Boris Johnson and the Blatantly Undemocratic Suspension of Parliament
Brexit is one of those news stories that, like a Monty Python sketch, seems to get more insane the longer it goes on.
Already founded on a premise guaranteed to be politically destabilizing, the three years that have passed since the referendum that started this whole mess have seen numerous delays to Britain’s exit date, reveals of blatant falsehoods among pro-Brexit campaigners, and two Prime Ministers, with the newest, Conservative Boris Johnson, being pretty much the last person sane observers wanted for the role.
This is a situation, then, that’s stressful enough, but Johnson, in a fashion not too dissimilar from other incompetent heads of state, has somehow found a way to make it more so, for in looking at this situation and his plans to push through a hard, no deal, absolute worst-case-scenario Brexit whether the British public wants him to or not, he apparently decided to nix the democratic part of the process altogether, getting the Queen’s permission to suspend Parliament until just before a no deal Brexit goes into effect.
One is hard pressed to find an interpretation that makes Johnson look good or in any way competent here, for any way you look at it, this looks like the desperate machinations of a man who’s extremely afraid of not getting his way, which, when one looks at the larger picture, is not an entirely unjustified fear.
The conservative majority within Parliament that has allowed discussions of a no-deal Brexit to proceed as long as they have has slowly eroded ever since the initial Brexit referendum, the biggest blow to it being a very badly miscalculated snap election by former Prime Minister Theresa May that, opposite of her intended goal, made anti-Conservative forces in Parliament more powerful. Just before Parliament’s suspension, in fact, he had lost his Conservative majority due to a MP switching political parties mid-debate, so it wouldn’t have been inconceivable for him to be overruled by Parliament no matter what he did.
Johnson’s fear of his Brexit plans being derailed, then, aren’t completely unfounded. If anything, though, this only makes his actions look even more cowardly and childish, the Parliamentary equivalent of him taking his ball and going home.
If he knew that his plans for a no-deal Brexit were going to be stalled, the most rational course of action for him to take, Britain being a democracy and all, would have been to at least attempt to negotiate with the growing anti-Conservative coalition.
Again, this would have likely not given him the result he wants, but it would have at least given the impression of a leader willing to talk to the other side and be reasonable with them.
A court in Scotland ruled on Wednesday that Johnson’s suspension was unlawful, in effect saying that the action represented an attempt to prevent Parliament from holding Johnson’s feet to the fire.
This, combined with allegations that he lied to the Queen about his reasons for suspending Parliament in the first place (it’s generally an extremely big no-no to lie to a ruling monarch), could hopefully force Johnson to reopen Parliament and, by extension, restore British citizens’ democratic voices in their own government.
It wouldn’t fix the absurdities of the Brexit situation at hand, but, if Britain does follow through on its promise to leave, it would at least reassure British citizens that they do, in fact, have a place in these discussions that’s more powerful than the machinations of a desperate and incompetent head of state.
Cold comfort, perhaps, but better than nothing.