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Parliament Prorogation: why all the fuss?

Written by Comment

Prorogation is an official mechanism that is used to end a session of parliament.

Typically, it lasts only a short time until parliamentary proceedings begin again with a new Queen’s speech. It means that parliament’s sitting is suspended and ends all current legislation up for discussion and debate, essentially wiping the slate clean in preparation for the next parliamentary term. It is normal for this to happen every autumn. This is especially needed in this case as the current parliamentary session, which began in June 2017, is the longest in nearly 400 years.

What is irregular is the length of the prorogation; at five weeks it is longer than such periods have been in the past. However, three of those five weeks would have typically been recess anyway, (this is when the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences are usually held.) So practically the prorogation is only two weeks in length in terms of parliamentary time lost, which is a usual and well precedented length.

There had been suggestions MPs would vote against holding this conference recess, or any attempt to extend it
However, proroguing parliament is not voted on by MPs, so cannot be stopped in this way. Essentially the government in this regard has fixed the parliamentary timetable to its usual cycle that it would operate under in order to prevent Remainer MPs form upsetting the typical parliamentary calendar. The three main political parties were going ahead with planning their party conferences which suggests that they had planned to have this recess anyway regardless of what they say now. With this move they are essentially left with no choice but to utilise the parliamentary recess.

How does the Queen fit into this?

The government’s request to the Queen and proposed timetable was made at a meeting of the Privy Council at Balmoral Castle by senior ministers led by the Lord President of the Council, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Many remainers speculated that the queen should refuse the council’s request, and while technically the queen retains this power under the royal prerogative, it would have been extremely difficult for Her Majesty to do so as it would have made the monarch an active political entity, sparking a constitutional crisis. Jeremy Corbyn has written to her saying that “there was a danger that the royal prerogative is being set directly against the wishes of a majority of the House of Commons”.

Why has this happened?

Only the day before, many of the opposition parties finally came to an agreement that they would use legislative efforts in an attempt to stop no deal, rather than a straight confidence vote. The reasoning for this essentially revolves around Tory rebels. A Conservative rebel MP could be convinced to vote for laws in the House of Commons that make a no deal Brexit impossible. However, any Conservative MP that votes against their own government in a confidence vote has the whip removed (is out of the party and will lose their seat at the next election) and so by going for the legislative route remainers can be more appealing to sympathetic Remainer Tory MPs. This and the speculation over whether the opposition could even win a confidence vote, and that even if they did win the government still, thanks to the fixed term parliament act, could hold on for two weeks before holding a general election. This would dissolve parliament (due to the tight timetables Brexit would happen as the legal default during the election purdah on the 31st of October anyway), leaving remainers with no power while the clock ticked down. Essentially the government’s hand was forced by this decision by opposition parties. It makes the prospect of a snap no-confidence vote far more likely and Remainer MPs will now need to go back to the drawing board and weigh up that option again.

So why all the fuss?

The prorogation of parliament was decried by remainers as a device of Charles I. In their view it is a long obsolescent mechanism in British constitutional practice. The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, went as far to call it a “constitutional outrage”, once again failing in his duties to be impartial whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that he himself had resorted to a precedent dating from James I to implement one of his constitutional coups in the name of the remain cause.

However, it’s worth pointing out that this argument is complete nonsense as prorogation is, as Jacob Rees-Mogg stated at Aberdeen airport on his way back from Balmoral, “a completely normal constitutional procedure”. This procedure that is causing all of this fuss has occurred every year between 2012 and 2017 (funnily enough Charles I was not involved) only this time it is inconvenient to those that would undo the largest democratic vote in the UK’s history. There is no question of the precedented legality of prorogation and so it is right that it was on the table for the government to use.

There simply is no valid constitutional objection to this procedure
This parliamentary session has been the longest since the reign of… yes, you’ve guessed, Charles I. It was unquestionably high time that we had a Queen’s speech in order to revitalise and re-energise public policy (especially on the eve of Brexit where a new agenda must be waiting in the wings to be put forward so that the opposition and backbenchers can rightfully scrutinize the government’s agenda for what is to come. It is a ridiculous idea that Theresa May’s Queens Speech should still set the government’s agenda especially after the paradigm shifting event that B day looks to be). Remainer rebels- and rebels is becoming a more and more appropriate term considering their reaction to royal command- have no grounds for complaint and are essentially running out of potential political manoeuvres and time, and so have resorted to what many who rout resort to, hysteria. I for one have no doubt in my mind that those protesting in the streets around Westminster are not doing so to avert tailbacks at Calais and Dover, but instead to overturn the will of 17.4 million voters.

Remainers now hope to challenge prorogation in the courts. I for one wish them the very best of luck with that hopeless endeavour.

The act of prorogation belongs to that part of the royal prerogative that is non-justiciable. The most that Remainer lawyers could hope to achieve is claim that the advice given to the Queen was illegal; and I ask you with Her Majesty as head of the courts, what court has the competence to adjudge that? The sitting Attorney General has raised no objection. We are here at the innermost sanctum of our constitution: any intervention would be utterly destructive and as far reaching as a de facto revolution, just as in 1688.

The simple truth to all of this is that many people simply don’t understand our constitution and so when elites wish to get their way, they will manipulate those who do not know better. Every single major bank, the majority of media outlets, multinational firms, big tech and major industrialists do not primarily care about your rights or constitution and will happily override them if they must in order to further their personal economic and political interests. Do not allow yourself to be used by them to further their goals. Behind the faux outrage of today is the unquestionable and universally recognised attempt by elites in British society to overturn the legally expressed will of the majority of the British electorate. It is that electoral majority which the focus of the elites should be aiming to deliver, not thwart, and it is this that the Queen, by exercising irreproachably her legitimate constitutional function, is protecting and preserving. God save the Queen.

Last modified: 30th August 2019

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