Who will defend democracy?

Boris’s prorogation is wrong. His critics are even worse.

Tom Slater
Topics Brexit Politics UK

Two things can be true at once, and today was a case in point.

First, Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament is cynical and wrong. Having been granted the queen’s approval, he will now end the current session around 10 September, clearing the way for a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

The obvious intention here is to squeeze parliamentary time as the Brexit deadline looms, to the end of stopping Remainer MPs either legislating against No Deal or toppling Johnson via a vote of no confidence.

Granted, this has only knocked a few days off parliamentary time. MPs will still be sitting in the run-up to Brexit day; this is not ‘locking the doors of parliament’ to ‘force through No Deal’, as it has been talked up.

But these are times of huge political and historical consequence – parliament, notwithstanding some of the shameless anti-democrats who currently occupy it, should not be sidelined. We risk setting a dangerous precedent.

But while Johnson is plain wrong, another thing is true here too: his Remainer opponents, those who have spent the day calling him a ‘tin-pot dictator’ and threatening civil disobedience, do not have right on their side either. In fact, they are far, far worse.

The very people who have spent the past three years doing everything they can to thwart democracy are now trying to pose as warriors for democracy – without a glint of shame or self-awareness.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson says that Johnson is ‘remov[ing] the voice of the people’ – this from the woman who recently admitted that, if there was a second EU referendum in which Leave won again, she still wouldn’t accept the result.

Earlier today, alleged republican Jeremy Corbyn demanded an emergency audience with the Queen, to try to convince her to reject Johnson’s request. So much does he value democracy he was hoping the monarch would intervene in his favour.

Next thing you know he’ll be calling on the generals to do their patriotic duty.

The response from faux-left Remainers has perhaps been the most infuriating – and certainly the most delusional. Corbynistas are protesting in Westminster tonight. Some have even called for a general strike, to the end of crushing the votes of millions of workers.

Today activists invoked the Peterloo massacre, and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, as they called people out on to the streets. Clearly, they don’t realise that in this particular battle for democracy they’re on the side of the other guys. The ones with sabres and tear gas.

The PM’s critics claim to be sticking up for parliamentary democracy. But they don’t really mean it. Most of them didn’t bat an eyelid as our parliamentary democracy was diluted by dint of our membership of the European Union. And they are now fighting tooth and nail to keep us in that anti-democratic racket.

These fulminating Remainers are not asserting MPs’ right to challenge the executive. They are asserting MPs’ right to thwart what the people voted for at the EU referendum – despite nearly all of them voting to hold that referendum in the first place.

As we saw in the opposition-party discussions this week, they only want to keep parliament open so that they can either force Brexit to be delayed again, bring down the government, or ideally both – paving the way for a coalition bound together by its determination to stop Brexit.

This lot are the world’s least convincing democrats. Which makes it all the more depressing that Johnson decided to prorogue parliament today. He has handed them a lifeline, allowing them to pose as plucky rebels rather than the Victorian-style elitists that they are.

More importantly, there is no reason to believe that this prorogation will pan out well for Brexit; and those Brexiteers celebrating today risk a rude awakening tomorrow.

In a letter to MPs earlier, Johnson made clear he intends to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, secure concessions at the European Council on 17 October, then put it to a vote in the Commons, just days before the Brexit deadline.

And what might that deal look like? A hell of a lot like the one we have now. Yesterday, No10 confirmed that the only changes it is seeking to Theresa May’s Brexit deal relate to the Northern Ireland backstop. And as spiked has long argued, that is only the start of what is wrong with May’s deal.

So, perhaps this isn’t about No Deal at all. The squeezed timeline may end up being about bouncing MPs into backing a rehashed agreement, Johnson succeeding where May could not. Or perhaps, as one reporter suggested, this is all about provoking a no-confidence vote, sparking a General Election, and passing a deal at a later date on the strength of an enlarged Tory majority.

