Boris Johnson has prorogued Parliament, or shut it down, without calling a general election. The building usually used to give Britons everywhere a voice and to make major political decisions is empty. Clearly, this was never about the will of the people, and it was never about sovereignty.
Those who wanted Brexit wanted Brexit, nothing more, and simply armed themselves with this vocabulary – which had the double advantage of making their side sound legitimate in a democracy and not being accessible enough for the layman to challenge it – and used it for as long as it served their interests. The Remain and Leave camps are both broad churches – each being home to around half the population of Britain – so it is of course unfair to say that the events that have transpired in the past week reflect the views and wishes of everyone who voted out of the European Union. Regardless of who does and doesn’t support it, it has happened. Whether people agree with it is almost insignificant, certainly to those at the top of the Conservative Party and at Number 10, who have made their contempt for political representation and what the public think clear: what matters now is what happens next.
Last month, Caroline Lucas was derided for her proposal of an all-female anti-Brexit Cabinet. The right, by now wearily well-versed in the politically correct lexicon, beat Lucas at her own game and suggested that such extreme positive discrimination was sexist, while other opponents criticised the move for not offering a single position to a non-white woman. In principle, an organised anti-Brexit cabal is still a good idea, though, provided the ‘principle’ is understood to be an opportunity for those at the forefront of top-tier anti-Brexit politics to unite on strategy.
The left are often said to be overly interested in ideology, leading to disagreements and fracturing that usually make such unity difficult. That trend was bucked when Jeremy Corbyn announced that he and other opposition leaders were coordinating plans to pass a law blocking a no-deal Brexit, which sounds promising to those who are against ‘crashing out’ (who make up the majority of Britons, by a landslide: only 34% of people would choose a no-deal Brexit if no new deal was agreed by 31st October, according to pollster YouGov in August 2019, who presented people with a raft of options [though it should be noted a no-deal Brexit was still the most popular option, more so than remaining in the EU or holding a second referendum: however, those in favour of other options vastly outnumber those who want no-deal]).
"This was never about the will of the people and it was never about sovereignty"
However, excitement was cut short by the proroguing of Parliament. Thrown out onto the cobbles, MPs are now little more than grassroots activists, and their parties (including the not insignificant faction of the Conservative Party who are keen on Europe) pressure groups. A team at Number 10 willing to suspend the only major check on itself does not care enough about accountability to listen to activists or pressure groups: if Brexit can truly work for Britain (if it can work at all, with most projections of its impact on GDP being negative, compared with staying in the EU), it will come with the seal of approval from the people, which will be delivered to the government by Parliament. Without Parliament, the government have minimal incentive to pay any mind to the will of the people between elections, and so for Brexit to work successfully (and for democracy to work at all), Johnson must restore Parliament. It was said above that the left are over-reliant on ideology: the other side of that particular coin is that the right have a penchant for pragmatism. Now more than ever would be a good time for the leader of the Conservative Party to prove it.