Whatever the Supreme Court’s ruling, Johnson’s prorogation is democratic horror

The obscenity of the prime minister’s behaviour neither begins nor ends in the law

Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

 

The Supreme Court has this week provided the scene for constitutional drama not witnessed in over 300 years. A former Conservative prime minister has, in the nation’s highest court, accused the current Conservative prime minister of lying and behaving unlawfully. Judges have heard the numerous ways in which our convention-based constitution could succumb to tyranny. Leading barristers have outlined the now fundamental conflict between the executive and parliament. This, in particular, looks set to be one of the great battles of our age.

The legal arguments have proven chilling. Submissions proposed that, if any prorogation is solely a matter of political judgment or prime ministerial discretion, the PM’s power is almost unlimited. He could prorogue just as parliament was legislating to stop prorogation. He could prorogue to prevent a vote of no-confidence. He could, astonishingly, prorogue prior to renewal of legislation on the Army, thus effectively disbanding it. It is wholly extraordinary that we might have operated for so many decades with so few safeguards.

And yet the legal focus has also been a distraction. The justiciability and lawfulness of parliament’s prorogation is incredibly important—yet it is not the most important element. Even if the judges determine they can make a legal ruling on Boris Johnson’s actions and find them to be lawful, those actions remain neither politically nor morally acceptable. The judicial wrangling this week has not merely illuminated the potential deficiencies and loopholes in our constitution, but in our entire democratic culture.

In the short term, we find the acme of this problem in Johnson’s next decisions. The government has not committed to reinstate the parliamentary session early if the court rules against it. Astonishingly, it has not even pledged not to prorogue parliament once again, on the basis that the court cannot judge something unlawful before it has actually happened. This crisis could quickly and easily become more acute.

In the long term we must confront still greater dangers. Our constitution is, put simply, not worth the paper it is not even written on.

We now live in the age of charlatans. We can no longer depend on the people ruling us to do so with any good faith. We cannot trust them to defend our rules, norms or rights. It is not so much that the government will not protect democracy, it is that democracy must be protected from the government. The current occupants of Downing Street have shown that they are prepared to destroy anything to get what they want. We cannot simply hope that they will go away and never be replaced with people even worse.

A further constitutional battle is gathering: the role of the Queen. In recent days the monarchy has faced almost unprecedented scrutiny on its level of interference in the political process. Arguments have raged over ministers’ advice on the prorogation, and the broader problem that the Queen’s role can so easily be manipulated and abused. David Cameron’s revelation that he asked the sovereign to intervene in the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum has not helped. It must now be time for the constitutional monarchy to do what should be entirely obvious, and subject itself to a constitution. Parliament cannot simply operate at the Queen’s pleasure or discretion. Just as we never sufficiently insulated ourselves against the possibility of a tyrannical prime minister, we need to safeguard against the possibility—however remote it may seem—of a tyrannical monarch.

The most depressing aspect of this dispute is its stark division along the lines of Remain and Leave. Too many politicians and commentators have assumed positions based on whether or not they want the government to be able to force through Brexit. This should not be a matter of anyone’s support for Brexit but for core democratic principles. A most basic point is now considered radical.

On a fundamental level our nation is riven. This week marks five years since the referendum in Scotland. That perhaps exposed for the first time the extent of constitutional divisions, and more specifically, the extent to which national electorates were prepared to break things which for decades had been taken for granted. The late 20th-century certainties about the nature of the United Kingdom, its stability, global role and sense of self, publicly began to erode, and then disintegrate.

These recent years of convulsion have challenged not just the nation’s confidence, but its identity. We are profoundly lost, and it was the people who should have been leading us who led us astray. Now nobody knows the way or can offer us any answers at all. The government gambles with our security, prosperity and place in the world. Parliament cannot hold it to account. All the old realities of our civic life have melted away. Like a child confronted with the sudden realisation of their parents’ inadequacy, we are disoriented, confused and entirely on our own.

