by Frank Schnittger
Wed Aug 28th, 2019 at 11:36:40 AM EST
Not content to have an unelected Head of State, an unelected upper House of Parliament, an unelected Prime Minister, an oligarch controlled media, and an arcane first past the post single seat constituency electoral system which can yield hugely disproportionate results and renders voting pointless in many "safe" constituencies, Britain's unwritten "constitution" also allows the Prime Minister to "prorogue" parliament to prevent it passing laws not to his liking, at a time of his choosing, for whatever period is his pleasure.
And this is the country which likes to lecture the rest of Europe about lack of democracy and accountability within the EU. British voters have just had the opportunity to elect their MEPs (via a proportional voting system) but cannot elect their Prime Minister, either directly or via their elected members of Parliament. They also have no say in the appointment of his cabinet - unlike the European Commission whose President must be elected by both the Council and parliament, and whose commissioners must be nominated by elected governments and approved by the European Parliament.
Boris has now chosen to prorogue Parliament for an unprecedented period from the 10th. September to the 14th. of October meaning there will in all probability be insufficient time to bring forward the legislative changes the opposition had been planning to prevent a no deal Brexit before the prorogation, and no time to vote no confidence in the Government afterwards, because of the 14 day period Boris can hang on as Prime Minister even after losing a vote of no confidence. The "mother of Parliaments" indeed.
In theory, Parliament could try to legislate against a no deal Brexit, force the government to seek a further A.50 extension, or to prevent a prorogation. However there is no certainty that Boris couldn't ignore any of these options. For instance Parliament could force him to ask for an A.50 extension, but not be able to force him to accept one even if it is offered. Boris can probably rely on the disunity of the opposition to produce no united, coherent response. There simply isn't time to craft a common approach. A vote of no confidence in the Government has already been ruled out by the opposition because of a failure to agree on who should lead an alternative administration, even in a temporary caretaker capacity.
It may be that outrage at his latest move will finally forge a united front among opposition PMs to take effective action, but I wouldn't be holding my breath. In the absence of an anti-no deal Brexit electoral pact, most independent MPs stand to lose their seats given the vagaries of the single seat first past the post electoral system. Self preservation is the first order of political action, and already independent MPs have been searching around for excuses not to force a general election.
It is not even clear what happens if the House of Commons does vote no confidence in the Government. Does that end the prorogation process? How can the 14 day period provided under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 to find an alternative Prime Minister operate if the House of Commons isn't even sitting to vote confidence in an alternative candidate? This act of prorogation is nothing less than an attempt to frustrate democracy but it remains to be seen whether UK democrats have enough self respect and principle to take effective action against it.
The descent of the UK into a post Brexit dystopian autocracy is proceeding apace. It gives me no pleasure to say "I told you so", but it looks increasingly likely that the EU will be well rid of the UK, no deal or otherwise. After all, membership of the EU is only supposed to be open to democracies.