McDonnell slams the ‘dictatorship’ after Johnson takes his assault on UK democracy to the next level

John McDonnell
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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell branded Boris Johnson’s government an “elective dictatorship” on 1 September after the administration took its assault on UK democracy to the next level.

Johnson already plans to suspend parliament from “no earlier than Monday 9 September and no later than Thursday 12 September, until Monday 14 October”. But now senior cabinet minister Michael Gove has suggested that the government may ignore new parliamentary laws. Speaking to the BBC‘s Andrew Marr, Gove said:

Let’s see what the legislation says. You’re asking me about a pig in a poke. And I will wait to see what legislation the opposition may try to bring forward.

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Opposition MPs are seeking to bring in laws that could mandate an extension to the Brexit process rather than no-deal on 31 October. When asked again, Gove doubled down:

We will see what the legislation says when it is brought forward. For me the point is that we already have legislation in place which an overwhelming majority of MPs voted for [article 50].

Suspending parliament

Gove is now in Johnson’s government, upholding the move to suspend parliament. Yet in June 2019 he said:

Proroguing parliament in order to try and get no deal through, I think would be wrong.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has made a similar rapid U-turn. On 16 June, he rejected the idea of suspending parliament, saying:

You don’t deliver on democracy by trashing democracy

The Conservative leader’s parliamentary shutdown of up to 35 days is the longest since 1945. This will have huge consequences. Although Johnson’s ministers cannot bring in brand new (primary) legislation, they can continue changing legislation that was previously delegated to them.


On social media, people were aghast:

It turns out the basic level of parliamentary democracy we thought we had achieved isn’t even set in stone. That’s all the more clear now Gove is suggesting the government will only follow the law if they feel like it. We have to fight hard for the rights that our ancestors died for. Before it’s too late.

Featured image via The RSA/ YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. The basic level of democracy depends on people observing a set of unwritten conventions. The wayward brain behind these moves belongs to Cummings. His strategy is disruption and destruction: whatever is the accepted way of doing things must be overturned. His role in education led to many good teachers being forced out because the established notion that teachers are professionals who must be given the freedom to plan and deliver their own lessons was turned to ash.
      As we have no written constitution, Cummings’ approach will lead to one full-blown constitutional crisis after another.
      Gove’s ambivalence means what we have all accepted no longer holds: the government will now judge whether or not to obey the law. Of course, the courts are sure to get involved if it doesn’t, but once the Rubicon is crossed no one knows quite where this will lead.
      The vote is likely to go against Cummings-Johnson next week. Johnson will then probably call a General Election to be held after 31st October. There will be a legal challenge. Johnson may be found in contempt of court; but what will happen if he says, so what? Will he be imprisoned ? Would the courts baulk at that?
      This sounds like mad fantasy, but it is where Cummings-Johnson is leading us. We may quickly find our parliamentary democracy in tatters, the courts more or less impotent and a pair of emotionally regressed admirers of Trump shutting down on everything they dislike, which is a great deal we take for granted.
      If parliament and the courts are tested and can’t hold them back, what then? The common folk must stop them. Saturday showed how people can be brought to the streets in dozens of towns and cities in defence of democracy. If all else fails, we will have to rescue it.

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