At our Conference last February the LRC declared that Brexit had “the possibility of creating a political and constitutional crisis.” Here it is. The Supreme Court ruling has brought us to a new stage in the depths of the chaos surrounding political life in Britain today.
The Supreme Court unanimously decided that Johnson’s decision to use the Queen’s authority to prorogue Parliament was “unlawful, void and of no effect.” Parliament will therefore reconvene today (September 25th) and Johnson will have to face the music. The twelve judges commented that the Prime Minister gave no reason for suspending Parliament, which appeared to be “purely political.” Johnson lied to the Queen and the rest of us, as he usually does to try to get himself out of scrapes of his own making. He asserted that the suspension was a practical, technical matter. In fact it was obvious that he wanted to avoid scrutiny by the House of Commons in the crucial period running up to the October 31st deadline. Parliamentary sovereignty was being blatantly overridden by an unelected PM.
If Johnson had any sense of shame he would resign. He hasn’t.
There is a long history of the executive (the monarchy) trying to overrule Parliament by proroguing it and ruling by decree. Charles I was a regular offender. After his execution in 1649 most of us considered the matter settled - that prorogation was not on.
This is not the first time Johnson has tried to pull a stroke. His tenure as Prime Minister is hardly legitimate. Less than 100,000 people (very unrepresentative of the British people to put it politely) voted for him as leader of the Tory Party. The population of Britain is about 66 million, so 0.13% of the population gave him their support.
He has repeatedly been voted down in the Commons in his attempt to bounce Britain into a no-deal Brexit. A bill moved by Hilary Benn declares that the Johnson government cannot leave the EU without a deal but must ask for an extension of the withdrawal date until a satisfactory deal is achieved. This is now the law of the land, but Johnson has not indicated he will obey it. His reaction to the Supreme Court ruling, talking about “attacking individuals who want to frustrate Brexit” indicates he thinks he can still rule as a dictator.
Not only has he lost votes in Parliament. Johnson has mislaid his majority in the House of Commons by his own hand. He has ruthlessly purged longstanding Tory MPs like Ken Clarke because they won’t toe his line on Brexit. His position now is precarious. His government is paralysed.
The Supreme Court decision has been hailed as a victory for the rule of law. Socialists have been aware for ages that the law, and other institutions of the state, is an instrument to defend and perpetuate capitalist class rule. That is not to say we won’t take advantage of the law when it is in the interest of our class to do so. But the rule of law also acts as a defence from arbitrary and irrational acts of the executive. A no-deal Brexit, which seems to be Johnson’s objective, would do huge damage to the interests of the capitalist system in Britain. Johnson is a maverick who is out of control and needs to be reined in.
Jeremy Corbyn is quite right to identify a no-deal Brexit as the most immediate threat to working class people, which must be stopped at all costs. Labour has refrained from demanding a general election till the danger of Britain crashing out without a deal on October 31st has been definitively put to rest. Johnson and Dominic Cummings were aiming at a snap election dominated by the issue of Brexit to give their rotten regime some shred of legitimacy. Labour wants to campaign on all the failures of Tory rule since 2010, on all the problems faced by working people, and our programme for radical social change.
Johnson wants to campaign as an anti-establishment figure confronted with the resistance of a Parliamentary and legal establishment, and determined to carry out the will of the people in the 2016 referendum. This is obscene. Johnson is the face of the ruling class from Eton and Oxford. He is a former member of the Bullingdon Club, a gang of upper class hooligans. One of their delightful initiation ceremonies is to pull out a £50 note in front of a tramp and set it alight. What fun! Jacob Rees-Mogg is another representative of a class which should have disappeared from the pages of history long ago.
Jeremy Corbyn nailed their posturing in his Conference speech. “In a shameless bid to turn reality on its head, Boris Johnson’s born-to-rule Tories are now claiming to be the voice of the people. A political party that exists to protect the establishment is pretending to be anti-establishment...Johnson and his wealthy friends are not only on the side of the establishment, they are the establishment. They will never be on the side of the people when supporting the people might hit them and their super-rich sponsors where it hurts – in their wallets and offshore bank accounts.”
Although there was a clear majority in 2016 for leaving the EU, the terms on which Britain would go were never spelled out. This is for the Commons to decide. In fact Parliament was kept completely in the dark about negotiations for three years by Theresa May and now Boris Johnson. Nobody in 2016 advocated a no-deal Brexit. Michael Gove, one off the leaders of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in 2016, was quite clear. “We didn’t vote to leave without a deal.”
We want and need an election to sweep the Tories away, just as soon as we can lay Johnson’ mad plan for a no-deal Brexit in its coffin. Corbyn’s inspiring speech at Labour Party Conference spells out the way forward for Britain. Johnson and his crew are challenging Labour to vote immediately in Parliament for an election. It is true that people are heartily sick of the seemingly endless arguments about Brexit. But the problems won’t go away. This is a last desperate throw by Johnson to try to pull the wool over people’s eyes - a quick election and then a giant leap in the dark with a no-deal Brexit. Labour needs to resist that temptation for now. No premature vote of no confidence till we’re good and ready
· Stop the move to a no-deal Brexit.
· Then full steam ahead with an election to wipe out the Tories.
This article originally appeared here https://labourrep.com/blog/2019/9/25/johnson-must-go