No one knows for sure what will happen, or what the real game plan is. But those cheering Johnson’s undemocratic moves today risk losing their right to complain about them tomorrow – and ceding the democratic high ground to those who really, really don’t deserve to occupy it.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

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Alexander Allan

30th August 2019 at 12:26 pm

Proroguing was an astute move, thus I disagree with Mr Slater. Firstly it shows the general public that Remainers have abandoned reason for emotions. Secondly is show the anti-democratic Stop-Brexit MPs that Team Boris is not going to rollover like the Maybot and let them dictate the agenda. Lastly it signals to EU that this government is serious in enacting Brexit, deal or no-deal.

Obviously there is a huge question mark if any deal will be a genuine Brexit deal of the WA rehashed without the backstop.

Amelia Cantor

30th August 2019 at 12:00 pm

Who will defend democracy?

Not me (Amelia Cantor) and other members of the remain community. Because we’re already defending it and have been ever since 17 million racists, xenophobes and deluded wrinklies voted to take the stupid and self-harming step of leaving the European Union.

Boris’s prorogation is wrong. His critics are even worse.

No, the Bullingdon Buffoon’s critics (like me) got it right. We were entirely unsurprised that he has trashed the democracy that (supposedly) Brexit is supposed to enhance. Those who support Brexit cannot effectively (or ethically) oppose the Bullingdon Buffoon, much as you might want to pretend otherwise.

Instead, it will be the adults in the room, like Gina Miller, who try to clean up the mess. If they don’t succeed, the UK is headed for v. big trouble.

Patrick Neylan

2nd September 2019 at 1:03 pm

Why would you defend democracy if you think the majority of the voting public are “racists, xenophobes” and “stupid”?

Paul Robson

29th August 2019 at 11:18 am

I agree with most of this. However, this “But those cheering Johnson’s undemocratic moves today risk losing their right to complain about them tomorrow – and ceding the democratic high ground to those who really, really don’t deserve to occupy it.” requires further comment.

What you’ve forgotten is that Boris is manipulating the system, yes. Remainers were previously *changing the rules* to try to get their own way. So actually, in Remain we’re already there ; the consequences of changing the rules because you don’t like them is the risk that other people will follow the same route.

Puddy Cat

29th August 2019 at 8:51 am

Your headline and its subtext sum it up, one is wrong and the other ‘wronger’. We have had too much politics and not enough government. People speak disparagingly of Rotten Boroughs but under the guidance of Walpole, those times, Britain moved forward and established a legacy which we have managed to spend. The talk about the fifth largest economy is supposed to invoke some sort of success but given that everyone of our institutions is underfunded and that defence and arts are difficult to finance whatever it is we currently earn is not enough to satisfy our ambition. Better that under Johnson we become the thirds largest economy and put an end to the cowardly back stepping of the thought of becoming a Soviet economy.

Something had to crack. The whole of the Parliamentary machinery has been given over to sentiment and the practicality of life confused in an outpouring of back of the fag packet, emotional claptrap that seeks not to improve but to forever militate against matters in the margins when it is self-evident that to deliver peace and prosperity something drastic had to be attempted to pull us away from the downward spiral.

This is a tipping point in our national existence. We can either throw in the towel and seek the easy way or obdurately face down those that would hand our lives over to a bureaucracy, we are better than that.

We should shoulder the sort of contract that Kennedy placed before the American people when he stated:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

alan smithee

29th August 2019 at 7:21 am

Zenobia doesn’t like US capitalism, but has no problem with EU capitalism. Maybe it’s Owen Jones in disguise?

Jane 70

29th August 2019 at 11:18 am

Or, perish the thought, AC-PC’s alter ego 🙁 AC-PC= Amelia Cantor).


28th August 2019 at 10:58 pm

How could the Tories ‘enlarge their majority’ at a GE? The departure of Ruth Davidson could lose them all 12 seats in Scotland. How can the Tories win? I just don’t see it happening.

alan smithee

29th August 2019 at 7:15 am

Wrong again Zenobia. Labour need their leave voters (around 17 million) .

alan smithee

29th August 2019 at 7:18 am

.. oops I mean a few million

Jerry Owen

29th August 2019 at 7:42 am

Z Palmyra
I have corrected you on another thread … It seems you don’t see a lot !

