IT was extremely hard to believe that the Prime Minister of “The Mother” of modern parliamentary democracy in the world, Britain, would try to dispense with the services of the Parliament to which he is answerable. Under Britain’s unwritten Constitution, the “convention” s that the Prime Minister is only a member of a Cabinet of which he is “primus inter pares” (first among equals), and is not expected to show contempt for Parliament in such a blatant manner.
Even more incredible was the notion that Boris Johnson would involve his Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth the Second, in his foray into the realms of totalitarian rule by getting her to sign an Order-in-Council to “prorogue” [suspend the sittings of] Parliament! “You won’t allow me to take Britain out of the European Union, ‘deal or no deal’? Okay, all of you go home! By the time you come back, Britain would have ‘Brexited, whether Parliament likes the conditions of withdrawal or not! And there is nothing you can do about it!” Boris decreed, (in the manner of a bully of a ‘school master’, in one or the posh educational establishments that taught him how to play war-games on “playing fields”!)
But so boorish had Boris been in seeking to get his own way politically that even some of his own “fags” wouldn’t play ball. A score of Conservative MPs defied the party” whip and were promptly told that the “whip” had been withdrawn from them, In other words, they could no longer sit in Parliament as Conservatives.
Amazing developments kept coming: the Guardian newspaper reported that “most of [Johnson’s “blond Clan”, who are all “high-profile in politics or journalism,” had repudiated his recent political tactics. His sister, a Sunday newspaper columnist called Rachel, had written in February 2019 that she was on “Team Boris – I always will be: blood is thicker than water”. However, Rachel Johnson was now saying that the recent behaviour of Boris had made her realise that "Perhaps if you put a man in front of the despatch box, he becomes a completely different person. It [the dispatch box] becomes a sort of bully pulpit.”
Earlier, the younger brother of Boris, Jo, had also resigned from his brother’s Government, in which he was serving as Science Minister. Brexit, Jo said, would “threaten the UK’s position as a “global innovation hub”.
Outside “Clan Boris”, the situation was much worse. People began to worry about whether democracy itself would survive in Britain if Boris had his way..
Luckily, the opponents of Boris chose a constitutional way to frustrate his designs: cases were taken to the courts, both in England and Scotland, challenging the legality of the peremptory manner Parliament had been prorogued by Boris.
Learned lawyers put forward strong arguments that implied that Boris had misled the Queen, and that what he really wanted to do when he asked the Queen to prorogue Parliament, was to silence Parliament so that he could “crash” Britain into a “no-deal” Brexit.
Some courts said Boris had acted legally. Others said he had not. In the end, all the cases converged in an appeal, Brought before Britain’s Supreme Court, for a definitive judgment.
23 September 2019 was to be the Day of Judgment. And what a day it was when it finally arrived!
The older members of my readership will probably recall the day that British TV had its “WHO SHOT JR” moment. (Please don’t ask me to explain this as it will take oolong!) Let me just say that everyone who had the time and capability to watch, sat transfixed, as the TV set showed a frail-looking but extremely vocal president of the Supreme Court (a lady adorned with a fetchingly large brooch) who announced that ALL ELEVEN members of the British Supreme Court panel had unanimously decided that Boris had acted illegally when he prorogued Parliament! They rubbed t n f9r Boris by pointing out that Boris had failed to give ANY reason for the prorogation, “let alone a good reason!”
It was as if the sky had fallen in f0r Boris. His opponents were jubilant. Fortunately for him, he was away in the US attending the United Nations General Assembly. However, British reporters cornered him there asking whether e would obey the Supreme Court judgment.
He said he would.
But constitutional experts pointed out that Boris could argue that the judiciary had intervened in politics by reaching such a decision. If Boris took that line, how would matters end? For if Boris said the judiciary had wrongly interfered in politics, his opponents would also retort that Boris, the Prime Minister, was, as a politician, trying to dictate to the “independent” judiciary! The judiciary formed the third tier of democracy in Britain (after the Executive and Parliament and each was supposed to have its own area of independence.)
It seemed as if a constitutional crisis was looming up to turn the Brexit imbroglio into “a political nuclear meltdown” for Britain, no less, Well, Boris came back from the US ahead of schedule, with all eyes on him. As he drove towards Downing Street (with TV cameras covering the progress of his motorcade live by helicopter) it was as if a Cup Final had just been played at Wembley for the winners of the court case had been making triumphant noises very loudly indeed..
The Speaker of Parliament came on TV to summon MPs to come back to the House. Would Boris come back to the House with his tail between his legs or would he continue to be defiant? He was at his ebullient best for nearly three hours, as he answered questions and debated the issues at stake with the members of the Opposition. So heated were the exchanges that the Speaker later described the atmosphere in the House as “toxic”.
Indeed, the argumentation has now moved away from the immediate pros and cons of the Brexit debate to the “language” employed by Boris and his supporters, during the exchanges in the House. Words like “betray” and “surrender” had been uttered freely during the debate, as if a proper war were raging in the country. Was this wise in a Parliament one of whose members, a lady called Mrs. Cox, had been brutally murdered by someone who disliked her opinions?
When Boris was reminded by another lady member about Mrs. Cox’s murder and told that that lady and others like her were being threatened and that some were scared to come to the House now to represent their constituents, Boris replied in an off-handed manner that he had never heard so much “humbug” in his life!
This statement by Boris has been roundly condemned. Whether Boris, after his boorish behavi9ur, will last as Prime Minister, is anybody’s guess. Certainly, a general election is looming ahead in the UK. But no-one is certain f the outcome.
Britannia is going to rule the airwaves of the planet in the next few weeks, you can be sure.
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