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I think we are agreed on all of the above. Jeremy plays a key role, but only if Boris loses a VOC first. And even if Boris does lose a VOC, he is probably still in the driving seat because he has two weeks to regain it - by bribery, chicanery, charm, threats, or all other means necessary.

I don't hold out much hope of any Tory with continuing political ambitions voting against him, but there must be quite a few who:

  1. Intend to retire at the nest election in any case
  2. Know they have no prospect of advancement under Boris anyway
  3. Are going to be de-selected anyway
  4. Have their eyes on a lucrative career in the city or elsewhere

A few, probably, no more than a handful, may do so out of principle or a belief that No-deal represents the worst possible outcome.

There is a political ritual we have to go through, whereby Jeremy exhausts every possible option before conceding that he cannot command a majority of the house for a caretaker premiership, no matter how attenuated.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, he agrees to nominate Harriet Harmon for the role, a labour loyalist of considerable ministerial experience who has acted as Labour party leader and deputy leader and Leader of the opposition before. A credible choice in constitutional and political terms but who at 69, doesn't appear to have further political ambitions.

Even if she wins the confidence of the House, could Boris refuse to resign? Could he attempt to dissolve parliament and call an election in any case? Can the Queen force him to resign and make way for Harmon?

I'm sorry, but with a constitution as vague and open to abuse as the UK's it is almost impossible to take the UK political system seriously, and I certainly wouldn't regard the HOC as "the mother of Parliaments" or the UK as a serious or advanced democracy.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 10:08:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or have decided that being associated with the Tories after a No Deal Brexit will destroy their career anyway.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 10:49:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure we do quite agree. I don't regard the Westminster Parliament as the mother of anything, and I agree a constitution based on a number of laws and conventions has its drawbacks (so do written constitutions, which are open to interpretation, see 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution for an example).

But this

Even if she wins the confidence of the House, could Boris refuse to resign? Could he attempt to dissolve parliament and call an election in any case? Can the Queen force him to resign and make way for Harmon?

is nuts unless you ask if he also has the police, the army, the secret services, and a well-formed civil-service conspiracy on his side. Such acts could not be accepted. Another MP has the confidence of the House, the monarch will be advised to call that person to be PM, and that's it. Boris can't dissolve Parliament, the monarch does that (and would be advised not to listen to an MP who has no majority behind him). That is hard-and-fast convention. Boris could only break it, as I say, with a hard coup. And against those, written constitutions are no rampart, either.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we probably won't get to see all that played out, since Boris will in all likelihood survive a VOC.

What worries me more than the constitution, is the bully-pulpit power of the right-sliding-further-right in the British "national conversation". And there I am adding quotes.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 12:39:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you are saying that if Harriet Harmon wins a VOC in the House and Bojo doesn't leave 10 Downing street, she picks up the phone in her Commons office and asks the police to remove BoJo? Or does the Queen send for BoJo and tell him to resign?

I can see a caretaker cabinet trooping into Harriet's Commons office to be given their portfolios...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 02:14:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's pretty facile, frankly. "The Queen" means the advisers at the Palace and high civil servants who deal with Palace relations. Either they are sold out to a top-level conspiracy, or they will apply the conventional rules. Boris will be advised to resign, the leader of the new majority will be invited to form a government.

If Boris wants to hole up in N° 10 (or 11, where it seems he has his abode) is immaterial. He will no longer be running the government. If he really wants to get silly, he can hide out in the broom cupboard until some discreet political policemen show up to winkle him out of there.

But, unless he really has the guns behind him, this is all rather pointless speculation. And guns work fine against a written constitution, too.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 04:11:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least with a written constitution, the Supreme Court has the final and definitive role on interpretation. As it stands, especially where no precise precedent exists, there seems to be scope for Boris to make things up as he goes along - and it will be far too late for any Court to reverse events afterwards even if his actions are found to have been unconstitutional.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 08:53:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the guns are out there, what use a Supreme Court waving a bit of paper?

