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Johnson will regret the day he suspended Parliament

by Hugo Dixon | 29.08.2019

The people and politicians are up in arms – and rightly so. Boris Johnson’s undemocratic move to suspend Parliament has galvanised opposition like an electric shock.

This is no longer just about stopping a no-deal Brexit. This is about saving our democracy. We need to mobilise urgently on all fronts.

Protests are already erupting all over the country. A petition opposing the suspension of Parliament has gathered around 1.5 million signatures. 

Most British people never thought they would have to take to the streets to defend democracy. But, in the coming days, we will need to protect Parliament against the prime minister. Clive Lewis, the Labour MP, said he would have to be dragged out of the House of Commons if it was actually suspended in the midst of a national crisis. We may need to provide him and other MPs with a ring of protection.

Johnson’s move was borne out of desperation not strength. He could see that MPs were organising to stop him quitting the EU without a deal – and thought he would just silence them.

But this mad move is turning placid souls into radicals. Philip Hammond, David Lidington and David Gauke – respectively Chancellor of the Exchequer, effectively deputy prime minister and Lord Chancellor under Theresa May – have been emboldened to fight. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, and George Young, a government whip in the House of Lords, have resigned.

It now seems likely that MPs will rush legislation through Parliament next week to stop Johnson. If they fail, they may even decide to kick the prime minister out of Downing Street and replace him with Jeremy Corbyn on a caretaker basis. A few days ago, that seemed unthinkable. But, in politics as in physics, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.

The legal battles against the suspension of Parliament have gone into overdrive. There are now initiatives in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Johnson may well play dirty to try to foil MPs’ plans. A whole series of measures are being considered by his advisers, according to Buzzfeed. These include advising the Queen not to sign a law that Parliament had passed; disobeying any such law; and refusing to resign even if MPs pass a vote of no confidence in him.

It is astonishing that such methods are even being considered. We have not yet quite witnessed a coup. But if Johnson adopts these extreme measures, we will be in the midst of one.

Hopefully, it will not come to this. The UK is the home of parliamentary democracy. People should protest within the law and Parliament should stop Johnson’s power grab. But if he successfully manages to castrate Parliament, more extreme, albeit always nonviolent methods will be needed to stop him dead in his tracks.

24 Responses to “Johnson will regret the day he suspended Parliament”

  • As soon as we have replaced the current government with people with a proper regard for parliamentary democracy, we must go ahead with plans, already in embryo in several places, for a written constitution. Our system of understandings and conventions were developed in the days when we were governed by people who usually were, and if not who in any event wished to be considered to be gentlemen. That is no longer true, and we must adapt to the modern world where all too often anything goes so long as you win.

    A written constitution must spell out the basic relationship of legislature to executive, and ensure that the latter is always subject to control by the former unless otherwise specifically provided. It is wholly unacceptable that Parliament does not have at all times the right to control, on its own initiative, how and when it conducts its own business, and so is generally dependent on the government to enable this, even when the government is itself subject to attack.

  • To the Brexiteers who think bozo is the second coming : Parliament represents not only the will of the people but also ensures that the decisions made by the executive – which is the servant of parliament – do not actually endanger the nation. It is not sufficient to say that the MP of a certain constituency is bound by the way his constituents voted one way of another, the member of parliament representing this constituency has a duty, both legal and moral, to act in the best interests of the country, not just the people who elected him.

    Hence, we did not take part in the second Iraq war, contrary to the governments wishes. And, although the referendum returned an unfortunate result, Parliament has the good sense to recognise the dangers inherent in Brexit, and has, with some difficulty been trying to reach a middle ground of recognising the results of the vote while minimising the damage to the nation (which will be severe). This nation respects law & order, bozo evidently doesn’t.

    Lessons to take home about all this :
    a) Do not hold referenda. We elect a parliament to make these decisions for us.
    b) Start working on a written constitution which covers EVERY eventuality and, contrary to the US constitution, is written for the 21st century.
    c) Ensure that the monarchy is either removed or that the monarchy actually has a role to play (i.e., has teeth). Otherwise they are an expensive tourist attraction.