The UK’s constitutional settlement has been blown apart, along with the complacency of our assumptions. Questions unresolved for decades or centuries are no longer being pondered in philosophical tracts but posed in the nation’s highest court amid a political emergency.

But this prorogation is not ultimately about the law. It goes to the heart of who governs us and how. It asks us if our constitution is not merely unwritten but in fact a sham, and asks us how we will cope with the answer. It is, in the end, a question of whether our democracy actually exists in any form worthy of the name.

With many thanks to: Prospect Magazine and Jonathan Liz for the original story 

About this author

Jonathan Liz

Jonathan Lis is Deputy Director of the Think Tank British Influence
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Boris Johnson posed with military chiefs and the jokes wrote themselves

Boris Johnson, British prime minister, whose middle name is ‘de Pfeffel’, posted a photo of himself with military generals on Twitter, and the internet couldn’t resist making jokes about it. Picture: Boris Johnson/Twitter

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

Today I met with military chiefs at 10 Downing Street. Thank you all for the selfless work that you do to protect our great nation. 🇬🇧

View image on Twitter
3,320 people are talking about this

On the face of it, probably quite a well-meaning tweet, but also a little bit Trumpian. ‘Our great nation’ – do we say this now?

The last few years have proved that we’re anything but.

Regardless, in the aftermath of the photo, the internet had a grand old time of doing what we Brits are actually good at, making fun of things. Here are some of the best responses;

Timbola
@Tim4118
Replying to @ThePoke
Johnson first reserve for Village People reunion tour.

17
9:59 AM – Sep 20, 2019
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See Timbola’s other Tweets

James Felton

@JimMFelton

Pro-tip: Nothing screams “not a coup” like using your time after you’ve shut down parliament to pose for photos surrounded by military generals in Number 10. https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1174682159673724929 

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

Today I met with military chiefs at 10 Downing Street. Thank you all for the selfless work that you do to protect our great nation. 🇬🇧

View image on Twitter
1,802 people are talking about this

This one gets to the point pretty quickly…

Rt Hon Sir Peter Mannion KCB MP@PeterMannionMP

Soldier, Sailor, Soldier, Cunt…

See Rt Hon Sir Peter Mannion KCB MP’s other Tweets

And you know it’s bad if Alistair Campbell is getting involved on a personal level

Alastair PEOPLE’S VOTE Campbell

@campbellclaret

I don’t know them all but the ones I know think you’re a clown and Brexit is a threat to national security https://twitter.com/borisjohnson/status/1174682159673724929 

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

Today I met with military chiefs at 10 Downing Street. Thank you all for the selfless work that you do to protect our great nation. 🇬🇧

View image on Twitter
1,459 people are talking about this

We hope Armando Ianucci was watching…

The Reds ☭ 🇵🇸@Red_UnderTheBed

Looks like a fucking shite remake of the Death of Stalin.

The feller on the left is intense isn’t he https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1174682159673724929 

Boris Johnson

@BorisJohnson

Today I met with military chiefs at 10 Downing Street. Thank you all for the selfless work that you do to protect our great nation. 🇬🇧

View image on Twitter
22 people are talking about this

Plus, is it even political satire without a Blackadder reference?

See Jeremy Newman’s other Tweets

The Prime Minister was meeting with military generals to announce an added £2.2 billion boost to the UK’s defence budget, and this was one of many tweets where Boris showcased himself meeting with and admiring the armed forces this week. After the hospital debacle, which he has tried to pass of as a good thing. We’re sure Brexit has nothing to do with us having to spend more to protect ourselves. Nothing at all.

