We must stop this descent into demagoguery before it is too lateby Jonathan Lis / August 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
The tension over August had been building, but nobody knew exactly what was happening. Boris Johnson was full of bluster but not substance. The papers were reporting speculation rather than events. Everyone was distracted. And then there came enough news to fill an entire year.
At lunchtime on Wednesday, three ministers flew up to Balmoral for a hastily arranged meeting with the Queen, and asked her to suspend parliament so she could deliver a Queen’s Speech. This was not to be any normal prorogation lasting a few days, but one spanning five full weeks. It would take place during the greatest peacetime crisis in modern British history, and seven weeks before a crash-out Brexit which, by the government’s own estimation, would paralyse the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Entreaties by Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson to conduct meetings and withhold royal consent arrived too late. The Queen was compelled to follow the advice of her government, and she had already agreed to the request. Never say that Britain is inherently more democratic or immune to tyranny than any of the countries we have condemned or invaded in the name of upholding our values. This is how you pull off a coup, and it is barely an exaggeration to say that is what just happened.
It is hard to know where to begin. We saw, with each passing hour, the all-out assault on democracy from an unelected prime minister lacking any majority; the explicit politicisation of the monarchy; and the hollowing-out of parliamentary sovereignty under the auspices of giving parliament control. We realised that Johnson genuinely does want to force food and medicine shortages on his own country in the name of the people. With Ruth Davidson’s resignation came the final elimination of any vestiges of one nation Toryism and the implicit acknowledgement that the Union would no longer be saved. We warned in 2016 that Brexit would spell unintended consequences. Not in our worst nightmares did we imagine what they would actually turn out to be.
Of course, the referendum changed everything in British politics. We had begun to see this coming. Theresa May repeatedly attempted to sideline parliament. Anti-Brexit politicians, the media and civil service have come under constant attack. Still, we naively assumed that there could be limits. Shutting parliament down seemed a step too far even for this government. Cabinet ministers such as Amber Rudd, Matt Hancock and Nicky Morgan previously condemned it, while…