The Royal Prerogative has forced the Prime Minister to go back to the people. That’s a good thing, says Renew supporter John Nucciarone.
British parliamentary democracy maintains, in essence, a balance of power.
As the country changed over the centuries, the balance of power between the monarch, Lords, and Commons did too. In the 1900s, majority governments became the norm, with the executive not only becoming more powerful but also with a higher degree of concentration in the Prime Minister’s office and his special advisors. The checks and balances reserved to not only the Commons but also the Lords and Her Majesty increased in importance. But, as the Commons and Lords are driven by partisan politics, Her Majesty’s powers cannot be re-characterised as only ceremonial by the very people she is meant to provide a check and balance against. Her powers must remain relevant. In the 21st century, they belong to the people.
An unconstitutional prorogation?
The UK constitution is a political constitution, and its conventions have a political dimension to them. That would include Her Majesty’s powers including her right to grant prorogation. The power to deny or grant it rests with her and is neither political or a convention. It is her legal right. The convention that she follows the advice of her PM is only that - a convention. The political aspect comes in when she uses her judgement as to whether to follow the advice or not.
The only way one could argue Her Majesty granting prorogation (and perhaps the advice given by the PM) is unconstitutional is if it eliminates an option MPs would otherwise have had, meaning the Queen is no longer seen as being a check and balance on Parliament, but rather a threat to the Commons.
And then you have to answer the question: did Her Majesty, in granting the prorogation, eliminate the possibility of stopping a no-deal Brexit by legislative means or reducing the amount of days available for a new government to be formed?
A court would also likely take into account the possibility of a No-Confidence Vote being held before the Queen’s Speech has been eliminated. It should then note that the Opposition was unlikely to call for one during the period before prorogation and has been playing tennis with both the government and itself on this issue for over two years.
It is important to note that a court would need to rule that the advice given by the PM and Her Majesty’s decision to grant the prorogation was illegal, as to do otherwise would reduce Her Majesty’s role to that of a figurehead, throwing the rest of the UK constitution into a spin and putting us on the road becoming a Republic. This is not something within the court’s jurisdiction and powers.
More than a pretty crown
Under the guise of not politicising the Queen, a process has started where the Queen is seen as only as a figurehead with no subjective element in her decisionmaking process. This could not be more wrong or unconstitutional.
This reasoning or interpretation of the constitution would enable a PM to request a prorogation beyond 31st October, or linger on after losing a non-confidence vote and another government is ready to be formed. The Queen may rely on her PM to convey an accurate picture of the political landscape, but the final decision still rests with her. For this reason, her advisors at the Palace must be independent of the Prime Minster’s Office.
Her Majesty likely granted this prorogation as a result of thinking that, should the House of Commons wish to finally make itself heard, it can - either by bringing down the government or passing legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Perhaps she is asking them to get on with it if that is what is necessary or desired. Either way, have no doubt that the Queen’s legal powers, including her power to dismiss a PM (after the Commons has acted) now have our Prime Minister considering an election to avoid a No-Confidence vote and the possibility of having to leave Downing Street so soon.
In this piece, Renew member Paul Gerken compares Boris Johnson's proroguing of Parliament to Jafar's control and exploitation of the genie's powers in Aladdin.
As much as our new overlords will try to convince you otherwise: this isn’t normal. As much as our unwritten constitution can’t define the proroguing of Parliament as illegal, it shouldn’t mean that we understand it as a correct resolution to our Brexit crisis. It isn’t.
What Alexander “Boris” Johnson is doing, as an unelected Prime Minister with no mandate, is wielding the monarch’s power in a way usually vested only in those who have been voted for by the majority of the population. Yet within a matter of days of being honoured with these privileges, he has taken those powers and stretched our political fabric to the point of breaking.
He has not acted like a guardian of our institutions and traditions, but a wanton destroyer. This ain’t right; this ain’t OK.
The power of the Prime Minister is eyed enviously by many western democratic leaders. The freedom to act comes from being able to execute many things in the name of the Queen, who still holds ultimate authority. But, like many commentators state, the idea that the Queen will suddenly begin to exercise these powers herself and go against the will of the Prime Minister is for the birds. The Monarch’s power is like the genie in Aladdin; in the hands of the good it can be a force for great success. In the hands of Jafar? Well, all shit breaks loose and the kingdom lies in rubble.
And see how scheming, duplicitous, machiavellian Jafar has got his hands on our genie.
Ladies and gents, if you think BoJo is only going to pull this stunt once, I think you’ll be in for a surprise. Once someone tastes power, they don’t give it up easily. Especially not someone who has committed more backstabbings to get power than those in the entirety of Game of Thrones.
This man, this caricature, has been rewarded at every turn for his deceit and treachery. It was he who turned on his leader and supported leave, just to take down David Cameron. It was he who quit the cabinet, just so he could manoeuvre against Theresa May. And yet his star has continued to rise. He has now retired parliament to push through his own agenda and it’s so far, so good. So why should he change? With every outrageous act, he becomes emboldened.
This is not a man who will later turn around and believe in a genuine parliamentary democracy when the choppy waters of Brexit are cleared. He will do this again and again, unless he is stopped now.
Those that support him should be losing sleep for shame. Rudd, Javid, Hancock and the rest are the squawking parrots to this egomaniac Jafar. The best they can and should do is fly away, whilst Parliament returns to enact its vengeance. And Parliament must unite without equivocation nor hesitation and bring down this man. Once gone, we need to write our constitution to ensure this never happens again.
The genie must be placed firmly back in the bottle.