If the guns are not out there, Boris will not make things up as he goes along. At least, not in the way you have suggested.

This argument just goes on and on, so this is my last comment on it.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 06:22:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Times print edition today has a story in its Q&A section on how Boris might try to thwart the opposition even if they do elect a caretaker PM "by not advising the Queen to send for the proposed new prime Minister and instead either trying to run down the 14 day clock or proactively calling a general election ideally to take place after 31st. October." Apparently Nicki da Costa, Downing Streets' legislative director, pointed out that the incumbent PM chooses the election day, and it could be as late as January - "the legislation is silent on that".

So there is no law restricting how long it can take to hold a general election after Parliament is prorogued. The minimum period is 25 days, but there is no legal maximum, just a convention that it is normally held on a Thursday within 7 weeks. Conventions are essentially unenforceable. They exist only until they don't. Bojo could remain PM almost indefinitely without breaking any law. Wonderful constitution you have there...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 05:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 :
The Act specifies that early elections can be held only:

    if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House or without division; or
    if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Commons within 14 days.

Two things to note:

it is not the defeated PM who chooses or confirms the new government, it is the HOC;

that is not convention, it is written law.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 07:54:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I thought.

So what is the Times' political correspondent, Henry Zeffman, or, for that matter, Nikki da Costa, on about?

They seem to be implying that the Queen cannot "send for" whoever the HOC might elect without being advised to do so by the incumbent first. (He might claim he still has a chance of winning back the confidence of the House, within 14 days, regardless of the house having temporarily showered its affections on some other non-entity.)

They also seem to be implying that BoJo can run down the clock on the 14 days and then choose an election date of his liking, at his complete discretion, for the ensuing election despite having lost a vote of confidence. (I think they may be correct on this, unless the HOC elects someone else before the 14 days are over).

It may be that "the British Constitution" is very clear on this. But if The Times' political correspondent and senior advisors to BoJo can waffle on like this in seeming ignorance of its provisions, it doesn't bode well for the general populace being well informed...

You seem to be placing great faith in "the law". But you can usually find two lawyers to argue contrasting interpretations, and without an effective, and speedy judicial determination and enforcement mechanism, whatever the law says might well be moot.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:46:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also violations of electoral campaign laws in referendum and general election - none of which have ever resulted in a result being cancelled or reversed. So what is the point of having those laws, if the most they result in is a slap on the wrist and a fine for those who can well afford them?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:50:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to place faith in written laws because you prefer a written constitution. On which point you may be right. I am simply pointing out what I consider as fantasy interpretations of what might happen in the weeks to come. I show a statute law, and you say "oh, that doesn't mean a thing because it won't be applied." Same for all the constitutions and statute laws of all countries, then?

I also note that you place greater faith in correspondents of Murdoch's politically-biased rag than in official Parliamentary guidelines based on a recent and clear statute.

But have it your way.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 06:06:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only statute law you have quoted is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which I too have highlighted and quoted in the text of this diary. The provision relating to the 14 day waiting period has never been applied so convention and case law relating to same is scarce and speculation rife. I worry when senior advisors to Boris appear to advocate actions which appear to me to be illegal or unconstitutional.

The other main problem I am highlighting is that laws with limited if any sanctions applicable to actions many months after the event have not been shown to change that event even where those actions are found to have been illegal - in which case they are little more than window dressing.

In countries with written constitutions, clear precedents, and strong and independent enforcement mechanisms, respect for "the constitution" seems (to me) to be much stronger, and any government which has been found to act unconstitutionally faces severe consequences. The very fact that Boris doesn't have to face some kind of impeachment process for suggesting he might ignore the will of Parliament - and before he can actually do so - is also a matter of concern.

I have, for instance, also been critical of countries where this doesn't appear to be the case: for example where the pre-trial incarceration of Catalan separatist leaders seems to be motivated by an overly politicised judicial process. The separation of powers is an important constitutional principle.

