Johnson can no longer ignore Parliament. So he is silencing it

“My country is having an identity crisis. So am I.” A blog by Madelaine Pitt

, by Madelaine Pitt

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Johnson can no longer ignore Parliament. So he is silencing it
Photo: David Castor

Arriving back from a JEF seminar in Malta to find the Prime Minister of your country announcing the suspension of Parliament is a bit of a kick in the teeth.

These two events might seem unrelated. But, given I’ve just spent a week debating and building projects for a positive vision of tomorrow’s Europe with young people from all corners of our continent, the closure of the chamber for five precious weeks with the aim of forcing a crash exit from the EU seems an even more shocking violation of our democracy.

Of course, forgetting about Brexit just because you’re not in Britain is about as easy as forgetting you can’t turn your head 360° because you’re not an owl. It is now without exception the first subject that comes up when I meet someone new or speak to someone from another country.

Dutch tourist at the airport last night: “It’s not too horrible in Britain at the moment?” Young local at the beach: “So, what’s going on with Brexit?” A fellow participant: “Ah you’re British, that must suck right now.” Even an Australian friend whom I wished a happy birthday on Facebook replied with “Good to hear from you! I hope Brexit’s going well!”

Obviously, given the topic of the seminar in Malta was “Faker Fighters”, discussing the issues with fake news and improving media literacy, the topic of Brexit was something of a smash hit. On the other hand, my week with the wonderful JEF group in Malta reassured me, as any JEF experiences usually do, that I have the right to feel like a European citizen in spite of everything.

Where there should be fierce democratic debate, there will be silence

I got back to my parents’ in the UK at 2am yesterday morning, with a head full of memories of sunny Valletta with its dusty-golden coastlines and lively night-time streets. Of new JEF friends from all around Europe, and enriching exchanges on freedom of speech, critical thinking, and fighting fake news. Waking up late and checking my phone, I imagined that the 607 new messages in our WhatsApp group for our “Our Future Our Choice” campaign movement probably didn’t bode well. Reading them in disbelief over breakfast, I realised that dictators don’t only exist in far-off lands.

The suspension of Parliament is undeniably an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit without our consent. And it might well work. If MPs are not there, they cannot propose or vote on new legislation which might avoid a no-deal, nor call a vote of no confidence, nor try to form a temporary government with a different prime minister who would be able to ask for a fresh extension of Article 50.

Johnson is fully aware that he does not have the backing of the House of Commons. He has already tried to ignore it, but it is just starting to have some good ideas. So he is silencing it. If our elected representatives are not present, they are powerless. Where there should be a frenzy of action, there will be inactivity. Where there should be furious opposition, there will be incapacity of response. Where there should be fierce democratic debate, there will be silence.

At around 3pm, the Queen gave her assent for the prorogation.

Democracy has failed in the United Kingdom.

Johnson has no scruples when it comes to the damage he is doing his utmost to inflict upon British and European citizens, but he’s not the only guilty one. The opposition parties have dragged their heels in setting aside their party political interests.

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has taken three years to propose cross-party action (spearheaded, naturally, by himself). Jo Swinson, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, has thrown up a tantrum about working with Corbyn. Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Greens, proposed a working group composed entirely of women.

Don’t any of you understand that we are in crisis? Don’t you realise that 31 October won’t wait for you to stop bickering over who you will or won’t work with or hang around until you get organised? To all MPs who have an interest in protecting our society, economy, security and peace – shut yourselves in a room, and don’t come out until you agree on a way to work as a united front against the monster in Number 10.

The clock is ticking

We are at a historic turning point, two months from a precipice. Parliament comes back from its summer recess on 3 September (why they are having a summer recess at all at a time like this mystifies and infuriates me in equal measure). Parliament will be suspended from 9 September until 14 October, more than half of the time we have left.

“Do not waste this time,” Donald Tusk advised us following the last extension of Article 50. I have no doubt that he knew this advice would fall on deaf ears. But I would bet the Queen’s suspiciously European hat that even he would not have thought the time we do have would be so suddenly, drastically and unjustly cut even shorter, by the person who should need it the most.

Night has fallen over the ongoing protests in London, which gathered at short notice for impassioned speeches from journalists and activists, blocking great swathes of streets in Westminster and Whitehall. The true meaning of “Take Back Control” has finally come to light: take it from the people, take it from their representatives – give it to the government, give it to the elites.

This weekend, there will be mass demonstrations, and I will find the nearest and join it. Johnson may succeed in silencing Parliament. He will not silence the people.

Your comments
  • On 29 August 2019 at 21:33, by Ian Beckett Replying to: Johnson can no longer ignore Parliament. So he is silencing it

    “The suspension of Parliament is undeniably an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit without our consent.”

    It may not have your consent, but it does have the consent of the majority who voted to leave the EU. It had the consent of the 83% of voters who elected MPs in 2017 who promised to follow through on Brexit, as well as very large numbers of posters on public websites.

    Perhaps you haven’t been watching news programmes, repeatedly people are saying words to the effect, “just get on with it” and “MPs have ignored our vote”.

    I suggest as a democrat you ask yourself how you defy the largest ever democratic exercise in the UK and support MPs who are trying to prevent Brexit and require the UK to remain shackled to the EU in the Customs Union etc. Democracy means implementing the vote even if you personally don’t like the result. Obviously in any other EU state there would have had a second referendum by now and let’s assume for the sake of argument it happened here and Remain won, why would Leavers accept that?

    We voted to LEAVE the EU, not remain attached or partially connected and watching MPs repeatedly break manifesto promises and obstruct the clear INSTRUCTION of the electors.

    Still as true democrats this website doesn’t post any public comments, despite giving the impression it does. Creepy don’t you think?

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