A member’s view
Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament has seen our country slide into new constitutional territory. The decision has already reverberated across the political landscape, including here in Cheltenham, where a group of protesters debating our MP, Alex Chalk, made the national evening news.
Our country has faced such constitutional moments before, and the actions of our Parliamentarians over the coming weeks will determine the outcome. Will we see the power to prorogue Parliament when it becomes inconvenient to a Prime Minister cemented in our constitution, or will this action be successfully resisted?
Mr. Chalk himself has recognised the concerning nature of this development; the fact that a Prime Minister is dispensing with the primary check on governmental authority to force through a political decision can and will set a precedent. Even if one agrees with a no-deal Brexit, if this prorogation is left unchecked there is nothing to stop a future Prime Minister using the same mechanism to force through a policy one finds far more objectionable.
Our democracy has developed based on a trialogue between the Government, Parliament, and the courts. When one of these three voices is gagged, our democracy cannot work as intended. Fortunately, the fluid nature of our unwritten constitution means there remains a chance for Parliament to resolve this crisis when it sits in September. By bringing a vote of no confidence in the government, Parliament may make clear that it will not allow such chicanery by the government to go unchecked.
A brief caretaker administration, headed up by Labour, could then serve to extend Article 50 and call a General Election, such as to allow the next steps in the Brexit process to be put to a proper public debate. Boris Johnson and his allies speak of the “will of the people”, but that will is not static. This is why we have a Parliament, composed of local representatives, who may ensure the people’s will is represented as it changes.
To prorogue Parliament is to ignore the expression of that will, and it must be resisted.
Cheltenham Labour Party.