Another day, another moment where you can’t believe Anne Widdecombe isn’t an actual zombie from an apocalyptic Brexit-dystopian future sent to the present to kill us all, according to Renew member Paul Gerken.
Strictly’s Anne Widdecombe has taken to the Brexit limelight like, as she may put it, an oppressed slave to a 17th-century transatlantic trading vessel. Shackled, bound, beaten, gagged, tortured and ripped from her family and possessions, Widdecombe took to the stage in Brussels. Anne was here to tell her oppressors that enough was enough; Britain - that cowed, bruised and abused nation - was setting itself free. Like the displaced Africans in America, we will rise up to a glorious future once rid of our brutal subjugation. Just you wait and see…
Not lost on Anne is the fact that the EU Parliament is the only democratic institution that has actually ever given UKIP, and latterly the Brexit Party, a democratic voice. Widdecombe is aware that the UK’s first-past-the-post system means that their voice and party would have inevitably always been crowded out by the two big parties. Of course, it is only the democratic institutions of the EU that have given them the oxygen and platform to survive, but this doesn’t matter at all, because – FISHING NET LEGISLATION! Damn you to hell, EU, and the laws we’re allowed to vote on.
All this reminds me of is that point in history where we ruled a quarter of the globe, shipped people around in chains and sucked vast swathes of the world of their resources without a hint of a democratic voice. It’s exactly the same as our evil past, and we want out!
Alas, at least like with slaves past, there is a generous per diem on offer to Anne for her commitment to voice for the oppressed. I’m not sure how much it was back in ye olde days, but one can only imagine that, with inflation, it was similar to the 320 euros Widders will claim. Did all oppressed slaves also get about a £7.5k base too?
Who’s to know. Probably. Anne wouldn’t go throwing around the comparison if it weren’t pretty much like for like.
Oh for the time we can be free, ruled by the Brexit Party that has no members, just an altruistic Nigel Farage at its helm. I can smell the freedom now. Glorious!
It’s often said that a free press is essential to a healthy democracy. When compared to standards elsewhere in the world, the British press looks to be doing pretty decently.
We shouldn’t get too carried away, though; in the absence of a Xinhua News equivalent, control over our national media has been granted to an entirely different (though perhaps equally troubling) faction. Most British media outlets are controlled by a tiny and very wealthy elite, who are typically as elusive as they are unaccountable.
It was Napoleon who once argued that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Judging by the situation today, he seems to have been on to something.
News broadcasters wield tremendous power over politicians, who for the most part, do everything they can to avoid unfavourable coverage. It’s easy to see why, given the considerable influence papers can have on voting behaviour.
With SW1 at their heels, media moguls are free to present whatever version of events they so choose – however far this may deviate from the truth. Indeed, Brexit has made this more obvious than perhaps ever before.
It’s no secret that some of Brexit’s major backers have already got richer as the rest of the country’s economy has wavered post-2016. All the while, it’s been easy enough to funnel public anger towards Westminster and Brussels and away from their own misgivings – unchallenged by a government more than happy to dance to their tune.
If anyone needs convincing, they need only look back on Westminster’s response to 2016. Its unquestioning insistence on respecting the referendum result, despite the serious legal failures of both major Leave campaigns, is telling to say the least. In any other circumstance, such violations would have been more than enough to entirely cripple any mandate. In fact, the only thing preventing courts nullifying the result altogether was the fact that it wasn’t legally binding.
Yet, politicians were complicit and the right-wing press in particular was handed full control of the narratives surrounding the referendum. Why? Put simply, being tarnished with the ‘Enemies of The People’ brush doesn’t exactly strengthen your electoral prospects.
Of course, we’ve come to accept a level of bias in major publications as being pretty much par for the course. Most papers are unashamedly prejudiced in their political leanings, and after all, sensationalism is how they sell their wares.
It’s no secret that people are drawn to papers that create echo chambers for their own views – a problem no doubt, but the phenomena’s very existence relies, at least, on a conscious public awareness of newspaper bias. We’re perhaps less susceptible to spurious headlines from the usual suspects, but they’re by no means the only offenders.
Worse, arguably, is the bias that now exists within broadcasters with an explicit duty to be neutral. I’m referring, of course, to the BBC. BBC complaints have reportedly been flooded by remain voters angry at the lack of coverage given to pro-Remain MPs and anti-Brexit marches.
Despite his recent outburst on BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Farage has a lot to be thankful for. Even his most pernicious claims, and those of others on his side, continue to go largely unchallenged despite their (in some cases obvious) untruth. Lest we not forget, talk of leaving the single market was “absolute madness” until an overnight U-turn in the direction of a no-deal; a decision that flew seemingly under the radar of the mainstream media.
Last week, an episode of a BBC panel show was cancelled, due to it featuring the interim leader of new pro-Remain party Change UK. The feature was deemed inappropriate to run during election time. Meanwhile, Farage’s countless fish-related photo-ops continue to get air time (needless to say, the fish do not look best pleased).
While it might be doubtful that the BBC is harbouring an express pro-Brexit bias, it’s easy to see where it’s unwillingness to challenge key Leave supporters has come from. The corporation is consistently under pressure from the reactionary right, and its fearfulness of this is palpable.
It is hard to imagine a world in which even the most popular frontmen of Brexit will escape the process unscathed; as the realities set in and public opinion turns against them, the democratic process will hold them to account. But writers, journalists, media fat-cats – the less discernible architects of Brexit – are unlikely to suffer the same consequences. People will be buying The Sun long after Rees-Mogg is cast into political irrelevancy.
We must maintain a free press, but there is no freedom without responsibility. Our media is responsible for public education, which we cannot do without if we are to place trust in democracy.