try to rush through an emergency law saying Parliament shouldn’t be suspended. If so, it’s hard to see how the Queen could agree to Johnson’s request.

Emergency law to delay Brexit

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn agreed with opposition leaders to try to pass a law forcing the prime minister to ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond October 31. They may still have just enough time to rush the law through before Parliament is suspended. If so, the fact that MPs won’t be back at work until October 14 won’t matter so much.

Kick Johnson out of Downing St

This is the “nuclear weapon”. Until today it seemed unlikely that enough Conservative MPs would join Corbyn in a vote of no confidence against Johnson for it to succeed. Following the latest outrage, the Labour leader may now have the numbers to bring him down.

The snag is that Johnson could then hang on as prime minister until after an election – and he could delay the election until after October 31. The only solution to this problem is for MPs to rally around Corbyn or another leader, who could then take over as a temporary prime minister. The caretaker could then ask the EU for extra time and advise the Queen to recall Parliament. If Johnson still refused to leave Downing St, the Queen would have to use her reserve powers to sack him.

8 Responses to “6 ways to foil Johnson’s plot to suspend Parliament”

  • Essential also to change UK legislation which states Oct 31 as leaving day. Means must revise, ammend or repeal it before Oct 31. Otherwise we could fall out simply because of UK legislation, whether or not EU offered or agreed to extension of Art 50.

  • According to the BBC, the Queen has given the green light to this abominable act of a chancer and blusterer.

    My hope is that this will bring all the Remainers together, concentrate minds and give Johnson the toughest battle he has ever had- the arrogance of this man is beyond comprehension.

    Basically, he has declared a civil war and he is going to get the full wrath of all of us who wish to remain in the EU.

    You can actually feel the tension as you go about your daily life. There is no courtesy any more, everyone is out for themselves and racism has returned to darken our doors (witness what is happening in football stadiums).

    I am sick of it all but will keep fighting and do what I can to avert this disaster. Never thought I would live to see my country so riven by angst and hatred.

  • “Proroguing Parliament undermines parliamentary democracy and risks a general election. I rule it out and call on all candidates to do the same…”

    Who said these words? Why it was Matt Hancock! Said in response to Dominic Raab’s threat to suspend parliament during the Tory leadership election recently! Funny how Hancock is now happy to serve under a PM actually doing the very thing he accused Raab of threatening!!! He like Amber Rudd and Jo Johnson ought to be seriously considering his position. Totally unscrupulous!

  • Listening to Johnson and Gove trying to justify closure of Parliament on the grounds that it was necessary for domestic issues such as NHS and education funding, they are insulting the intelligence of the general public.

    And, wouldn’t it be interesting to get the views of those Brexit politicians most vehemently in support of closing parliament down, if it was done by a future prime minister, perhaps one not so much to their liking. A precedent is being set for our democracy.

  • What you all seem to be missing here Guys is that there is plenty of time next week to bring a vote of no confidence. If that was successful then a general election would probably be inevitable. Surely that is what you want?

  • The media are taking considerable care to ensure that, at least in public, the Sovereign is not seen to get involved in the cut and thrust of political shananigans surrounding prorogation. However, she does retain constitutional obligations towards her subjects.
    An enlightening precedent may be the Constitutional Crisis (the ‘Dismissal’) in Australia in 1975 when the then Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was brutally dismissed from office by the Governor General Sir John Kerr. The Governor General was the Queen’s representative to the Australian Government and recent correspondence revealed the active involvement of Buckingham Palace in the Dismissal. Kerr dutifully installed Malcolm Frazer as caretaker Prime Minister.
    Revising the current prorogation document by the Queen appears small beer when compared to the removal and replacement of a Prime Minister. A political ‘non tangere’ in relation to the monarch may not be justifiable in the current constitutional crisis of the theft of democratic parliamentary powers.