In the latest installment of a series that could be entitled ‘What Has Boris Done Now?’, our erstwhile leader has shown how easy it is to make friends and influence people as prime minister.
Johnson announced yesterday that he will suspend parliament for a five-week period – known as ‘prorogation’ – in September and October in order to help, in essence, get a No Deal Brexit over the line.
It’s a move which has sparked outrage, with demonstrations and protests going on through the night and a petition to oppose the move attracting more than 1.3 million signatures. It is believed that the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, is also considering her position.
A few left-wing newspapers even declared it as ‘The Day Democracy Died’, given that the suspension will now allow for a No Deal Brexit to be discussed in parliament prior to it being ratified.
And now we are all left pondering one simple question: if life is the Truman Show, who is the real Truman Burbank….Boris, or the rest of us?
How Did the Queen Get Involved?
For the act of prorogation to occur, the prime minister of the time has to seek approval from the Queen to suspend parliament in order for a new session to begin.
And on Wednesday, Boris confirmed that Her Majesty had given her consent for the recess, with a Queen’s Speech scheduled for October 14 in which he will outline his ‘very exciting agenda’ for the future.
Johnson has reiterated his desire to leave the EU on October 31 with some kind of deal in place, however he has confirmed that he would rather leave the European Union without a deal than miss the deadline set in place.
That date is now written into law too, so if a deal is not agreed by Halloween, spookily, then we will depart the EU with nothing.
Is Proroguing Anti-Democracy?
In a fashion, you could argue that it is undemocratic for Boris to take the steps he has.
That’s because there is no MP vote on proroguing, and so our elected representatives don’t have a say on whether parliament is suspended or not.
Instead, Boris and his advisors visited Buckingham Palace to ask for the Queen’s permission directly, and she agreed to the prorogue motion. Don’t hate on Her Majesty though: the monarchy has made a habit of staying out of political discourse in the contemporary era.
Ordinarily, the prime minister would have a mandate to make such decisions unilaterally, but in this case Boris wasn’t elected by the public – hence the outcry over his actions.
Can Anybody Stop Parliament Being Closed?
There are very limited powers for opponents to stop Boris in his tracks.
Parliament re-opens on September 3, and rebel MPs – of which there are plenty across the parties – would have to somehow garner enough support to wrestle power away from the present incumbent.
They can do this via an emergency debate, which would take place before prorogation kicks into action. Such a debate can be granted by the Speaker, and – interestingly enough – the present Speaker, John Bercow, is known not to be a fan of Boris.
Indeed, he called Wednesday’s act of prorogation an ‘offence against the democratic process’.
Earlier in the summer, former prime minister John major claimed he would go to the courts to stop parliament being suspended. He said: “The Queen’s decision cannot be challenged in law but the prime minister’s advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law – and I for one would be prepared to seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed.”
Could a Vote of No Confidence Be Motioned?
It is quite probable, in fact, that a vote of no confidence will be made as early as September 4, with Labour boss Jeremy Corbyn claiming he would do so ‘at the appropriate time’.
If this vote was to be passed, then the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act would have to be dusted off. This dictates that a prime minister is given 14 days to ‘prove themselves’, upon which another vote is cast.
If another MP is able to show that they have the support of 51% or more of MPs, the current prime minister is expected to move aside to allow a new leader to take their place.
If during this 14-day period the prime minister fails to achieve support and no alternative emerges, an emergency general election would be held.
In short, we’re up the creek without a paddle unless Boris can secure a meaningful deal with the EU prior to October 31.