A video of protesters marching on Buckingham Palace has gone instantly viral. It appears Boris Johnson’s unprecedented move to suspend parliament has further undermined public trust in Britain’s political institutions, including the royal family.
People are literally marching on Buckingham Palace. Honestly incredible pic.twitter.com/APQRBfrb9s
— William Kedjanyi (@KeejayOV2) August 31, 2019
The Queen has approved Johnson’s request to suspend parliament. Elizabeth Windsor couldn’t have refused without bringing the monarchy into a political dispute. It’s a political dispute rather than a clear violation of law because the UK doesn’t actually have a written constitution that upholds parliamentary democracy.
But Windsor approving Johnson’s request still means that the UK has an unelected head of state rubber-stamping an unelected prime minister’s move to shut down the Commons. For many, that’s unacceptable.
— Will Mac (@mac1will) August 31, 2019
— A✌🏻🌐 (@husseybyname) August 31, 2019
While many consider the royal family’s role a formality, senior royals have exercised their little-known power to veto new laws in the recent past. A court order forced the Conservative government to reveal the information. And as the Guardian reports:
The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.
The legal scholar who secured the information release John Kirkhope said:
There has been an implication that these prerogative powers are quaint and sweet but actually there is real influence and real power, albeit unaccountable
Johnson plans to suspend parliament from “no earlier than Monday 9 September and no later than Thursday 12 September, until Monday 14 October”. This has sparked protests from thousands of people across the UK, as well as at Buckingham Palace.
While the BBC has suggested Johnson’s suspension is a normal occurrence, the opposite is true. 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.
Additionally, with a suspended parliament, the Conservative government will no longer face the scrutiny of the Commons, the Lords, accountability of ministerial questioning, or select committees. This is different to the normal procedure of recess where select committees can still meet to evaluate policy. And this is happening right before the risk of a Conservative-administered no-deal Brexit.
We have an unelected head of state okaying an unelected prime minister suspending parliamentary democracy. What we need is an elected head of state and a written constitution for them to uphold. Until then, long may the protests at Buckingham Palace continue.
Featured image via Will Mac/ Twitter
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