WHAT were MPs so desperate to get done that they had to co-opt the Supreme Court in an unprecedented act of constitutional vandalism and, for the first time in history, nullify Her Majesty’s Order in Council to prorogue Parliament? What was so pressing that they voted to refuse the customary recess for the Conservative conference?
Not a lot, it seems. Policing language – the Left’s current favourite past-time – appears to be top of the list. ‘Surrender’ is verboten, we hear, as are ‘turkeys’. Shroud-waving, however, is in. As is hypocrisy, the Left not being known to shy away from martial metaphors.
MPs aren’t doing very much at the moment because they can’t. By convention, the government – which currently has no majority – initiates legislation, and its consent is needed for any laws that make demands on public funds or affect foreign policy. At least it is when the Speaker hasn’t gone rogue.
But the devil makes work for idle chumps. Angela Rayner at the weekend confirmed rumours that this zombie Parliament was considering trying to force through a lowering of the voting age to 16. A favoured policy of the Left, already implemented in Scotland, this would widen the franchise to include even more youngsters recently brainwashed by the Left-dominated education system, those still under its tutelage.
A clearer-cut case of cynical gerrymandering you could not dream up. Neither implemented nor supported by the government of the day, let alone having featured in a winning election manifesto, nor even by a time-honoured Private Member’s Bill, this Labour wheeze lacks any credibility, let alone accountability.
To whom exactly is the legislature accountable for its policies when it commandeers executive power? Particularly when it passes laws without any democratic mandate, or worse, which frustrate government policy based on clear manifesto pledges and a mandate.
The only way for democratic accountability to be restored is a General Election. Prorogation, despite what the Supreme Court may say, was common in the past (before the advent of strict party discipline) as a means for governments to manage unruly legislatures, sometimes for months at a time. Henry Ergas explains: ‘Far from being regarded as an assault on Britain’s institutions, as the court implies, prorogation was widely accepted as a tool for managing deeply divided parliaments, with Lord Derby, for example, proroguing parliament for six months in each of the minority governments he headed in 1859-60 and in 1866-68.’
The other wheeze our zombie-turkey Parliament was contemplating, a Vote of No Confidence to bring down the government and install a caretaker Prime Minister in its place to secure the Brexit delay, has been ruled out for now. The opposition parties have yet to decide on a caretaker PM, we are given to understand.
Needless to say, Remainers don’t seem to have twigged that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act does not allow them to install a caretaker PM, as Patrick Benham-Crosswell explains in TCW here. It gives two weeks during which the current PM can attempt to regain the confidence of the House and, crucially, is under no obligation to allow anyone else to try: ‘A Prime Minister who has lost a vote in such circumstances would have to choose between hanging on and hoping to regain the confidence of the House; or handing over to the leader of the Opposition, even if they seemed unlikely to be able to put together a parliamentary majority.’ At that point an election is triggered, with the date set (recommended) by the current PM. This seems to remove the Vote of No Confidence as a threat to Brexit, though MPs don’t yet seem to realise how entertaining this could become.
Remainers however do seem slowly to be waking up to the fact that even with the combined forces of Parliament and the judiciary at their command they can’t stop Brexit. Hence the absurd spectacle of John ‘you mustn’t prorogue like I did’ Major requesting Boris not to be ‘disrespectful’ to the Supreme Court by finding a loophole in the Benn Surrender Act. Ah yes, respect – like the respect the Supreme Court showed to the Queen and her government?
The Remainer Parliament cries foul, but the truth is the reason it can’t stop Brexit is not due to any machinations of the government but because it itself passed legislation to trigger Article 50 and has no plans to revoke it.
It has also refused to pass the only Withdrawal Agreement on offer. The inevitable, lawful outcome is to leave without a WA on the leaving date – unless the government seeks, receives and accepts an extension. The ‘Surrender Act’ of course is Parliament’s attempt to force such an extension, and a clear usurpation of the power of the executive. But if the government can find a lawful way round the Surrender Act (plus any other legislation anti-PM Bercow rams through in the next few weeks) then we are out. Leaving on 31 October remains the law of the land.
What the loopholes in the Surrender Act might be is what everyone wants to know. https://order-order.com/2019/09/29/will-boris-get-around-benn-act/ Maybe the government will successfully argue in court that the Surrender Act is unlawful. Maybe they will use an Order of Council to cancel it.
Perhaps I should not speak too soon, for who knows what the Remainer establishment will pull out of the hat when they get really desperate – but at this moment it does look as if Boris might actually come through on his 31 October pledge. Whisper it, but we may yet be out for All Saints’ Day.