HT The Poke

With many thanks to: Indy 100 and Alexandra Haddow for the original story 

Fuck Boris Johnson

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Gerry Adams with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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Rapper holds up severed dummy head of Boris Johnson at awards – so BBC cuts HIM off | Vox Political

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/20/rapper-holds-up-severed-dummy-head-of-boris-johnson-at-awards-so-bbc-cuts-him-off/

The British government is set on a deliberate course to rewrite the Good Friday Agreement ǀ View | Euronews

https://www.euronews.com/2019/09/19/the-british-government-is-set-on-a-deliberate-course-to-rewrite-the-good-friday-agreement

Boris Johnson confronted by angry father on hospital vist: and Laura Kuenssberg faced Twitter backlash for her tweet

Follow this link to find out more: https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>http://<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>&quot;The NHS is being destroyed.&quot; <a href=”https://t.co/EMG9Kn9L8O”>pic.twitter.com/EMG9Kn9L8O</a></p>&mdash; Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) <a href=”https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/1174685575049351169?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 19, 2019</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Boris caught out lying again over hospital vist and here’s the proof

 

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/09/18/laura-kuenssberg-thought-shed-caught-out-the-man-who-confronted-boris-johnson-paul-mason-set-her-straight/?fbclid=IwAR348JdBULfSafJEPNVvj1qGyQj08xYfB9SRqgMkgiwJqfGCYCWCdr_Nxz8

(2)-: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/19/johnson-caught-lying-again-his-hospital-junket-was-a-press-opportunity/?fbclid=IwAR3TOvoMR0gkugtP0haBrdLDGfY76x_LgFCuwJARgvlEYaBwa9qPc-qyW3w

DUP claims on backstop bordering on the ridiculous

The truth is no-one in the DUP understands the EU legal order. All they do is parrot the equally ignorant Conservative Brexiteers whom they revere. What suckers they are.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster

YOU’D wonder why anyone here takes seriously the nonsense DUP MPs spout every time they speak about Brexit on radio or TV.

It may be because, with the distinguished exception of local BBC’s Economics and Business Editor, John Campbell, most interviewers don’t have enough knowledge of the detail of borders, customs and so on, to avoid bursting out laughing when the likes of Jeffrey Donaldson or Sammy Wilson deliver another load of garbage. It’s been going on now for over three years. Donaldson, self-appointed expert on imaginary technology at frontiers, repeatedly assured interviewers and listeners that trade would be ‘frictionless’. He gave the US-Canada border as an example. That proved to be untrue. He then gave the Norway-Sweden border as an example. Also untrue.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson

He could not name any device which would successfully monitor vehicles and their contents, let alone animals alive or dead crossing a border. Despite EU officials examining in vain every border that exists. Donaldson kept insisting with no evidence whatsoever that such technology does exist. It doesn’t. His equally evidentially challenged colleague Spluttering Sammy, a man who looks as if he doesn’t know whether to be angry or indignant, regularly dumped similar garbage loads, though with more sound and fury signifying nothing. The truth is no one in the DUP understands the EU legal order. All they do is parrot the equally ignorant Conservative Brexiteers whom they revere. What suckers they are.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson

Tony Blair’s former chief of staff and general factotom, Jonathan Powell, who does understand the EU legal order, admirably summed up the trilemma in a letter to the Times last week. He wrote that, since the UK is leaving the customs union and the single market, and Johnson apparently favours a Canada-style trade deal, then, ‘there will have to be a border somewhere. It can be between the North of Ireland and the Republic, between the North of Ireland and the rest of the UK, or between the island of Ireland and the rest of the EU.’ As Powell acknowledged, the Republic is staying in the EU’s single market and customs union, therefore ‘to suggest that a common agricultural area for the island and some cobbled-together ideas about trusted trader schemes solves [the border], is nonsense.’

On the other hand, as the Republic’s finance minister Pascal Donohoe said on Monday, the UK intends to abandon EU regulations to acquire trading advantages. In short, despite the mendacious spin emanating from Downing Street, the UK is miles from a resolution. Furthermore, even if Johnson proposed something workable, which he won’t, he couldn’t get it through Westminster because he has no majority for anything. In any case, Britain has not advanced any proposals on anything. There has been no progress at all as the aftermath of Monday’s lunch fiasco made clear. The most depressing aspect of the performance of the DUP is not that they’re laying; they’re not. They unload garbage because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They have never uttered a single syllable on their own initiative. Instead, they took as gospel rubbish spewed out by men in the Conservative party who have no knowledge of the EU, but more importantly, couldn’t care less about anything or anyone on this island as the evidence of the referendum and Theresa May’s ‘red lines’ demonstrates conclusively.

