Really a Right Wing Coup 274

Just because it is not written in a single document does not mean the UK does not have a constitution. But it does mean it has a particularly bad one.

If like me you were awake until 2am watching the remarkable scenes in Parliament last night, as opposition MPs stayed and protested in the Commons as Speaker Bercow, having himself entered a formal protest, led the Tories to the dissolution ceremony in the Lords, you were probably struck by the ridiculous flummery of it all. The three Queen’s Commissioners sat before the golden throne in silly hats, which the gentlemen doffed formally and very slowly three times, while the lady did not, and the Speaker and Commons staff bobbed low each time in response like a row of overdressed ducks.

This ludicrous pantomime is intended to reinforce the majesty of the monarch in the minds of the plebs, and indeed as an example of monarchical power it is effective. The prorogation, which Bercow objected to as an “executive fiat”, is just that and had it been made in the name of Boris Johnson, it is extremely probable that Bercow, with the strong support of the majority of the Commons, would have resisted the prorogation and carried on sitting. But because it is done in the name of Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha, the most outrageous and undemocratic acts are suffered out of a misplaced sense of personal loyalty to the 93 year old monarch.

While Rees Mogg and his racist Brexiteer stormtroopers from the Commons turned up eagerly to grovel, it was very notable that only a dozen Tory peers bothered to show – something else totally unprecedented about this prorogation. Last week I was again up till 2am watching parliament and the much touted (esp on Guido Fawkes) Tory filibuster to stop the anti no deal Act. On a series of ridiculous procedural motions, on which counted votes were insisted despite obvious massive defeat by acclamation, the Government vote fell from in the low 100s until eventually they were being defeated every time by margins of approximately 250 to 60, and they gave up the filibuster in embarrassment. There was a remarkable contrast between the breathless excitement with which the mainstream media trailed the filibuster, as the BBC here, and the brief and sordid reality. Johnson’s repeated defeats in the Commons have rather overshadowed the utter contempt in which he is held in the Lords.

The monarchy is not a neutral player in all this. By the monarchy I mean not only the Queen, but the professional courtiers who surround her, each paid by the taxpayer. It is almost twenty years since I last held a conversation with the Queen, and I just do not know how sharp her faculties remain at 93, but I have not heard she is not still making her own decisions.

Boris Johnson should not be Prime Minister. It is not the constitutional duty of the monarch to appoint as Prime Minister the leader of the Conservative Party, and not even the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, but a person who can command a majority in the House of Commons. For example, in 2010 Gordon Brown tried to put together a “rainbow coalition” to get a Commons majority and be reappointed Prime Minister. Had he succeeded in putting together such a coalition with a majority, the Queen would have had to appoint him even though David Cameron’s party had more seats than Labour. This was universally accepted as the constitutional position. It did not happen in the end as the Lib Dems preferred the Tories.

Nothing in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act alters the constitutional position that the Prime Minister must be able to command a majority in the House of Commons.

It was unconstitutional of Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha to appoint Boris Johnson as Prime Minister when it was absolutely plain at the outset he had no majority in the House of Commons. This is not hindsight, I said so at the time. Now it has been proven that he has no majority in the House as he has been defeated six times out of six on major votes on the most important issues of the day. He has never won an important vote on anything as Prime Minister. Whether or not these are characterised as “confidence issues” is irrelevant. The man Johnson has never had a Commons majority. I can think of nothing more unconstitutional – and I think it can absolutely be characterised as a coup – than for the Queen to appoint a Prime Minister who has no majority support in the Commons, and then prorogue Parliament precisely because the executive has no majority. This is not even a government which has lost its majority – it has never had one and ought never to have been appointed.

Rather than prorogue Parliament, the Queen should have obliged Boris Johnson to resign and asked the Leader of the Opposition to see whether he could form an administration that could command a majority. That would be the constitutionally correct course of action. The monarch is not neutral in this and is acting unconstitutionally, abusing her power.

Let me put it this way. Does anybody seriously contend that Jeremy Corbyn would be appointed Prime Minister by the Queen in a situation where he had no parliamentary majority, and would remain in No. 10 despite losing 6 successive Commons votes and never winning one, and that the Queen would prorogue Parliament for him to get round the fact that he had no majority? Of course not. It is unthinkable. We are witnessing a right wing coup specifically in favour of Boris Johnson.

It is particularly worrying that so many people are happy to see dictatorship established so long as it expedites Brexit. This demonstrates the folly of introducing elements of direct democracy into a representative democracy. I am perfectly content for England and Wales to be outside the EU, though I regard extending that to being outside the customs union and single market as economic madness driven by xenophobia. I am sorry to say I do not maintain a romantic view of the electorate, having for a considerable while dwelled amongst a remarkable percentage of open racists in Ramsgate, a UKIP hotspot where Farage chose to stand. The idea that the crowd should directly wield unmediated power of executive action is almost as repugnant to me as the continued existence of the monarchy. As so often, I appreciate my views do not fit into a standard and easily labeled set of opinions and many of you may disagree. They are however my opinions and I present them with no insistence you agree, but in the hope that you will consider and discuss.


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274 thoughts on “Really a Right Wing Coup

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  • mickc

    Of course Johnson could command a majority in the House when he was appointed. Shortly thereafter, he couldn’t. He lost a vote which he treated as a vote of confidence.
    That should have triggered an election except the Fixed Term Act prevented it.
    The Opposition should then have called a true vote of confidence. If Johnson lost, and he could not put together a majority, Corbyn could try to do so.
    The whole thing is a nonsense….but don’t blame Johnson or the Queen for it. The Opposition wish to keep Johnson as PM when plainly there should be an election.

