, 14 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
OK, some further thoughts on #Prorogation, given my thread on Wednesday has been widely retweeted by ardent Brexiteers and No-Dealers. The following may not be quite so much the their liking...
My initial tweet (the most Retweeted) said it “seems” to be the normal brief Prorogation before a new session. When the Order in Council was published it emerged it was not as brief as is normal. This is undeniable, and significant.
Suggesting this is therefore a routine and unremarkable Prorogation is clearly untrue. It is unusual, remarkable, and understandably controversial. This does not make it unconstitutional, illegal or a “coup”. Governments have the right to do misguided and even outrageous things.
The routine and straightforward thing to have done would have been to prorogue for the usual few days before a Queen’s Speech on the 14th. The government deliberately chose not to do this, and heavy criticism (such as from Lord Young, who resigned over it) is to be expected.
The advantage to the government of a long Prorogation instead of the planned recess is that Parliament cannot be recalled or the conference recess cancelled. There is a sound political case for doing so, to thwart unexpected ambushes for a month. This is clearly the intent.
Given how energetically opponents of a No-Deal Brexit have previously tried to use procedure to block No-Deal, bending the rules with the compliance of the Speaker, they might have anticipated the Government using its own powers to bend the rules their way.
Again, this is either fair enough, a bit cheeky, very sneaky, or absolutely bloody outrageous, depending on your view. What it isn’t is a literal coup or an unprecedented breach of the constitution. And we don’t need to claim such things in order to attack it.
What should concern the government’s opponents more than this manoeuvre itself is the ominous signal that they are prepared to use all the powers they have to get their way. What has been done so far actually falls well short of what many had feared would be done.
Behaving as if this is a complete shutdown of Parliament to deny MPs any say before the 31st Oct and force No-Deal by default is unhelpful and wrong. That was the specific threat condemned by senior Conservatives during the leadership contest. And we’re not there. Yet.
If we get to the point of the Govt threatening a more drastic Prorogation to remove completely (rather than restrict) Parliament’s will being expressed, we would arrive at a constitutional crisis, but with many MPs having already run out of hyperbole. They will have cried wolf.
As it stands, MPs will have the chance to table a motion of No Confidence, to do some procedurally dubious manoeuvres of their own, and to vote against/amend the Queen’s Speech. They should perhaps put down their placards and start planning tactics.
For what it’s worth, whilst I defend the right of the government to act in the way they have as being constitutional, I have profound concerns about the potential long-term implications.
Firstly, I fear the threat of further use of Prorogation, which would be much harder to justify. But I also fear Parliament or a future government will now seek to curtail the prerogative in a rash act which could damage the constitution and create further unforeseen problems.
Now let’s see how many who retweeted me on Wednesday do the same to any of that...
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