Jerry Owen

28th August 2019 at 10:29 pm

Tom Slater appears to think that Boris is trying to stop remainers thwarting a ‘ no deal ‘ scenario.
No.. the reality is they are trying to stop Brexit in its totality.
Parliament is prorogued virtually every year and this year it’s by four days, hardly a coup is it !
This is the longest parliamentary session since the late 1700s, so really it’s all much of a do about nothing !
And wasn’t it not that long ago the remainder wanted to allow Parliament to end early .. they got their wish.
How democratic of Boris !

Jerry Owen

28th August 2019 at 10:31 pm

*remainers* ( damned phone spell check ).

Anthony Dennison

28th August 2019 at 9:35 pm

There’s no mention in Johnsons’ letter to reintroduce *the* Withdrawal Agreement. It mentions introducing *A* Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government’s number one legislative priority, if A NEW DEAL is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before 31 October.”

Winston Stanley

28th August 2019 at 10:13 pm

Fortunately we have the Brexit Party with around 40% popular support. Either we get a full and proper, clean no deal Brexit – out of the CU, SM, ECJ – and we regain FULL control over our laws, our borders, our waters, our money and our trade deals – or we take out the TP and take over the parliament at the next GE. BJ fully understand that and he still has a chance to do the right thing and to honour the Brexit referendum to the letter. Out means OUT. Otherwise it is “bye bye” TP.


28th August 2019 at 11:03 pm

You’re an absolute nutter. What possible advantage could there be to this country in leaving the world’s biggest trading bloc and prostituting ourselves to rapacious US corporations? You seriously think the American conglomerates would spare any aspect of British life? Go to America and see what kind of processed ‘crap’ in their grocery stores…

By the way, what right does the UK have to lecture the EU on democracy given its unelected head of state and upper chamber, lack of a written constitution, bill of rights and decentralised federal government?

Winston Stanley

28th August 2019 at 11:32 pm

Please do not address me again until you have learnt some manners. In fact that was just too rude. Just do not address me again.

Jim Lawrie

28th August 2019 at 11:51 pm

BJ will not risk his position. The possibility of losing an election does just that.

If he is forced to go to the country he will plead that his hands were tied, and only a massive majority for his Party can untie them.

The one thing he has in common with Lib-Dem and Labour is neutering The Brexit Party.

Michael Lynch

28th August 2019 at 9:35 pm

All my life I have watched one set of politicians after the other deliver profoundly ironic garbage. They do it without blinking an eye, believing in every word that dribbles out of their mouth. It’s almost an Orwellian Doublethink thing – 2 + 2 can equal 5 or 3, or both at the same time whenever required. Whilst most of us understand that they have to do this in order to attain power they occasionally push this curious ability to the limit from time to time. Take the Liberals for instance when they did an about turn on their University fees policy for shared power with the Tories. Do they ever think about Public perception when they are being so ridiculous I wonder? Doesn’t appear so. So It will not bode well for them on this occasion because everyone and their neighbor knows exactly what’s behind their faux outrage this time. They have had more than enough time to sort out a deal, even had a perfectly good one put to them three times; instead, they have been determined to thwart the democratic will of the people because it’s Remain or bust for the majority of them. Bollocks to Brexit indeed! Times up now though so goodbye to Bercow & Co.


28th August 2019 at 11:00 pm

‘Lynch’ by name, ‘lynch’ by nature! You must be a Brexiteer what with all that pitchfork and torch waving!

Michael Lynch

28th August 2019 at 11:40 pm

No, I live in Ireland and have dual Irish and British citizenship. I never voted in the referendum but would have chosen Remain if I had. However, I think democracy of the people is sacrosanct so once the result was in that was that for me – it was a done deal. It was a solid win on a huge turnout in a perfectly legal referendum. In a GE you don’t get another go because you don’t like the first result so it should be no different for the Brexit Referendum. The EU made us vote twice on the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 over here because they got the wrong answer the first time around. A lot of people were not happy about that so don’t be fooled into thinking that all Irish people are in love with the EU. It took centuries for the working classes to get a right to vote so I definitely don’t appreciate the attempt to undermine it by a bunch of middle class snobs. Hope that answers your question?