The breakdown of respect for convention and the rule of law seems to me characteristic of a descent into authoritarianism and totalitarianism and the UK political class and media have not been slow to use the language of "traitors", "collaborators", "defeatists" and other xenophobic references to anyone associated with a less confrontational attitude to "Brussels".

I hope you are right and "the will of parliament prevails" and a "no deal" Brexit is avoided.  Perhaps my parents German background makes me overly sensitive to any creeping undermining of democratic norms.  However Rafel Behr also draws parallels to the onset of the Great War and notes a similar fatalism growing amongst Remainers that a no deal Brexit will happen in any case despite the catastrophic consequences they see coming.

"The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing"

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 09:10:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The outgoing PM would then try to stop the PM elected by the HoC by preventing the proper rituals. But would the monarch comply with being conscripted into such a scheme?

I would assume that the monarch only acts on the advice of the PM to preserve the monarchy. Has the UK had a crisis where the monarchs power to appoint the PM and cabinet was lost due to a conflict with the parliament? If so, then the reason not to act but on the advice of the PM is due to the power of the parliament, not the PM. So the only reasonable move would be to go with the PM that actually has the support of parliament, even if that would break the letter of convention. Just declare that the outgoing PM handed in his resignation, thank him for his services, and call for the PM who has support.

The Times is either getting lost in the letters of conventions, and losing their meaning, or they are throwing up any reason to prevent Johnson being voted down in the first place. Or of course they might be laying the propaganda groundwork for a coup, but I think that is less likely.

by fjallstrom on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 06:58:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Queen is 93 and possibly not quite on top of what's happening.

So the horse trading would be done by her advisors, who would represent the Crown - a rather nebulous constitutional entity that is supposed to represent the State, but which in practice acts primarily to preserve the business interests of the monarchy.

Now - hypothetically - what if the current generation of advisors were all Brexiters? It wouldn't matter what the Queen wanted, because the advisors are literally the power behind the throne, and the Queen has very limited power of action without their support.

This is pure speculation. I have no idea if it's true. But the arrogance of Johnson etc worries me.

There's self-assurance, and then there's the kind of blind and stupid action that comes from a belief that the Establishment supports you and won't act against you.

Granted, Johnson isn't the most self-aware of all political operators, and it's perfectly possible he's simply a delusional narcissist.

But it's also hard to see how Brexit could have gotten as far as it has without at least some Establishment support. Considering how hard it is to make any big changes in the UK, it's been extraordinarily effective in a relatively short time. And that wouldn't have happened if the Establishment wasn't at least partially in favour of it.

So the question is - how much of the Establishment supports it, and from what power base? We can take the Home Office for granted, because it's Fascist Central anyway. The FO will be more pragmatic.

But the Queen's own office? It's impossible for outsiders to know what's happening there. But it's certainly impossible to guarantee it's a fervent Remainer outpost.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 23rd, 2019 at 11:14:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it matters much what the Queen thinks, but FWIW there was genuine warmth expressed by and towards the Queen on her 2011 state visit to Ireland. Given the Royal Family lost Lord Mountbatten to the Troubles, that was some achievement. I doubt she would be too impressed by anyone playing fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement. Her role is to foster good relations with othoer states, and in the case of Ireland, she has been successful. Why would she want to throw that relationship under a bus?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 23rd, 2019 at 04:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would seem that the interests of the royal family would be roughly in parallel with the long-term interests of the UK as a whole. A problem with that viewpoint is that it also can be used to justify the old-style House of Lords. But still, one might expect that she would not want to go down in history as the queen who, after several decades of reasonable stability, ultimately oversaw the breakup of the kingdom.

Also, she's got a lot of real estate in Scotland that will pose an interesting question when they break off from England in about a year.

by asdf on Sat Aug 24th, 2019 at 12:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Parallel interests never intersect.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Aug 24th, 2019 at 03:30:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Boris refuses to leave 10 Downing Street, the elected PM goes through the proper ceremonies elsewhere, and then calls for the leaders of various government services and starts ruling. Boris then is an abandoned squatter, to be dealt with in time.
by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 02:55:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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