The Queen has granted permission for Boris Johnson to ‘prorogue’ parliament. Johnson claims that the suspension is purely in order to start a new session of parliament. But critics, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, believe it’s an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has also described it as a “coup”.
While people are rightly up in arms and calling for a general strike, Johnson’s stance shouldn’t surprise us. After all, there have been several other times when the PM has shown he doesn’t really care about democracy.
That bloody bus
Firstly, there’s that bus. Yes, the one that claimed the UK pays the EU £350m a week and that money could be spent on the NHS instead. The figure was rubbished at the time as it didn’t include the rebate the UK receives from the EU. It also didn’t take into account the amount of money Brexit will cost, to both the government and the wider economy.
In 2017, the head of the UK Statistics Authority David Norgrove slated Johnson’s repeated assertion about the £350m, claiming it was a “clear misuse of statistics”. And as fact-checking website Full Fact reported:
This is wrong.
But Johnson has never retracted or apologised for misleading the UK public for this statement.
Lie, lie again, and if in doubt keep lying
Another key point in Vote Leave’s referendum propaganda that Johnson touted was the lie that Turkey was about to join the EU.
Johnson was confronted on this lie by Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick. Johnson denied making the assertion even though there’s clear evidence of him saying exactly that. During the confrontation with Crick, Johnson lied three times in one speech.
But this lie isn’t the only time Johnson has shown that he doesn’t care about democracy in relation to Turkey. Because there is currently a coup taking place in the country. Three democratically elected mayors in majority Kurdish areas have been removed from office by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They are being replaced by kayyums (‘trustees’) from Erdoğan’s AKP party. Protests are ongoing. Journalists have been arrested. But unlike Jeremy Corbyn who spoke out over the coup, Johnson has kept quiet.
Meanwhile, the government lists Turkey as one of its “priority markets” for arms sales. The Turkish army is NATO’s second largest. And the British government has also officially invited Turkey to attend Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) – one of the world’s largest arms fairs – which is taking place in London in September.
HDP MP and deputy chair for foreign affairs Hişyar Özsoy summed up the ruling Conservative Party’s attitude towards arming Turkey in June 2018:
Theresa May and those stupid Conservatives… after Brexit they just want to improve their bilateral relations with Turkey at a time when Turkey is having so many problems with European Union so they think it’s an opportunity to sell Turkey weapons.
He also claimed that the Conservatives:
don’t care whether Turkey is a democratic country or not. It’s totally business as usual.
And while we’re at it, let’s ignore the courts too
On 20 June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government granting export licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia is “irrational and therefore unlawful”. But instead of respecting this ruling, the government is inviting Saudi Arabia to DSEI.
The UN has long described the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the “worst in the world”. Its report in February highlighted that:
14.3 million people are classified as being in acute need, with around 3.2 million requiring treatment for acute malnutrition; that includes two million children under-five, and more than one million pregnant and lactating women.
As Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade previously told The Canary:
DSEI is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. It exists for one reason only, and that is to sell as many weapons as possible. It will see UK civil servants and military personnel introducing some of the world’s most repressive regimes to many of the world’s biggest arms companies.
We shouldn’t be surprised, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act
These are just a few examples of times when Johnson has shown he doesn’t care about democracy both at home and abroad. And in this context, it’s no surprise that he also doesn’t care about suspending parliament and subverting democracy.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be angry, and it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action. See you on the streets!
Featured image via Flickr/Chatham House
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