T Zazoo

29th August 2019 at 2:03 am

Go to America and see what kind of processed ‘crap’ in their grocery stores…

This isn’t true. I am British and live in America. I am very familiar with the grocery stores in both countries. In both places there is a low end and a high end and everything in between. I have no problem buying good quality food here, including fresh fruit and veg from the market. Your comment belongs on the Guardian where nothing is racist as long as it’s only aimed at the USA.

alan smithee

29th August 2019 at 7:19 am

Childish comment.

Jerry Owen

29th August 2019 at 7:54 am

So please do tell us who elected the EU and also please tell us who can ‘unelect’ anyone who has any power within the EU ?
Don’t forget MEPs have no power.

Jerry Owen

29th August 2019 at 8:00 am

Surely pitch fork waving is the reserve of you small minded remainers, scared of the big wide world out there us leavers want to interact with, instead of being stuck in an expensive reclusive naval gazing unelected institution that is going nowhere.

Neil McCaughan

29th August 2019 at 9:12 am

Why don’t you clear off? You contribute nothing, you insult people, and you can barely construct and spell a simple English sentence. You’re the worst sort of low-information troll.

Carolyn Monaghan

28th August 2019 at 9:23 pm

Why don’t all the remainer MPs who want a general election resign with immediate effect, and let their constituents have a “people’s vote”? It’ll give them something to do while Parliament is suspended.

Marvin Jones

10th September 2019 at 2:53 pm

NOW! that could be considered to be finalising a massive problem.

Ashley Giles

28th August 2019 at 9:06 pm

Agree with much of what you say. The contortions of the anti democrats have been as extraordinary as their hyperbole over the decision by #10 today. I agree that we cannot be sure what BJ’s intentions are regarding a WA. I’m pleased to see NF keeping the pressure on should BJ be thinking of pushing through a minimally amended WA.

Neil McCaughan

28th August 2019 at 8:32 pm

The decision is not wrong – it’s practical, sensible, and faithful to the outcome of the 2016 referendum.

There is no legitimacy in the positions of the riff-raff who assembled in Church House yesterday, and Johnson has neatly headed off their anti-democratic and unconstitutional machinations. It’s to be hoped that when Parliament reassembles, the corrupt and partial Speaker is unceremoniously dumped, and the swivel-eyed pro-EU lobby finally accept that the game is over, and that they have lost.

The Nation is really looking forward to being free of the EU.


28th August 2019 at 10:59 pm

You Brexiteers really do have a weak grasp of the concept of democracy.

Jane 70

29th August 2019 at 4:53 am

Erm, No! We won the referendum vote, despite the predictions and the ‘advice’, and now, after 3 years, we expect our decision to be respected and delivered.
The tedious, patronising aspersions dispensed by our so- called betters have gone past their sell by date.
Do you seriously believe that the likes of Kate Hoey, Frank Field, Priti Patel, Gisella Stuart, Martin Howe QC, and even the Graun’s Larry Eliot have no understanding of democracy?
If the votes of 17.4 million citizens do not represent democracy in action, what does?
The cosmetic performances in the EU parliament?
Juncker’s tax free salary arrangements?
The forcing of Greece into punitive penury?
This latter one of the main reasons why I voted Leave.
If you are the democrat which you claim to be, you will accept the referendum result.

Neil McCaughan

29th August 2019 at 8:52 am

You’re a fool. Go away.

Stephen J

29th August 2019 at 9:02 am

Just as you ignorant remainders have of history.

The last time that parliament was not prorogued for over 3 years was during the period that led up to the English Civil war.

As the author says, the real fear is that Johnson is not aiming for a clean break but that he is attempting to reheat the May/Robbins?Selmayr treaty. Which is definitely NOT brexit.

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