  • Well, what a kerfuffle! It’s almost like nobody saw it coming. I admit that the queen granting Johnson his prorogueing of parliament in this highly volatile situation is a mite unexpected, but then again, Brexiteer media already informed us that the queen is a Brexiteer at heart so even on that score it wasn’t unexpected. What I do find interesting is that she jeopardized the general popularity of the monarchy; I would have thought the better sort of counsellor would have mentioned the fact that half the country would not take kindly to that move and told her not to get mixed up in the all to noticeable more the country is in at present. But never mind, we’re working hard to undermine the Cummings sleaze and, wholly in line with the way things went Brexit wise up to now, nothing is clear, nothing is predictable and nothing gets organised. Interesting result seeing we’re not talking about some banana republic in faraway climes but a West-European nation of some -former- repute as far as stability and being wise in the ways of the world is concerned. By the way, did anyone read Hugh Grant’s reaction on the news on Twitter? If not, look it up! Made my day.

  • Does the Queen’s agreement to the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue parliament give the biggest boost to republicanism since the 17th century?

  • By the way, talking about banana republics: a Dutch daily baptised the UK precisely that. I wouldn’t be surprised if more Continental dailies used that moniker. Shows how far the UK is falling in the opinion over there. Nothing to worry about, however; wait until the English economy soars (Scots and Irish economies no longer existent, of course) and all the EU is left way behind. In half a century, that is: according to one Jacob Rees-Mogg.

  • A Dutch daily newspaper may well have dubbed the UK a Banana Republic but it is wrong .
    The UK is, and at present remains, a monarchy.
    Given the present antics of B Johnson and his cronies however it would not be wrong to dub the UK a Banana Monarchy.

  • Johnson’s arrogance may have played into our hands. Moderates such as Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond are furious that the name of the party they have served for years is being dragged through the mud by these reckless jerks. They could be key in the days to come in finding a way forward to stop No Deal Brexit and, at this moment, are mobilising support among the sensible Tories to stop Johnson. When Rees-Mogg appearson the TV proclaiming that Remainers’ protests are ‘phoney’ and Dell Boy Francois states Remainers are panicking it fires more of us. How have we allowed this small group of right wing nutters take centre stage in all of this? It defies belief.
    I have been a Republican for years but feel some sympathy for the Queen being dragged into this. However, the kind of monarchy we have is outmoded and an anachronism. The royal family continues to embarrass the Queen. A republic with an elected president is more democratic and if it arrives it will provide the opportunity for a written constitution. The royal residences can be opened to the public and will probably earn millions for the Treasury. We can no longer have an unwritten constitution that can be hijacked by Mavericks and chancers such as Johnson.

  • In an unintended consequence of prorogation, the likelihood of the break-up of the Union is likely to be brought forward. The resignation of Ruth Davidson, the opponent of Scottish independence, will enhance the SNP’s chances of winning another Scottish Independence referendum. The negative impact of a no-deal Brexit on Ireland and its distinctive English national character will likely lead to a border poll earlier than anticipated. And there are also stirrings in the Welsh valleys. Raymond McCord’s courageous David/Goliath battle in NI to overturn prorogation on the back of the Good Friday Agreement and the death of his son by the security forces, touches the nerve centre of NI security. It may also expose the legal interaction between the GFA and prorogation . An appeal could either be bundled into a single case to the Supreme Court with the Scottish and Gina Millar cases….or, with the Irish dimension, to the European Court of Justice or even the Hague.

  • One would have hoped the queen was up to speed and would have hesitated to sign up to prorogation. Maybe she was aware of the dangers and advised against it. Maybe the government refused to accept the advice and insisted. We should know. What’s the convention here? What about FOI?

  • Boris in one sense is flexing his muscles and asserting his power. He is being fairly restrained about it, Stalin wold have executed a few people as an example to the others.

    Whilst I support Hugo’s strength of feeling, it should be tempered with the reflection that MPs have been a bit of a disappointment over the last 3 years, as Vernon Bogdanor has pointed out in the Guardian. They have voted sheepishly for article 50 to be activated, they have opposed a second referendum. In too many cases they have put their own personal interests first and the national interest second.

  • The Quitters won’t care if we are a banana republic so long as the commission doesn’t tell us what shape they should be.

