Wednesday 28 August 2019

Why Boris Johnson is Closing Parliament

Can Boris Johnson's proposed suspension of parliament be described as a coup? No. But is it a very serious matter? Yes.

Effectively what the government are trying to do is extend the parliamentary recess for conference season. Which has the added bonus of reducing sitting time and the possibility the honourable members will throw a spanner into the Brexit works. Which, at the moment, is looking like we're odds on for the idiocy of a no deal exit.

This is a response to the widely-reported success of Jeremy Corbyn's meeting yesterday with other opposition parties. After a summer of posturing, bad faith demands, and mind-boggling weirdness, everyone involved came round to a common position of looking at legislative means of preventing a no deal Brexit. Readers will recall from the indicative votes early on in the year that there is a majority in the Commons against no deal, but not for any other flavour of Brexit. However, the two proposals that came the nearest to succeeding, which were permutations of a deal keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU, only fell because the remain ultras of what was then Change UK voted against, Vince Cable and Tim Farron were absent doing other things, and the usual Labour suspects rebelled. This time with all the parties on board the danger is for Johnson and his schemes that they will succeed and his hands would be tied. He knows full well, given how he's painted himself into a corner, extending Article 50 and not leaving the EU on 31st October is curtains for him and curtains for the Tories.

Hence reducing the amount of time the Commons can sit chokes off this possibility. As Tory "rebel" Dominic Grieve observes, this makes a vote of no confidence in Johnson more likely. Indeed it does, but he's chill with the prospect. Again, after a summer of wrangling and the public display of Corbynphobia from recalcitrant Tory MPs and all the opposition parties save the SNP Johnson thinks he has more chance of surviving this than seeing off legislative assaults on Brexit. And he has a point. A no confidence multiplies the chances of a general election, and the likes of the various independents and pro-EU Tories aren't about to vote themselves out of existence.

This is the game Johnson is playing. It's not without risks. Again, it is not a coup and is well within the bounds of constitutionalism, but it does smack of desperation and shows the government is spooked by its opponents. He's provided a rallying point for all the forces arrayed against him. As Stephen Bush notes though, by putting all his opponents in one place he can go for an election in which his Tories are the voice of the people vs elite MPs riding roughshod all over the referendum's democratic will. And with no Brexit Party breathing down his neck, as per Nigel Farage's comments yesterday, if the opposition is divided he can win big. That is, assuming, Labour and the SNP support his attempts to call an election. In all other circumstances, they would, but at this hour and in a situation in which Johnson appears to be going for one from a position with every advantage? Who can say.

Hold on to your hats. Politics is getting interesting again.

Image credit


Speedy said...

If no confidence leads to an election it will be set after Oct 31.

We are back to square one - no confidence but no interim government unless its led by Corbyn.

Equals - no deal.

Dipper said...

Boris just gets better and better. Dominic Cummings is pulling those strings really well.

What every working man understands is that you need to front up, or you will get nothing. Boris is fronting up. You fancy having a go? Well come on then!

The argument from Remain MPs, that proroguing parliament which has been done every year just about for yonks until now when we've had the longest session ever is somehow unconstitutional, but their constant rewriting of the constitution to enable government-by-parliament is constitutional, is obviously crackers.

But then Remain MPs argument is that because the referendum they voted to have, had a question that they decided on didn't have a specific way of leaving the EU, that therefore there isn't a mandate for any particular way of leaving the EU, hence there isn't really a mandate for leaving the EU at all, is the biggest anti-democratic load of nonsense ever.

So, election, thePeople vs Parliament. Here we go!

As an American/Dutch friend observed, it is like watching a civil war in slow motion.

Speedy said...

Dipper, you're correct - it was a smart move. Personally, I find it stunning that Remain does not understand what it is up against, but it has always been thus - look at 1917, 1933.

Hopefully, this will provide the shock needed, although I agree it is likely to be too little too late.

However, in time, those who trumpet this move may come to rue it. No Deal without parliamentary approval, imposed under the authority of monarch against the declared wish of Parliament, lacks legitimacy, whether technically legal or not. Never mind the lies of leave, it will discredit the entire "constitution".

You're right - wars have been fought over less. There will be no "closure", only a lingering bitterness that may express itself in unexpected ways in the years ahead as the constitution is revealed to have no clothes. Time and again it will be cited as a precedent. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Never mind the fact that all respect for constitutional niceties will be lost on the Left (don't expect any more referendums when the UK re-enters the single market, or even mentions in the manifesto for that matter - I mean, who gives a shit any more?) and if I was a monarchist I would be concerned that in time this would provide prima face evidence for the case against the monarchy. Scotland will leave. Ireland will burn, though obviously, you couldn't give a shit about that.

At the moment Leavers are right to crow over their win, but the 'blowback' over the years to come could be unexpected - I expect some form of re-entry into the EU in a decade or so under beggar's terms, or at the very least EEA. At some point, Remain will get back in, and it will have blood. A precedent has been set - power is all, democratic convention counts for nothing. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

"What every working man understands is that you need to front up, or you will get nothing"

Seriously what the fuck does this even mean? Right wing populists always flatter the working man when it suits, in between trashing their unions (you know the actual ones who front up)

"As an American/Dutch friend observed, it is like watching a civil war in slow motion."

Or possibly how the final season of game of thrones should have panned out!

Jim Denham said...

"it is not a coup and is well within the bounds of constitutionalism, but it does smack of desperation and shows the government is spooked by its opponents": what an extraordinary comment, Phil! You manage in the course of a single sentence to provide political defence of Johnson and to massively underestimate the strength of his position.

