PROROGUES GALLERY

some rogues are less welcome than others
Depending on which newspaper you opened this morning in Britain, we in the UK are either facing a major constitutional crisis, or have a brilliant and determined PM doing the will of the people. This is because yesterday, Boris Johnson prorogued parliament for about 5 weeks, thereby closing it down to parliamentary debate, and the anticipated manoeuvres of a coalition of anti-no-deal-Brexit MPs.

In Canada, former Tory PM Stephen Harper also deployed this dramatic move, and it was decried then, though Canadian democracy is still alive and kicking today. It was last used in the UK by John Major in 1997, and is not quite as arcane as some commentators claim - but it is almost impossible to locate another instance of a government proroguing parliament for so long during such a serious moment for the nation, knowingly shutting down the parliamentarians from doing their jobs.

The problem is, if one revisits the first sentence of this essay, you can quickly see the cleavage is not imaginary - in actuality, the PM is doing the referendum-led will of the people in one sense, by halting the elected will of the people as represented by MPs - so both newspaper perspectives are, in a way, correct. It all boils down to which view of democracy you believe in more - one that favours the prime minister's executive inner circle, or one that favours parliament.

The ethical dilemma for Johnson, at least, and probably also a major constitutional irony for the nation to chew on, is that the Queen assented to the prorogation of parliament yesterday in a bizarre ceremony involving a candle, precisely because she is more or less bound by convention to do what the PM asks her (advised is the polite word) - but only because the PM's power is said to derive from having a majority of support in parliament.  Hence, this prorogation is only justified because parliament's power is seen as above all others in the UK.

So, it is therefore rather odd that today the PM's cronies in the media and government are busily attacking parliamentarians for being undemocratic - and suggesting that the real power and authority for Boris's moves now come from a 2016 referendum - one which, let us be clear, did not spell out any mandate for this sort of behaviour, and only expressed a desire to exit the European Union.

Where those who are calling Boris a tin-pot dictator etc have it close to the bullseye, is in the claims and assumptions that there is a direct link to authority from the slim Leaver majority, that now justifies anything the PM wants to do, in the name of getting Brexit over the line. The counter-argument would be that the PM needs to be minded that his power in fact only comes from being the person who can command the biggest voting faction in the House of Commons - and that the more he alienates and derogates the House, the more likely it is he may lose that majority.

As early as next week, we are likely to see a number of very aggressive and potentially doomed political actions by those MPs infuriated by this power-grab and their demotion, aided and abetted by Bercow, the Speaker of the House, a formidable ally indeed. So long as Boris keeps a majority, his plan is safe, if not sound, but anything could happen next week, even a triggering of an election with a vote of no confidence (if a new PM cannot be decided upon).

It seems that Boris, an ally of Trump, is taking a brinkmanship approach to native and foreign lands - and such gambles may lead to bleeding eye sockets as in Casino Royale, or successful American-supported wins. But it is a very England first policy - because as we can see with today's sad news of the resignation of the great Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, this prorogation, if it does not lead to a deal with the EU (still a long shot) will lead to a hard Brexit in two months, and probably within a few years after, if not sooner, the departure of Scotland, and even perhaps Northern Ireland, from the Union.

Just as ultimately the British empire collapsed in mid last century, we are seeing the dying days of a united kingdom - permitted by a weakened Queen who should have refused to prorogue - and a likely rump kingdom of England and Wales by 2030 (and then Wales may also go).

Or, porcine aviation being what it is these days, Boris may succeed, get a great deal, and Brexit may make us all rich and happy.

One tends to think not, but then again, this is still the last few days of the silly season...

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