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.
The diplomats will say we have no choice but to cosy up to Trump. Perhaps that is the UK's sad new reality, says James Dilley.
Where lies the limit of the UK’s alliances? That is the question being asked by many in the UK today as Donald Trump continues his extended state visit.
Trump and his gung-ho approach to politics needs no introduction. Sadly, neither do the bigoted positions that he has taken on many occasions in response to various people and issues, whether those are London Mayor Sadiq Khan or immigration from Mexico. Because of these traits, many, including the Opposition’s Jeremy Corbyn, have suggested that Trump should not have the red carpet rolled out for him by the British Establishment.
A pain though Trump is, it must be said that the UK’s Brexit predicament has naturally led those in government to seek to reinforce the so-called ‘special relationship’ that supposedly exists between the UK and the US. For that reason, can we really expect the Prime Minister and those around her to spurn the American president at a time when our country risks being driven out into the cold?
It should also be noted that the government has in the past entertained such crusaders of human rights and liberal politics as China’s Xi Jinping, who enjoyed a ride in a golden carriage when he visited in 2015. Ironically, there weren’t hundreds of thousands protesting on the streets then, despite China’s totalitarian approach to government, intolerance of dissenters and use of so-called ‘reeducation camps’ for the same.
So it is quite clear that diplomacy often entails deals with devils. Better those we know than those we don’t, as the phrase goes.
Yet perhaps the greatest irony in this is the fact that there are countries across the English Channel and North Sea whose leaders and people tend to concur much more strongly with our democratic and liberal values than the Chinese or even the Americans do. They nestle next to each other, bordered by Alpine ranges and Schwarz forests, parliamentary democracies with liberal constitutions and mobile populations. They are European friends and neighbours that the UK has rejected in recent years after a spurious referendum that did not provide a clear mandate for cutting those friendly ties.
So remember that even if you disagree with the UK’s treatment of Donald Trump in recent days, the diplomatic consensus will be that we have no choice. Spurners of Europe, the UK only has itself to blame if it is driven into the arms of allies who do sadly do not have its best interests at heart - as the ‘America First’ President peddling the realpolitik philosophy surely does not.