Rather than think for themselves, or for the benefit of people here, the DUP’s MPs buy all this garbage and then regurgitate it on the airwaves here. They are the Conservative Party’s useful idiots, stooges. Now belatedly poor Donaldson is being sent out to prepare the party faithful for a U-turn on regulatory divergence. Conceding it on agri-food, as he did on RTE, means conceding the principle of no divergence on anything. What’s the argument against divergence on alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals? Why is he doing it? He knows that’s the direction of travel in Johnson’s cabinet. How far will the DUP go? Anywhere Johnson wants.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and

Brian Feeney

Brian Feeney for the original story.

 

There may still be a way out for Boris Johnson: to pass Theresa May’s deal

Inside Westminster: This has been elegantly known for some time as the Garamond Compromisethe idea that if Johnson printed the withdrawal agreement in a new typeface MPs might go for it. And Garamond is indeed elegant

The Independent Voices
The big question in British politics now is not if Boris Johnson will resign, but when. Should he go next week, or should he wait until 19 October, when the law requires him to sign a letter asking the EU for a Brexit extension?

All the routes out of the dead end seem to be closed. The Scottish National Party isn’t going to rescue him at the last moment by ditching the other parties in the anti-no-deal alliance and voting for an early election.

The prime minister can’t pass a motion of no confidence in his own government because the anti-no-deal parties will, to pile absurdity on absurdity, vote against it (that is, that they do have confidence in Her Majesty’s Government).

And I don’t think that even Johnson can seriously contemplate breaking the law by refusing to ask for an extension and trying to stay in office.

But there is one possible way out through which he may yet squeeze. The bill designed to block a no-deal Brexit, which will become law on Monday, says the prime minister must send the letter asking for an extension unless parliament has approved a withdrawal agreement.

‘Brexit is like…’ The Top 20 Twitter analogies
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Is it possible that MPs could finally vote for something very like Theresa May’s deal at the fourth time of asking? This has been known for some time as the Garamond Compromise: that if Johnson printed the withdrawal agreement in a new typeface – and Garamond is elegant – MPs might vote for something that was cosmetically different.

Is there a change – a bit more substantial than the font – that could be made to the withdrawal agreement that would persuade 30 more MPs than voted for it last time to do so at the last moment?

It doesn’t seem likely. Johnson cut the ground from under his own feet on Wednesday, when he said that, if the anti-no-deal bill became law, it “effectively ends the negotiations” with the EU. He meant that the EU side would have no incentive to compromise if it knew that we weren’t going to leave without a deal.

But he may have been too emphatic. It is possible that EU leaders might think that another extension would only postpone the problem rather than solve it. If they see the chance of what they call an orderly Brexit, with a deal, they may want to help make it happen.

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They might calculate that further delay is likely to lead to the election of a Tory government, this time with a parliamentary majority in favour of a no-deal exit if necessary. They might decide that wearing down British resistance by an endless delay that eventually leads to a second referendum is more trouble than it is worth.

So they might think it was worth making minor concessions – I have no idea what they might be, but perhaps some form of words about sectoral checks away from the Irish border might be branded by Johnson as a democratic backstop rather than an undemocratic one.

Then we are back to the familiar arithmetic: if Johnson could win over 12 of the hard-Brexit Tory MPs who voted against May’s deal all three times – this time with the added inducement of being expelled from the party if they vote the wrong way (the disciplinarian crackdown on the soft-Brexiteers could pay dividends); if he could persuade the 10 DUP MPs; and if the 17 in Stephen Kinnock’s “Labour MPs for a Deal” group belatedly did what they regret not doing in the first place; then a withdrawal agreement could pass.

Well, unlikelier things have happened.

With many thanks to the: Evening Standard and John Rentoul for the original story @johnrentoul

 

 

 

 

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