It’s on. Boris Johnson just launched a coup to suspend parliament.

Boris Johnson
Fréa Lockley

Boris Johnson’s government will ask the queen to suspend parliament. As the UK hurtles closer to the 31 October Brexit deadline, this looks very much like a coup.

“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.

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The BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg noted this will prompt a “HUGE row”:

Others, meanwhile, confirmed details about this process and what it may mean:

Yet Johnson said it’s “completely untrue” that he’s blocking democracy. But Commons speaker John Bercow disagreed:

Meanwhile, in a letter, Johnson casually confirmed he’ll close parliament at one of the most critical points in the UK’s history:

So shadow chancellor John McDonnell called it a “very British coup”:

“Unelected poundshop dictator”

MPs were swift to condemn Johnson. Labour’s David Lammy called him an “unelected poundshop dictator”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, said this would go down as a ‘dark day’ in history:

Green MP Caroline Lucas called this move a “constitutional outrage”:

Many Labour figures also condemned Johnson:

“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”:

But as David Cameron’s former press secretary noted, if this move fails, it may also force the terms of an early general election:

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:

So, there seems no doubt that this is an unprecedented power grab from Johnson’s right-wing government.

This may force a general election even sooner than expected:

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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    1. A report on the BBC website states the Queen has no option but to prorogue parliament if a prime minister requests it. If true, that makes nonsense of constitutional monarchy. Monarchy becomes wholly decorative. Residual royal prerogatives thus are meaningless.

      The Queen, a person slotted into a role from childhood, is widely believed to have conducted herself with diligence, decency, and decorum, which is more than can be said of her three elder children. It appears she has chosen to retain her office into extreme old age rather than entrust it to her foolish eldest son a day before the Grim Reaper declares otherwise. It’s sad to see her face the greatest constitutional crisis of her reign at this late stage, a time when stress is can be devastating.

      Boris Johnson has chosen to place this burden upon Elizabeth. A completely unnecessary imposition other than for sustaining Johnson’s hubris.

      I believe the BBC report incorrect. The Queen can turn down a request from her prime minister. In normal times that of itself could provoke constitutional crisis when presented as overriding an elected government. Constitutional monarchy must maintain delicate balance. It is a fragile institution depending upon consent of the powerful and emotional attachment by simple people. Thus, prerogatives of broad impact are last ditch tools if not exercised according to a prime minister’s wishes. Appearance of their misuse places monarchy in jeopardy.

      Present circumstances are an about turn of those when Cromwell went head to head with Charles I. Charles sought to dominate the House of Commons whereas Cromwell resisted. The Queen is now in the position of Cromwell as potential protector of the powers of the House of Commons. Johnson takes Charles’ role as arrogant would-be usurper of the Commons.

      According to headlines in one newspaper yesterday (I forget which), Johnson intends to pack the Lords with pro-‘no-deal’ Brexit supporters. These presumably drawn from among Johnson’s corrupt acquaintances. That likely is death knell for the Lords but not until Johnson has been sent packing.

      Failure of Elizabeth to acquiesce with Johnson’s demand could strengthen perception of monarchy as an institution of useful purpose; the task of bringing about its downfall may safely be left in the hands of Charles Windsor at a later date. Elizabeth would be perceived by many (Remainers and Brexiteers) as standing with her people and parliament against an oppressive government. It’s to be hoped she grasps the lack of real urgency of pushing through Brexit at the end of October.

      Another factor Elizabeth ought consider is, seemingly unprecedented, intervention of the Speaker of the Commons by condemning Johnson’s planned action in bypassing parliament. John Bercow, like his predecessor in the time of Charles I, is proving himself a man of steadfast honour.

      With or without the Queen’s input, events are moving apace to send Johnson out of office with ignominy. The Queen’s refusal to prorogue parliament might be necessary to prevent division of loyalties among people in institutions upon which the state depends. Perhaps, bloodshed too shall be averted.

      As for any proposal by Johnson to ‘ennoble’ the inherently ignoble, that must be given short shrift.

      —–

      Author’s email: atlanticcouncil@protonmail.com

      Therefore,

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