If Johnson breaks law, that would be the start of a coup

by Hugo Dixon | 07.09.2019

This is a version of a speech Hugo Dixon will give in Parliament Square at the Defend our Democracy demo after 2pm today

We’ve had two fantastic victories in Parliament this week. We’ve passed a law to force Boris Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit so we don’t crash out. And we’ve stopped Johnson wriggling out of this law by calling a snap election.

But now Johnson is threatening to break the law.

That would would be the start of a coup. The rule of law is a core principle of our society. It is almost unthinkable that a Conservative prime minister would deliberately break it. One shudders to think about the precedent this would set. What if an even more extreme right-wing government – or for that matter an extreme left wing one – got in power and decided to break the law? We would be on the slippery slope to dictatorship.

I may be the only person in this crowd who is fond of Boris. He has been a friend for almost 50 years. So I am going to say something personal to him now:

“You’ve never really believed in Brexit. Certainly not in this extreme crash-out Brexit.

“Until just before the referendum you were sitting on the fence. Ever since that fateful day when you decided which of two articles to publish in the Telegraph, you’ve been riding a tiger. It is dragging you deeper into the heart of darkness.

“That tiger has a name. Dominic Cummings.

“He’s a Svengali figure. He’s manipulating you. He has you under his control.

“It’s time to TAKE BACK CONTROL.

“If you can’t do that, maybe, like your brother, Jo, you should resign.

“But do not, whatever you do, break the law. It’s not in the national interest. It’s not even in your interest.”

11 Responses to “If Johnson breaks law, that would be the start of a coup”

  • Let him try breaking the law as media reports are saying that he could end up in gaol. I would absolutely love that. No one is above the law and that includes Cummings.

  • To the best of my knowledge, in order to stage a coup, you need the support of the armed services. I don’t think for one moment that Royal Armoured Corps is about to send its tanks into London in support of Boris. So if Boris breaks the law, it’s not a coup, and he’s not a dictator, just a criminal.

    But you’re right about Cummings, this man is dangerous, not because he’s some evil genius, but because he is making one awful mistake after another – and I thought he was supposed to be a brilliant strategic planner.

  • It sounds extreme, but I don’t suppose that there is any chance that Johnson would deliberately choose to go to prison? Martyrdom and all that? The Telegraph/Express would worship his commitment to Brexit as would many of the Leavers.

  • Johnson’s actions are copying those of preious leaders who hae become dictators: Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco , to name three.

  • @George (above). I have seen that theory and I think it is possible. I honestly think Johnson is sufficiently insane to do anything. But the right wing press have already made him a martyr in some ways, fighting the nasty Remainers. The legislation to stop a no deal is a ‘stitch-up’ according to the Mail (I think it was) ‘amid rumours swirling about’ that Johnson is ready to resign. Is that a threat or a promise, I thought?

  • @William(above), with these possibilities, long-term planning is now down to a window of around 3 days.
    A real-deal breaker would be if Cummings was to be thrown out. Even the staunchest Tory Brexiteer must be looking on in horror as the party is slowly dismantled…..leaving what exactly? An unelectable rump, possibly teamed up with Farage.

  • @ John Morrison – we don’t do things so overtly here. If you see the latest edition of Private Eye, part of Operation Yellowhammer is to draft local govt civil servants to help out the main civil service and replace them with soldiers. If chaos breaks out the army can be called in to “aid the civil power”. They won’t see it as a coup, but their duty, which is of course to the Queen, and *not* to the government. The armed forces swear an oath to her; which has always been a worry.

  • I should be very keen to know whether Hugo actually delivered this speech in Parliament Square.

    I turned up somewhat early and found that the square was occupied by noisy thugs waving “patriotic” flags and a Free Tommy Robinson banner. On seeing my EU flag T-shirt they shouted verbal abuse at me and I was advised by the police to leave for my own safety. I understand that Anna Soubry was too scare to speak.

    I instead wandered up to Whitehall where Another Europe is Possible had set up a stage with speeches from Diane Abbot and Paul Mason among many others. The thugs surrounded us and we had to leave under police escort.

    I should like to praise the Met for their protecting our right to peaceful protest. All the officers I encountered were helpful, civil, pleasant and reasonable, even while their colleagues were being attacked by mindless fascists.


  • Its an interesting comparison; Brexit supporters, albeit few, wanting to have their way by threat and violence against people who are using their right for peaceful political protest. What sort of Britain do we want for the future? The Conservative party and right wing press has a lot to answer for in whipping this all up. You can’t label half of society as traitors and saboteurs and not expect consequences.

  • Isn’t Dominic Cummings in contempt of Parliament by refusing to appear before a Select Committee? If so, why is he not being pursued through the courts? Who does this bloke think he is?

  • Hitler had his storm troopers and Mussolini had his own private army as well. But private armies were banned since medieval times in England and Wales and Northern Ireland because of the Troubles.
    I don’t know about Scotland. No doubt they would be considered terrorists nowadays as in most western countries. I doubt Boris Johnson would get way with it as Hitler did. Although not perfect, our democracy is entrenched even though the idea of a no deal Brexit is a threat. Say if we leave with a no deal Brexit, there could be lawsuits and mass strikes if the government do what they have threatened, take away workers rights and other regressive policies.