The UK should now consider a written constitution to prevent undemocratic tricks like prorogation of parliament by Boris Johnson’s Government to facilitate his Brexit plans.
It happened in the early hours of yesterday morning, almost as if Boris Johnson knew it was a shameful act, not suitable for daylight hours.
Despite the Government’s denials, it is obvious that the suspension of Parliament for five weeks was designed to facilitate a no-deal Brexit on 31 October by getting Opposition MPs out of the way for as long as was deemed politically possible.
Some Brexiteers might view it as dirty, but nevertheless acceptable, trick that was necessary to finally bring about Brexit. And their frustrations at the repeated delays should be understandable, even to Remainers.
However, suspending parliament to achieve a political goal represents a step towards a dictatorship. In this case, it is perhaps not a huge stride, but it is a significant move and one that should worry us all, that cannot be allowed to pass by with little comment.
Opposition MPs were right to show their displeasure, holding up signs saying “Silenced”, singing songs and even attempting to prevent the Speaker from leaving his chair, which Labour MP Alex Sobel said was reminiscent of the “action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I” in 1629.
Johnson yesterday said “this stuff about it being anti-democratic” was “a load of nonsense”. He would not be quite so dismissive if this was a future Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn suspending parliament for two months to help bring about a sweeping programme of nationalisation – not that there’s any reason to believe the Labour leader would actually do such a thing. It is a problem and that one which demands a solution.
Whoever is Prime Minister when British politics finally achieves some semblance of normality – surely, this will happen eventually – should set up a commission to consider reform of the UK’s rather piecemeal constitution, which is not entirely unwritten, but a mix of various bits of legislation, tradition and expected practice.
This might result in a written constitution. Perhaps it could even produce an inspirational document that would echo down the centuries in the same way as the US Declaration of Independence’s “self-evident” truths about equality and “unalienable rights”, including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, have done.
But, for now, we would settle for a guarantee that parliament will never be suspended in this disgraceful manner ever again.