  • @ William D Taylor
    “a republic with an elected president is more democratic”
    Trump? Modi? Bolsonaro?
    No thanks
    Republics are more prone than monarchies to degenerate into dictatorships or tyrannies.
    King Juan Carlos faced down the anti-democratic mutineers nostalgic for the Franco era in Spain.
    Democracy is safer under a modern monarchy.
    Lack of confidence that an individual is fit for office solely by virtue of being born and growing up betrays a lack of belief in human nature generally. If we don’t have a fundamental belief in human nature we may as well all go home.The default position should be that someone,suitably trained and prepared, is fit for the high, if symbolic, office of head of state by reason of their humanity. If that comes with privileges, as it is bound to do, why begrudge them?
    The rest of us inherited the right to vote from our fathers and mothers by being born and growing up to the age of 18. We didn’t earn the right to vote by having our merits recognised by our fellow citizens.
    You are not really qualified to pronounce on monarchy vs. republic unless you have read D H Lawrence’s review,in Twilight in Italy, of a production of Hamlet which he attended in a provincial Italian theatre in the 1920s.
    It has not been the monarchy that has got us into the mess we are in now.

  • To Colin
    I can’t see it follows that by being born and growing up, an individual is fit for public office. Look at Trump, Bolsonaro, Stalin. Look at Nero and Caligula in Rome or some of the Tsars. One of the most depressing aspects of the Brexit saga for me is that it destroys one’s faith in human nature. We all love to believe that the good guys win in the end, but Brexit shows how the bad guys win.
    Maybe as you say, we should all go home.

  • It’s not directly related to Johnson’s antics, but the petition at the link below is an attempt to improve the honesty of some press outlets that play fast and loose with the truth. Its fair to say that had the aim of this petition had been our normal expectation of the press, Johnson’s career as a journalist would have been short, bearing in mind he was sacked for making up stories about the EU.
    Please share widely.
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/267035

  • Remember the good old days when British Govts would lecture Mugabe on human rights and good governance? Now the UK has become a laughing stock and every thug out there will tell the UK to look at the plank in its own eye if Borisolini and Rabid ever raise the subject of HR (not to mention when Rabid and Ugly Patel repeal the HRA and denounce the ECHR).

  • To Tony Evans
    There are a lot of requests to sign petitions doing the rounds but I can’t see that a government that dismisses parliament is going to take any notice of petitions. The one to revoke topped 6 million and was ignored. Some other means needs to be found

  • What does an overaged monarch have to do with running the soon to be ninth biggest economy in the world? Quaint but not funny.
    Get some inspiration from Hong Kong!

  • Hi John,
    I understand your reservation, but this is not aimed at something which is a key direction that the Government has for better or worse committed us to. It’s not even about whether you voted Leave or Remain, but rather do we want the Press to behave responsibly and print stories which are an accurate record of fact. The real problem we have is that whilst we can share a lot of factual information here on a site like INFACTS, the person in the street is not reading it. Rather, his/her thinking is being framed by the tabloid Press and TV. If we start to say as the public that we want Newspapers like the Telegraph that recently posted a Dodgy Poll result about the public being supportive of ‘No Deal’ ,to print corrections with the same prominence as the original article, they might be might be embarrassed enough to lift their game. After all, who doesn’t want to be told the Truth?

  • Peter,
    You should have no problem signing the petition if you want the Press to be honest, which is the point of my post.

  • Teresa Wilson, that was one of the first lies that Boris Johnson guffawed about in private (according to stories of people working with him) when working as a journalist for the telegraph in Brussels. Brussels never told anyone anything about shapes of banana’s or the taste of prawn crisps. Funny you apparently didn’t know that.

  • Greger Lindell: the queen should have listened to any adviser (I sincerely hope there was one) who told her to stay out of this toxic muddle as far as the united bit of the UK is concerned. And therefore she would be wise to not grant Johnson his prorogation of Parliament this time. There was no need for the requested prorogation in normal circumstances and Johnson, quite clearly with Cummings pushing him as that adder appears to run both numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, would then have to accept the discussions and decisions he now escaped.

  • John King: wise words indeed and very likely indicating what will happen. Short of going on the US trail with machine guns there is indeed very little that would work with the present calibre of people running the country.