Leader comment: Johnson’s cavalier approach to democracy

Even those who have so stoutly defended the right of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend this session of the House of Commons must have shuddered.

MPs who argue that the prorogation of parliament is a perfectly legitimate have to recognise that the refusal of cabinet secretary Michael Gove to confirm, yesterday, that the Government would abide by any legislation blocking a No Deal Brexit speaks of an executive with a cavalier approach to the principles of democracy.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a leading figure in the Leave campaign of 2016, was pressed repeatedly on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show over whether - should Tory rebels assist opposition politicians in passing legislation preventing a No Deal withdrawal on October 31 - the Government would accept the outcome. It was deeply troubling when Mr Gove went only so far as to say “Let’s see what the legislation says”.

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Mr Gove, Mr Johnson and other leading Brexiteers were quite clear in 2016 that their campaign was about the preservation of our democracy, about the need to protect the sovereignty of parliament. If this was truly the case, then Mr Gove’s reaction yesterday should have been to confirm that, yes, of course the Government would accept any such legislation.

The week ahead, then, will not simply be about whether MPs can prevent No Deal, it will be about the health of our democracy.

The Scotsman believes not only that Brexit is a mistake but that a No Deal version would be an example of shameful political recklessness. Boris Johnson’s oft-repeated mantra that the UK will leave the EU on October 31 “do or die” is not about what is best for the country he now leads but about what is best for his career. Having thrown in his lot with Eurosceptic ideologues three years ago, he now depends upon them for his political survival.

Johnson and allies such as Gove may be tempted to put delivery of Brexit, no matter the cost, before the democratic will of parliament. If they do so, they will scar our politics and secure their places in history as men of great dishonour. If MPs this week pass legislation preventing a No Deal Brexit then Boris Johnson, Mr Gove, and every other Brexiteer in the commons must accept this.

They did, after all, spend the referendum campaign insisting the sovereignty of parliament must be sacrosanct.