The British people took to the streets of London to vent their anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue the dysfunctional Westminster Parliament. The Queen’s assent was given on August 28 in a secret meeting held at Balmoral in Scotland with Jacob Rees-Mogg, Baroness Evans, the Leader of the Lords, and Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip. MPs have also reacted with indignation, comparing the move to a coup d’état. Only six Cabinet ministers, together with Johnson, according to the Telegraph, knew of the secret plans to suspend Parliament for a month, beginning in the second week of September. Thousands of people made their way to Parliament Square at short notice, advertising their efforts with the social media hash tag #StopTheCoup. In addition, a petition against Johnson’s plan had already exceeded 1.3 million signatures at the time of publication, as the public outrage rumbled on. A petition earlier this year demanding the British government reverse its course on Brexit received more than 4.5 million signatures in just three days. It is not simply that it is rule by executive fiat, but that the chaos and illegal maneouvres are demonstrating that these political institutions are not consistent with the needs of the times. Two views.
By CRAIG MURRAY*
(August 29) – Our obsequious media is actively perpetuating the myth than the monarch can do no wrong, and is apolitical. In fact the monarchy has been active and absolutely central to the seizure of power from the Westminster parliament in a right wing coup. Yesterday’s collaboration at Balmoral between the Queen and Jacob Rees Mogg is only the latest phase.
The monarch appoints the UK Prime Minister. The convention is that this must be the person who can command the support of the majority in the House of Commons. That does not necessarily have to be from a single party, it can be via a coalition or pact with other parties, but the essential point, established since Hanoverian times, is that the individual must have a majority in the Commons.
The very appointment of Boris Johnson by Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha was a constitutional outrage. Johnson may have been selected by Conservative Party members, but that is not the qualification to be PM. Johnson very plainly did not command a majority in the House of Commons, proven by the fact that still at no stage has he demonstrated that he does. I do not write merely with hindsight.
Johnson’s flagship policy was always No Deal Brexit. Contrary to the monarchist propaganda spewed out across the entire MSM, not only is it untrue that the Queen had “no constitutional choice” but to appoint Johnson, the Queen had a clear constitutional duty not to appoint a Prime Minister whose flagship policy had already been specifically voted down time and again by the House of Commons.
The Queen has now doubled down on this original outrage by proroguing the Westminster parliament in conspiracy with old Etonians Rees Mogg and Johnson, specifically so that the House of Commons cannot vote down Johnson.
The monarchy will always be an extremely useful institution in promoting the political aims of the upper classes, not least because of the ludicrous media promulgation of its infallibility. When you have former Prime Minister John Major, senior Tories like Philip Hammond and Michael Heseltine, and the Speaker of the House of Commons himself all talking of “consitutional outrage”, it is plainly preposterous to insist that the monarchy cannot, by definition, have done anything wrong.
The Queen has appointed a Prime Minister who does not have the support of the House of Commons and then has conspired to prevent the House of Commons from obstructing her Prime Minister. That is not the action of a politically neutral monarchy. The institution should have been abolished decades ago. I do hope that all those who recognise the constitutional outrage, will acknowledge the role of the monarchy and that the institution needs to be swiftly abolished.
*Craig Murray is a former British ambassador
Opinion from Germany: Boris Johnson, the UK dictator
The British prime minister wants a hard Brexit, no matter the cost. He didn’t even hesitate to suspend Parliament. It’s the kind of move you’d expect from a military dictatorship, writes Barbara Wesel* of Deutsche Welle
The speaker of the British Parliament called the prime minister’s decision “constitutional outrage.”That’s a rather mild way to describe Boris Johnson’s plundering of Parliament’s rights. Now a weakness in the British political system — rooted in its archaic traditions and heritage — is coming back to haunt the country. It exposes the lack of a modern, written constitution that could block such arbitrary acts.
Akin to a military dictatorship
“Take back control” was one of the main slogans of the Brexit campaign three years ago. Voters at the time probably didn’t imagine that meant handing over absolute power to Johnson. On the contrary, there was talk of restoring the agency of the British Parliament. No one argued the goal was to allow an unelected prime minister — who would likely never get a parliamentary majority — to determine the fate of Brexit, and thus the entire country, on his own.
Prominent political figures, including former Prime Minister John Major, have said they will try to challenge Johnson’s coup in court. It remains to be seen whether the institutional safeguards in Britain will hold. The opposition is hoping to push through emergency legislation next week to prevent Johnson’s 11th-hour attempt to seize power. But only a few days remain, as Parliament is to be due to go on break as early as September 10, then return shortly before the Brexit deadline. This tight time frame makes it impossible for the majority of MPs to have their say.
The opposition — especially the Labour Party — is partly to blame for this deplorable situation: It frittered away three years, when there was a chance to stop the train, with ambivalence and indecision. There was a failure to comprehend what Brexit truly meant.
What Johnson is creating here is the kind of political madhouse befitting a military dictatorship. It is anti-democratic and matches the havoc wreaked by US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. These new ravagers are only interested in power for themselves, and their financiers among the ranks of the super-rich. To them, democratic procedures and institutional controls are simply tiresome accessories.
The EU must not become an accomplice
There have been rumors in recent days that smaller, individual regulations could be used to find a solution to the Irish border issue. Even if the European Union were prepared to go down such a road just before Brexit, without thorough negotiation and review, the bloc must decide against being an accomplice to Johnson’s arbitrary act.
Brussels must not play along when a member state suspends its democratic procedures in order to suddenly up and leave the EU. And let’s take a moment to remember that Brexit came about by a non-binding referendum that was only advisory, and decided by a narrow majority.
Britain must put up a fight
It is now high time for the remaining democratic politicians within the Conservative Party, for the collective opposition, for the political analysts, intellectuals and all those who consider themselves responsible citizens, to make a stand. For years, it has seemed as if many Britons were living in an alternate reality, as if at some point they would simply wake up from the Brexit nightmare and everything would be as it used to be.
Johnson is the most dangerous politician to have moved to Downing Street in decades. He is power-hungry, opportunistic and completely irresponsible. He makes unfounded allegations, as he just did at the G7, he makes threats against EU partners, and slimes up to the US president. He is only chasing after a single goal: To pull Britain out of the EU by hook or by crook. As we are now witnessing, Johnson is even prepared to oust Parliament and override the democratic legitimacy of the country — the kind of move that one might expect from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those in the United Kingdom who do not heed the alarm bells, who do not try to resist, are beyond help.
Barbara Wesel is DW’s senior European correspondent .