“A constitutional outrage”
Parliament’s due to return from the summer recess on 3 September. But on 28 August, news broke that Johnson will ask for a Queen’s Speech to take place on 14 October. What this means, in effect, is that as soon as MPs return they’ll only have two short windows from 3 to 9 September and from 14 to 31 October to either secure a Brexit deal or to pass a new one. The process of ending a parliamentary session is formally called proroguing parliament. The new session begins with a state opening and Queen’s Speech. The current parliament has been running since 21 June 2017.
In other words, Johnson’s launched a full-scale coup. Because proroguing parliament in this time frame also means MPs won’t have enough time to pass any new laws to prevent Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit through.
The BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg noted this will prompt a “HUGE row”:
Parliament likely to meet therefore from next Monday until around the 11th of September – understand Downing St thinks they have some legal protection from court cases if they are suspending Parliament to come back with a Queen's Speech – there is going to be HUGE row
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) August 28, 2019
Others, meanwhile, confirmed details about this process and what it may mean:
NEW: I understand that the Queen will be asked to prorogue Parliament today at Balmoral. Three privy councillors will see her today (led by Lord Pres of Council, Jacob Rees Mogg) and ask for a prorogation in council for September 9th.
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) August 28, 2019
Proroguing Parliament until October 14 to ensure No Deal still possible is the most audacious and high risk move of Boris Johnson’s premiership. If he fails, likely to be mortally damaged. Also an admission that rebels would have succeeded. It’s winner takes all now.
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) August 28, 2019
Yet Johnson said it’s “completely untrue” that he’s blocking democracy. But Commons speaker John Bercow disagreed:
Statement from Speaker’s Office 🚨🚨💥💥 pic.twitter.com/BGSYCcpxjB
— Jayne McCormack (@BBCJayneMcC) August 28, 2019
Meanwhile, in a letter, Johnson casually confirmed he’ll close parliament at one of the most critical points in the UK’s history:
NEW: Here is Boris Johnson's letter to MPs about shutting down parliament. pic.twitter.com/RdW9ffDzbY
— Shehab Khan (@ShehabKhan) August 28, 2019
So shadow chancellor John McDonnell called it a “very British coup”:
Make no mistake, this is a very British coup. Whatever one’s views on Brexit, once you allow a Prime Minister to prevent the full and free operation of our democratic institutions you are on a very precarious path. https://t.co/9kwmw8i6E1
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) August 28, 2019
“Unelected poundshop dictator”
MPs were swift to condemn Johnson. Labour’s David Lammy called him an “unelected poundshop dictator”
With this, the unelected poundshop dictator Boris Johnson threatens to end Britain's long history of Parliamentary democracy.
If Parliament is silenced on the biggest issue of our time we must take to the streets in peaceful protest & civil disobedience. https://t.co/4CwyNxH8xo
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 28, 2019
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, said this would go down as a ‘dark day’ in history:
So it seems that Boris Johnson may actually be about to shut down Parliament to force through a no deal Brexit. Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy. https://t.co/68lFnEgiyr
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 28, 2019
Green MP Caroline Lucas called this move a “constitutional outrage”:
Wasn’t this meant to be about “taking back control”?
The act of a cowardly PM who knows his reckless No Deal Brexit will never gain the support of MPs.
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) August 28, 2019
Many Labour figures also condemned Johnson:
If Boris shuts down Parliament to carry out his No-Deal Brexit, I and other MPs will defend democracy.
The police will have to remove us from the chamber. We will call on people to take to the streets.
We will call an extraordinary session of Parliament. #PeoplesParliament
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) August 28, 2019
Boris Johnson will try to shut down Parliament next week in order to deliver a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. Running roughshod over our democracy in order to ruin the life chances of future generations. Disgraceful. It must be stopped. https://t.co/zu5STtfk71
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) August 28, 2019
This is a unconstitutional + undemocratic outrage not seen in recent British history. Pulls HM The Queen into major political crisis. Did Cabinet know or approve? How can a tiny meeting of just 3 be allowed to shut down our democracy? This will not stand. https://t.co/9K7XwUzJbP
— Stephen Doughty MP / AS (@SDoughtyMP) August 28, 2019
Boris Johnson is trying to use the Queen to concentrate power in his own hands – this is a deeply dangerous and irresponsible way to govern https://t.co/UEn1isXbSp
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) August 28, 2019
“Questionable” and “outrageous”
Even Conservatives spoke out. Dominic Grieve called Johnson’s move “deeply questionable and frankly pretty outrageous”. He also said Johnson:
knows very well that we are in the middle of a national crisis. He knows very well that parliament is very concerned about the possibility of a no deal Brexit and this has very little to do with starting a new session of parliament. It is a deliberate attempt to make sure parliament doesn’t sit for a five week [period]…
This is an attempt to govern without parliament.
Former chancellor Philip Hammond called it “profoundly undemocratic”:
G’wan Phil. https://t.co/CTEDtkm9KB
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 28, 2019
But as David Cameron’s former press secretary noted, if this move fails, it may also force the terms of an early general election:
I suspect Number 10 believes it has created a win win scenario with this explosive announcement. Yes – and they get Brexit by October 31st; No – and they get to fight a ‘people versus parliament’ general election. https://t.co/T3PlrALFml
— Craig Oliver (@CraigOliver100) August 28, 2019
If it looks like a coup and smells like a coup…
Jeremy Corbyn warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “Trump-deal Brexit”. As he also pointed out, it benefits the rich and creates a “potential goldmine for speculators betting against the pound”. As news broke, the pound slumped:
— Jillieb #FSFA #HaveDemocracy (@jilliebinfrance) August 28, 2019
So, there seems no doubt that this is an unprecedented power grab from Johnson’s right-wing government.
Our democracy is being stolen by a bunch of millionaires playing politics with our lives.
Brexit didn’t have to be played as a zero-sum game. There could have been compromise. But, I suppose, a united electorate doesn’t serve the interest of those who’d rather snatch at power. https://t.co/kphA6lG2Fv
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) August 28, 2019
Politics needs to be put aside now and everyone needs to come together to #StopTheCoup. This is the act of a dictator not a diplomat. You can dress it up all you want about why he has suspended parliament. He has done it to force through no deal. #GeneralStrike
— JP🌈 (@JordanBrindley2) August 28, 2019
The 'prime minister' has finally come out as a dictator. I've had enough of being outraged. We must get rid of him and his loathsome gang as soon and as finally as possible.
— Philip Pullman (@PhilipPullman) August 28, 2019
This may force a general election even sooner than expected:
Prepare for a possible election being called next Thursday, 5th September, for 17th October. Those six weeks will be the fight of our lives to take wealth and power back from a greedy, entitled Establishment that looks only after its own – and has brought the country to disaster.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) August 28, 2019
We’re now in new constitutional territory. In short: it looks like a coup and smells like a coup. So it really is time to resist.
Featured image via Wikimedia – EU20117EE Estonian Presidency
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