    • michael norton

      Yes, the running conclusion is many opposition M.P.s and some Conservative M.P.s do not want a General Election, they think they have Boris by the short and curlies.
      But perhaps their hidden reasoning, is they know history is slipping away from them.
      Despite the biggliest Fear Project ever, Leave won the Referendum.
      Three years of prevaricating twaddle have ensued, yet we have not left the European Union.
      It is thought, those members of parliament who exist to serve Leave leaning areas but who wish for their own base wishes to stay in the E.U.
      will be toasted, come the G.E.
      These are the history people.
      They are not the future.

    • N_

      @Mickc – “Treated as a vote of confidence”? If a person treats the loss of a vote as an expression of no confidence in him, he resigns.

      Johnson can

      * resign
      * propose a one-line bill that calls an election for before 31 October
      * request an Article 50 extension

      Any of those three actions will be welcomed by a majority of MPs.

      • mickc

        Not quite true.
        The loss of a vote of confidence historically meant, as Jim Callaghan put it, that as PM “I will take my case to the country”…
        That is no longer allowed, but I agree with your second option. However it would not pass….this Parliament, for sure a Rotten Parliament, is intent on not allowing “we, the people” to have any say at all.

  • N_

    I’ve now read the official Yellowhammer document. It’s only five pages long, and what a crock it is! It says nothing whatsoever about air travel or a run on the banks.

    It does, however, anticipate

    * “provider failure” in the market for “adult social care” and possible “concurrent risks” including flu

    * an increase in “zoonotic” diseases – a term I had to look up and which denotes infectious diseases which spread between non-human animals and humans (readers may like to read about the ongoing “mysterious illness” infecting many dogs in Norway)

    * problems with the water supply.

    On the third of these, it says that public water services are likely to remain unaffected but that a failure in the chemical chain, if it occurs, would be likely to be localised, affecting merely hundreds of thousand of people. It says water companies are well prepared, but in the event of a supply chain failure there may need to be “urgent action” to ensure people have a supply of clean water. You have to wonder how the phrases “well prepared” and “urgent” are being used. If you are well prepared for an undesired eventuality and then it occurs, you take the action you have prepared, don’t you? Is that an “urgent” action?

    To summarise the above three bullet points:

    * flu ripping through old people’s homes – that’s if the premises aren’t boarded up because the management companies have gone bust

    * diseases spreading from non-human animals to humans, simultaneously with a shortage of veterinary medicines

    * water supply failures affecting mere pockets of a few hundred thousand proles people here, a few hundred thousand chavs people there

    I told you the Tories’ hero Thomas Malthus would be in seventh heaven!

    A link to the story about the mystery illness that is killing many dogs in Norway. The Norwegian authorities are advising pet owners not to let their dogs interact with other dogs. Anybody who actually keeps a pet dog, which in Britain is about one in four of the population, knows how ridiculous that advice is.

    It may be that any positive feeling that the Tories might benefit from because of “Lucy’s Law” (a good law which I support) is not going to happen.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    A detailed review of sub-sets in yesterday’s YouGov poll will be uncomfortable for Cummings.

    YouGov attributes 76 seats to London. The Tories have 21 London seats, 10 of which have majorities of around 20% or greater. A notional Anti-Brexit front has a 28% lead, so factor in 11 lost seats.

    Based on YouGov polling of individual Scottish Tory constituencies last week, Cummings can factor in another 11 seat loss.

    The real battleground is South of England excluding London (209 seats), Midlands & Wales (135 seats) and North of England (153 seats).
    Swing from Conservative to Brexit Party in yesterday’s poll was; SoE 10%, M&W 6%, NoE 1%.
    Lead for a notional Brexit front in M&W in the last four polls is -3, 9, 7, 6.
    Lead for a notional Brexit front in SoE in last three polls is 11, 7, 4.

    The hardcore Brexiteers are looking at compulsive liar Johnson and starting to doubt his bluster.

  • N_

    Cummings, Johnson et al: the national security issue

    The Yellowhammer document is one thing. But what about the documents that the Commons demanded a few hours before they got prorogued that the monarch must instruct her ministers to hand over? These include messages that, according to SNP MP Joanna Cherry, speaking in the Commons, were sent and received by “key figures in No. 10 and the Government” on burner phones.

    Why are they using burner phones? This isn’t just some mud to throw at them. It’s a security issue.

    British government security is the responsibility of British agencies. That includes the security of communications that are sent by government advisers in the course of their work for the government. If Eugenics Cummings doesn’t trust British government security agencies, whose security agency does he trust?

    And has anyone found out yet who funded his three years of doing business in Russia after graduation?

    Imagine what bodyguards might think of a client who decides he’s not going to let them turn left at the lights, but he’s going to kick them out of the car, take the wheel himself, turn right instead, do whatever he’s got to do, and look after his own security until he comes back to pick them up. They’d soon walk out. You can’t do a job properly unless you’re actually allowed to do it.

    Do the British security agencies know what Cummings and Johnson have been doing behind their backs? Do they even know where they got the burner phones from?

    The government has refused to hand over the documents, saying that if they did so they’d be breaking the law. Can someone please take their refusal before a judge – preferably before judges in all three jurisdictions.

  • N_

    The Scotsman newspaper has called the judges who ruled the prorogation unlawful “Heroes of the People”.

    It’s always good to see the Daily Heil get a bashing.

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