Theresa May is trying to override parliamentary democracy to cling to power. But no one’s fooled

Theresa May
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Theresa May appears to be trying to override parliamentary democracy to cling to power. But, by the looks of things, no one’s fooled.

Each year the Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session. If parliament does not accept the agenda or its legitimacy, the speech can be voted down. This represents a vote of no confidence in the government. But May has now cancelled the 2018 Queen’s Speech, doubling the length of the next parliamentary session to two years.

The Conservatives’ claim the highly irregular move is to ensure there’s enough time to pass complicated Brexit legislation. But cancelling the 2018 Queen’s Speech conveniently avoids a parliamentary procedure where May could be voted out of power.

Fooling no one

People are lining up to call out the holes in the Conservatives’ reasoning. The government posits that Brexit’s legislative procedure means parliament shouldn’t have a vote on the government’s agenda in 2018.

But Channel 4 anchor Jon Snow was quick to point out that Brexit does not nullify domestic issues in the UK, nor does it make a Queen’s Speech vote implausible:

The Grenfell fire has brought the UK housing crisis under intense scrutiny. Successive Conservative-led governments have created artificial housing scarcity that further enriches property owners. Starving the supply of genuinely affordable accommodation inflates house prices and rents. Such a housing strategy, coupled with a deregulatory agenda, is forcing more and more ordinary people into dangerous and uncomfortable conditions. As Snow points out, the housing crisis is one example of many crucial issues May is sidelining by cancelling the 2018 Queen’s Speech.

Meanwhile, the Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, Sarah Champion MP, suggested May’s decision is an attack on democracy:

The Conservatives have already offered dubious reasons for delaying this year’s Queen’s Speech. The government says the 2017 speech has been postponed partly because it takes awhile for ink to dry on goat skin parchment.

The Queen’s Speech is now due to take place on Wednesday 21 June. May is presently trying to form a ‘confidence and supply’ deal with the extremist DUP to cling to power. But Jeremy Corbyn is hoping to vote down May’s 2017 speech and present his own alternative agenda for government. If Corbyn’s proposal is voted through, he could end up Prime Minister in a minority government. If not, another general election will likely follow.

‘Doesn’t add up’

A vote for May’s 2017 Queen’s speech is now a vote for two years of her government. David Allen Green, law and policy commentator at the Financial Times, is unconvinced by the Conservatives’ reasoning:

Green says cancelling the 2018 Queen’s Speech is about avoiding a no-confidence vote.

‘Tory shenanigans’

Another prominent Labour Shadow Minister, Angela Rayner MP, called out May for overriding democracy:

Brexit legislation should not be an excuse for overriding parliamentary democracy. May’s planned informal coalition with the DUP likely undermines the peace process in Northern Ireland. So parliament should surely be consulted again on the informal coalition should it survive until 2018.

Indeed, Brexit was supposed to be about regaining parliamentary supremacy. But the Conservatives seem to be co-opting the Brexit process to remove parliamentary accountability to desperately cling to power. May should end the charade, resign and call another general election.

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