When the Prime Minister threatens democratic norms of behaviour

Where do we go from here? One might now be urgently asking the question, where is our democracy heading now? While the Tories are conferencing this week in Manchester, the city of Peterloo, one might reflect on the irony of their choice of city in the bicentenary year of the Massacre by the local yeomanry of peaceful Mancunian citizens who did not have the vote and who had turned out in their Sunday best with families to hear “Orator” Hunt demand Parliamentary reform and the extension of the franchise. The achievement of democracy in Britain, admittedly within the limitations revealed this week, was hard fought in the 109 or so years that followed, and in 1819 the landed aristocrat-led government was clamping down on such radicals, seen as “Jacobins”, for fear of revolution. One might legitimately wonder what version of … Read more

Johnson is acting as a populist demogogue for Brexit and against democracy

Last night the UK’s populist demogogue Prime Minister returned to face the music after his defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court judges over his prorogation of Parliament, not with contrition but with aggressive defiance. In so doing, he confirmed in many people’s minds that this man is determined on his strategy to force a General Election over his push for Brexit as a “People versus the Politicians” election. A populist demogogue This is the behaviour of a dangerous populist demogogue with, it appears, potentially “strongman” authoritarian leanings and democracy as we know it is in danger in pursuit of both Brexit and a neoliberal hidden agenda behind Brexit. Their approach is that the end justifies the means, as No. 10 chief advisor Cummings has said, “Brexit by any means necessary”. Far from respecting the verdict of the judges … Read more

A victory in the Supreme Court for the rule of law and constitutionality

On the face of it, today’s Supreme Court verdict has been a triumph for the rule of law and constitutionality in the UK conflict over Brexit. However, the conflict has still a long way to go, and there is still plenty of scope for near-illegal action by the Johnson regime and for his Parliamentary opponents to bring the regime to heal and halt the slide to systemic breakdown. The Supreme Court ruling Today in an historic landmark ruling the UK Supreme Court ruled as unlawful and void PM Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament. Despite fears that it would not want to intrude into relations between the executive and the legislature as regards the exercise of the royal prerogative, it chose to do just that. It ruled that: The case was “justiciable”, that the courts could rule on the prorogation of Parliament … Read more

A cliffhanger democratic crisis of Parliament versus a Brextremist government

This week in the Brexit democratic crisis has been powerfully dramatic, with cliffhanger votes in Parliament, the government taken to court by activists, demonstrations about democracy in danger, threats to act unconstitutionally by the Prime Minister, MPs being thrown out of the Tory party, an opposition Parliamentary alliance in the face of an arbitrary, undemocratic executive, and the government’s loss of its majority. The Brexit crisis is now seriously impacting the very heart of the British system of government. Where will this lead? A bill passes Parliament to prevent a No Deal Brexit on 31 October The House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament, in an emergency debate on 3 September passed a motion to take control of business the next day to introduce a backbench bill, known as the Benn bill after its sponsor Hilary Benn,  to prevent … Read more

How Johnson’s prorogation tactic threatens democracy itself

Why has Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament shortly before Brexit caused such outrage? Non-UK readers might be puzzled but to many observers within the UK, in the midst of the struggle over Brexit that has fractured the nation, it is already being called a “coup”, an “attack on democracy”, and an “authoritarian” action from the leader of the Vote Leave movement who campaigned in the name of democracy. More thoughtful observers say that within reactionary nationalist populism in many countries there is an authoritarian undercurrent, and this is arguably its British manifestation. Democratic outrage Prime Minister Johnson’s announcement of the prorogation of Parliament until shortly before Britain is due to leave the EU has stunned and outraged many democrats. The Speaker of the House of Commons has called it a “constitutional outrage”. Observers should by now be under no illusion that … Read more

A constitutional crisis is now in full swing with the attempt to impose Brexit

According to news reports today, the Johnson regime in the UK is risking a “full blown constitutional crisis” by asserting that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”. Parliamentarians fear that he intends to do this despite the expressed wish by the democratically-elected Parliament against a No Deal Brexit. This blog has been warning of this threat to the constitution and representative democracy for a long time, that populists would exploit the questionable claim to a mandate from the 2016 referendum to impose Brexit on the UK. Expressions of outrage This latest twist to the Brexit crisis has occurred because Johnson’s “dark arts” advisor Cummings has said that Parliament can now no longer stop Brexit happening on 31 October. A No. 10 spokesperson also stated “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 … Read more

Forcing through a No Deal Brexit and a “People versus Politicians” election

It was disturbing to read reports over the weekend that under the advice of the master of the dark arts SPAD* Dominic Cummings at No. 10, the Johnson regime is planning to allow a No Deal Brexit to occur under the default principle inherent in the Article 50 process and to hold a “People versus the Politicians” general election soon after to secure a majority and elective legitimacy for his regime. In so doing, Johnson is playing fast and loose with the principles of the British constitution and revealing an arbitrariness that is dangerous. Thus is the mandate allegedly secured for Brexit in the referendum of 2016 allowed to override Parliamentary democracy as populists suggest and despite failing to win the 2017 general election to carry Brexit through to completion. Britain is facing a grim crisis that could tear it … Read more

Civil service being subjected to excessive political pressure over Brexit

As investigations focus in on the likely leaker of the Darroch memos, the wider ramifications are now under scrutiny. It is now being suggested that the leaking was politically motivated by those seeking to establish in Washington a British ambassador more clearly sympathetic to both Trump’s and Brexiters’ policies. Coming in the midst of a leadership contest thought likely to install a pro-Trump Hard Brexiter, the implications are considerable. At the same time senior civil servants are pointing to the departure of Darroch as more evidence of political interference over the traditional impartiality of the civil service. Off stage, there are yet more rumblings of a potential constitutional conflict over the threat of a No Deal Brexit and the sovereignty of Parliament. Yet again we are reminded of the disruptive effects of the Brexit crisis and its impact on the … Read more

Can a No Deal Tory government be formed and will it last long?

With the election of a hard-Brexit supporting Tory leader, the question arises as to whether he will be able to form a government and how long it will last. In particular Johnson has refused to rule out a No Deal Brexit by 31 October and certain of his party have said that in that case they would vote to bring his government down. Two constitutionalists have said that he might even be unable to form a government as and when he wins the Tory leadership contest. The current Prime Minister (PM), Theresa May has the job of recommending to the Queen who is suitable as her replacement and in the current situation it is possible that she might be unable to recommend her elected replacement as Tory party leader. They need to have the confidence of the House The fundamental … Read more

Brexit puts the UK constitution under massive strain

The Brexit crisis have underlined a number of serious issues about our unwritten constitution and even the viability of the British state. Arguably our current constitutional arrangements don’t cater effectively for certain problems raised by Brexit, but for which some mechanism or point of ultimate reference is badly needed to prevent abuse of power. One  such case is the role of the monarchy. We arguably do not have effective government at present. Mrs May on one day, 15 January, was defeated by 230 votes in Parliament on her painstakingly negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, but the very next day wins a motion of No Confidence and can remain in office. In effect we have a government in office but not in power. There is no mechanism for removing her, due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. The monarch is non-political and only … Read more

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