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

How charismatic populism is a threat to the survival of democracy in Britain

Today the UK Parliament enters upon an extended period of suspension, of prorogation, in the midst of one of the biggest crises the British state has encountered since the crises of the Stuart era in the 17th century. Such is the evolution of the current crisis over Brexit that we now have a struggle for power between the executive and legislature as happened in that earlier era. What has stood out recently is how the act of prorogation has been another measure of what an observer has called “executive exceptionalism” in the name of popular sovereignty against that of representative democracy, but also one where a charismatic authoritarianism risks being allowed at the expense of the requirements of elective democratic consent to the actions of the executive. What is so dangerous is that these actions are teaching people a lesson … 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

The Vote Leave Brextremist faction takes power but can they pull it off?

The formation of the Vote Leave Johnson government was stunning in its audacity. Suddenly the politics of stalemate have been replaced by that of a terrifying, focused action. This was a hard right wing No Deal government preparing the decks for action, clear and determined on their goal, a No Deal Brexit. Whatever doubts one may have of Johnson’s leadership capabilities, his competence in government and his ability to manage Brexit seem swept on one side by the daring ruthlessness of a machine being readied for war. After the dust settles a bit, one has to ask cold, hard questions about whether this almost revolutionary cabal can pull it off. Vote Leave faction takes power To be clear, this Johnson government is a Vote Leave regime, so far unelected and trying to assert the constitutionally dubious legitimacy of the 2016 … Read more

Boris Johnson in power at last prepares for No Deal Brexit

Battle has been joined. The Boris Johnson war cabinet has been assembled and the “Do or die” government is announcing its policy. The new Prime Minister has sacked most opponents and brought in a cabinet of hard Brexiters. He made a policy pitch for One Nation Toryism from No 10 yesterday but like Theresa May, that may or may not happen. The focus looks likely to be to achieve Brexit by 31 October. We will no doubt see some shadow boxing, ostensibly with the EU, who have already made their position clear, and BJ’s opponents will probably hold off a bit while that very unconvincing bid plays itself out. Meanwhile preparations for a No Deal Brexit will resume, equally unconvincingly. Quite clearly Boris Johnson has opted for the hard Brexit faction, who have taken control of the Tory party, neoliberals … Read more

One further small step for Parliamentary Sovereignty against authoritarianism

Once again Parliament has voted decisively against a No Deal Brexit without its consent, another victory for the overriding constitutional principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty against the threatened abuse of power by the executive. This time it was to make it very difficult to force through a No Deal Brexit by proroguing Parliament. This still does not prevent a No Deal Brexit but it makes it very clear what Parliament’s position is on the question. Preventing Brexit by prorogation The likely new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has refused to rule out the use of the prorogation of Parliament to prevent it obstructing a No Deal Brexit which he has said he is will to pursue. Johnson will have a very shaky and slender majority and Parliament and his own party has proven itself to be almost unmanageable. Previous motions on No … 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

Parliament makes a stand for democracy

Over the last two days there have been two important votes in Parliament on Brexit that have potentially reasserted the power of Parliament in relation to the executive. As the Brexit endgame is being played out, the issue of Britain’s independence, real or nominal, has become wrapped up with the nature and extent of democracy in the UK. These issues take us to the very heart of representative government in Britain. The immediate question has been how to try to stop PM May pushing the UK closer to the Brexit deadline in order to force MP’s to agree to the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) she has negotiated with the EU. May lacks a natural majority and is nevertheless bound by previous votes in 2017 to obtain Parliamentary agreement. This has posed a major headache for a government accustomed to being able … Read more

Avoiding the slow-motion Brexit train crash

The slow motion train crash that is Brexit is gradually speeding up as the deadline for an agreement with the EU gets closer and yet the political situation in the UK remains deadlocked. May’s government has, after months of wrangling between ministers, finally produced a White Paper of an outline of a proposal for a trade negotiation with the EU, only to see it widely criticised as either unworkable or giving too much or too little away. Several Brexiters have resigned, including heavyweights Boris Johnson and David Davis. May will now attempt to negotiate with the EU while trying to face down what are now her Brexiter opponents, not a promising position to be in for a major change in the UK’s constitutional and trading arrangements. The situation has become unprecedented, volatile and highly unpredictable. The emergence of a proposed … Read more

%d bloggers like this: