It looks like Boris Johnson’s premiership is in a very precarious position. Only a small percentage of the public buys his excuse for suspending parliament according to new polling from IPSOS Mori. Johnson claims he is suspending parliament to sort out the NHS and knife crime. But only 13% of the public buys this excuse.
New What is closing parliament for? Most don't believe No 10 pic.twitter.com/MJwwtybAQR
— Ben Page, Ipsos MORI (@benatipsosmori) August 30, 2019
As indicated above, little over 1 in 10 believe that Johnson is looking out for the NHS and knife crime. 70%, meanwhile, selected the other option, which is that the Conservative leader is trying to stop MPs blocking a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Johnson’s real aim
But there’s a deeper rationale for Johnson’s strategy. Johnson has been remarkably inconsistent in his views on the EU. In fact, the Tory leader argued fundamentally on the opposite side of the debate almost right up until the 2016 EU referendum.
As late as February 2016, Johnson said:
leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty, while embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country – low skills, low social mobility, low investment etc – that have nothing to do with Europe
What Johnson has been consistent with is whatever benefits his career at the time. Only a month after saying this, and the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruslip and his advisors had apparently reinvented millionaire Johnson as a Brexiteer Tory leader in waiting. In March 2016, Johnson had changed his tune indeed:
ignore the pessimists and the merchants of doom…
I think we can strike a deal as the Canadians have done based on trade and getting rid of tariffs. It’s a very, very bright future I see
This is not the only time Johnson has articulated opposing positions on the EU within a matter of months. Upon becoming an overnight leader of Leave, Johnson said in March 2016 that Britain leaving the European Union would be:
like the jailer has accidentally left the door of the jail open and people can see the sunlit land beyond. And everybody is suddenly wrangling about the terrors of the world outside. Actually it would be wonderful. It would be a huge weight lifted from British business
My ideal world is, we’re there, we’re in the EU, trying to make it better.
This flipflopping suggests that Johnson is less concerned about Brexit and more about his own career prospects. Because he switched to supporting Leave when it became politically convenient to do so. Now, Johnson has to appear to be doing everything he can to deliver Brexit to prevent Conservative voters flocking to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Majority also think suspending parliament is unacceptable
The majority of the public are also not okay with Johnson suspending parliament full stop. 47% of respondents to YouGov on 28 August said that suspending parliament in the run up to Brexit is “not acceptable”, while only 27% thought it was.
Almost as many, 26%, opted for “don’t know”. Given Johnson suspending parliament is an unprecedented assault on democracy, things could get worse for the prime minister.
Johnson plans to suspend parliament from “no earlier than Monday 9 September and no later than Thursday 12 September, until Monday 14 October”. While the BBC has suggested this is a normal occurrence, the opposite is true. Johnson’s suspension 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.
Johnson simply suspending the Commons has exposed that UK law doesn’t even uphold basic parliamentary democracy. As the reality of what is happening becomes clearer, Johnson’s extraordinary move may well turn more people against him. Johnson, the unelected descendant of King George II, is on the brink.
Featured image via Boris Johnson/ WikiCommons
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