Btw: not an issue for now, but Corbyn's response so far has been pathetic.

Dipper said...

... just to make the obvious point about negotiation, as in this case where Johson is negotiating with Parliament, what you don't do is what May did, which is be weak in front of your opponents and beg them to be nice to you. What you do is identify the end point of disagreement, prepare yourself for it, then drive the negotiations straight toward it and dare you opponents to pull the emergency cord.

Leave won the referendum and has then faced opposition from every part of the political machine here and abroad. It is such a relief to finally have a leader prepared to drive his chariots right into the centre of the opposition and challenge them to stop him. If we lose, we will at least have gone down fighting.

Phil said...

Hi Jim, how is Johnson's move against the constitution?

Dipper said...

@ Speedy

No deal is approaching because Parliament triggered Article 50 and then failed to approve a deal. It was stated in the relevant white paper that failure to agree a deal would result in leaving without a deal. As DavidAllenGreen says, in order to not leave with no deal, you need to do something else. Parliament cannot do agree to do that.

Leaving without a deal is not an end state. The preferred state is a deal. Johnson voted for May's deal. I would have voted for May's deal despite it basically being a surrender document. But Parliament didn't. So the intention is to agree a deal, after we have left without one if ncecessary.

bbk said...

Jim Denham. Good point about Corbyn. It's pathetic how Jeremy absolutely refused to storm the privy council meeting by himself and take everyone there hostage to prevent the Queen from approving Johnson's request.

Speedy said...

Dipper, I agree with your analysis, although that was not the point of this post. What you forget, when you mention 'parliament' is that is was largely hardline Brexiters and Ulster Democrats who scuppered May's deal. Yes, Labour opposed it - why shouldn't they, it was a Tory deal. You see - goose and gander again. May should have formed a national convention to decide the aims of Brexit which represented the views of the country as a whole. Instead she defined it by her own narrow Tory terms, so Labour were entitled to oppose it because it ignored even many Labour Brexit voters. The only people who are getting what they really want are the hard-right Brexiters who very few (apart from yourself, obv) agreed with or thought they were getting when they believed the 350m for the NHS (LOLS). They have played a blinder, but they have also hijacked what even many Leavers thought they were voting for. More fool them, eh? From Cameron's decision, to May's incompetence, to the gangsterism of Johnson, this has brought the true character of Toryism to the fore.

On the other hand you have to admire this bunch of cretins and psychopaths (albeit aided by 80 per cent of the media) for managing to pull off the coup, but it can't last - as Phil might say (although I often disagree with him on this) the ill-educated working classes who believe this tosh will die out and (thanks to Labour) the 50 per cent of kids now educated at university will develop the critical skills to see them for what they are. Sure, there will always be 20 per cent of shits and idiots, but it will not be enough.

Jim Denham said...

Phil: not being a constitutional lawyer I don't know whether or not Johnson's coup is "unconstitutional" - and as a political activist, nor do I care. The point is that it's undemocratic and done in the cause of a thoroughly reactionary agenda. That's what concerns me - and should concern you.

Boffy said...

Its a Bonapartist coup. There is talk of further measures to keep parliament suspended such as calling a series of new Bank Holidays. I wouldn't put it past Johnson for there to be the equivalent of Reichstag Fire, using the decrepit nature of the parliamentary estate as cover.

All those amongst the red-Brown coalition that backed Brexit have now been exposed, but instead of recognising the bankruptcy of the political positions they took in supporting Brexit being pushed through, they are instead doubling down, and lining up even more as apologists for Johnson and his coup.

They are becoming rapidly beyond redemption.

Phil said...

In other words Jim, you completely agree with my position. Congratulations. said...

Off topic perhaps, but nobody seems to have noticed that as well as shutting down Parliament yesterday, The Queen's son was accused of rape.
Shame the MPs won't be able to demand justice and have him suspended from his job pending investigation.
I'm sure there'll be somebody out there saying that the Royal rape cover up was the real reason the queen shut down parliament....

Jim Denham said...

"In other words Jim, you completely agree with my position. Congratulations" ...

Err, no.

Anonymous said...

Dipper: "What every working man understands is that you need to front up, or you will get nothing. Boris is fronting up. You fancy having a go? Well come on then!"

Even reading this aloud in my best Mockney accent and waving a broken pool cue doesn't make this any more credible. It's like the drunk flailing around with his fists yelling 'I'll fight the lot of ya!'

PS: The only reason for the recent extra-long parliamentary session is because may rewrote the rules to get her way with Brexit. Now Johnson's doing the same by suspending parliament altogether. Mind you, the other phrase for 'front' is 'sheer brass neck.'

Anonymous said...

“The point is that it's undemocratic and done in the cause of a thoroughly reactionary agenda. That's what concerns me - and should concern you.”

Personally I don’t think leftists should be so enchanted with bourgeois parliamentary democracy. So he has suspended parliament, so what? If it was in the rules then clearly he hasn’t done anything ‘undemocratic’, not in the parliamentary sense. And this is precisely what Denham is talking about.

What should concern leftists is the rape and pillage our ruling class are carrying out all over the globe, what should concern us are the increasingly authoritarian measures being implemented by the ruling class, what should concern us is how the media are every increasingly becoming even more firmly embedded in the ruling class ideology and interests, but what should really really concern us above anything else is how scumbags like Denham can get away with calling themselves leftists!