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Since the dawn of Parliamentary Democracy, Prime Ministers have had the discretionary power available to them known as ‘proroguing power’ and as a traditional power it’s held without any restriction whatsoever; The ability to prorogue or suspend Parliament for any reasonable length of time and for any purpose — whether for ‘evil’ or for ‘good’ is via the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
Of course, it depends upon your view of ‘evil’ or ‘good’.
If for example, you’re a Conservative MP and a Conservative Prime Minister prorogues Parliament you’re likely to see his or her prorogation in favourable terms. But a Labour backbencher may see that same prorogation in different terms.
Although there have been times through history when both the sitting government and the opposition party have agreed on the need for the Prime Minister to suspend Parliament. So much better when it occurs that way!
Also relevant to this discussion is; ‘What constitutes a reasonable length of time?’
The ‘Use-it or Lose-it powers’ of a Prime Minister
Some powers held by a Prime Minister are clearly identified and strictly enforced by both Parliament and the courts, and that’s as it should be.
Prime Ministers shouldn’t be able to make-off with billions of pounds of ‘The People’s’ tax revenue, for instance.
But other powers such as the power to suspend Parliament fall under the scope of discretionary, or ‘use-it or lose-it’ powers, therefore, if several PM’s in a row decline to use their discretionary powers it becomes increasingly difficult for future PM’s to use them. Eventually, PM’s would lose the power to prorogue Parliament for one example, if it isn’t used judiciously and relatively frequently in the here and now.
I suggest that as long as British PM’s aren’t abusing their discretionary power, why remove it from them? Why punish them for having done no wrong? And why remove that power from future PM’s when they’ve never yet abused such discretionary power?
We can’t just go around removing discretionary power from people just because ‘it could become a problem in the future’ or because ‘one PM out of twenty has abused their discretionary power’, or because we hail from a different political party and prorogation could affect our chances of re-election at the next General Election.
How would you like it if some of your discretionary powers were removed because a fellow citizen abused their discretionary powers? Of course you wouldn’t like it if it happened to you.
You might like to eat a McDonald’s Big Mac once per month, as I do. But because a fellow Briton trashed a McDonald’s last week, is that good enough reason to ban all Britons from eating at McDonald’s restaurants forever? Of course not.
Therefore, courts, Parliaments, and citizens must recognize the right of PM’s to their discretionary powers until the day arrives that every Prime Minister is abusing those privileges and a permanent change must be made to protect the country from its political leaders.
And that means every prorogation should be made public, and be heard and read by Parliament, by the media, and examined (even a cursory examination, in the case of a short prorogation) by the UK Supreme Court.
That doesn’t mean opposition parties should turn it into a political circus to embarrass the government (remember; one day the opposition party might form the government and might need to prorogue Parliament too, so they should examine such prorogations with a fair demeanour and a gentle spirit) rather, HM Loyal Opposition Party should examine the prorogation and satisfy itself that such use of discretionary power hasn’t inflicted any harm on the normal operation of government, and if it does interfere with the normal operation of Parliament, was it warranted?
Prorogation of Parliament in the Case of Declared War
I’ll give you some examples to consider, some of which have actually occurred in the past and some not;
Example: The government declares war on another country and immediately prorogues Parliament.
So, if the government is concerned that enemy snipers may kill Parliamentarians, it’s the right decision to suspend Parliament because MP’s entering and leaving the House of Commons every day would be easy targets for enemy snipers.
In the absence of a sniper threat however, there could still be good reason to suspend Parliament after declaring war on another country;
Such as the public and media may need time to acclimatize to the new (war) reality and it could be that the government could ‘get too far ahead of the people’ by (seemingly) rushing a number of legislative bills through the House — which could make it look like the government was ‘pulling a fast one on the people’ by not giving them enough time to find out the full (either ‘evil’ or ‘good’) reasoning behind the government’s decision to declare war. That’s touchy ground for governments. Civil wars have started on less fog and fuel than that.
Much better for everyone if the government were to declare war, prorogue Parliament, give everyone a week or two to get up-to-speed on recent events, and then resume sitting in the House of Commons.
But what if the government really were ‘pulling a fast one’ on the people?
That too, could happen in the declaration of war scenario;
If the public were generally unfavourable to declaring war on another country, and the opposition parties were temporarily disorganized, the government could declare war, quickly suspend Parliament, and then get the military heavily involved in the war (“It’s too late to back-out now, we’re in with both feet!”) and without proper oversight by Parliament, we could find the UK in an ill-advised war, based on a wrong-headed ideology, neck-deep in so-called ‘war fever’, or other lapse of cogent thinking.
Which is why I suggest that… proroguing Parliament should be at the discretion of the Prime Minister in conjunction with his or her Privy Council AND require Royal Assent by the Sovereign as an additional ‘check and balance’ on the government AND should be examined and (hopefully) approved by the Supreme Court in the normal course of court business as a ‘check and balance’ on the entire government including on the Head of Government (the PM) and the Head of State (the Sovereign) — where the prorogation is expected to last longer than 14-days.
Therefore, if all three parties agree (the PM/Privy Council + the Sovereign + the Supreme Court) on a longer-than-14-day-prorogation, then the PM has acted well within his or her authority, and that should be the end of it.
But for prorogations less than 14-days, the same process that’s in use today and has been in use for centuries wouldn’t change — meaning no Supreme Court involvement would be required — as short-term prorogation simply happens at the discretion of a Prime Minister, nothing more and nothing less.
Still, out of courtesy, and only after receiving Royal Assent, the government should always inform the Supreme Court of any prorogation of Parliament, no matter how many days it must be, whether fewer than 14-days or longer than 14-days, because circumstances can change and a government may later need to extend the prorogation for unforeseen reasons.
Note: Almost every Commonwealth country follows the same prorogation procedure in the case of prorogations lasting less than 14-days.
Proroguing Parliament to Prevent Filibuster of Government Business (The People’s Business!)
Governments have also prorogued Parliament because opposition parties were filibustering the government, a situation where opposition speaker after opposition speaker rises and speaks for many hours, thereby preventing the House of Commons from passing any legislation whatsoever, especially the piece of legislation the opposition find so offensive.
In that case, proroguing Parliament serves to punish the filibustering MP’s and their party, and returns the House to normal operation so that the people’s business may continue to be administered by the government.
It’s one thing to teach the government a lesson about acting in a high-handed way — in that case, a bit of filibuster can be a good thing! — but it’s quite a different thing if it goes beyond bounds and becomes a circus that takes on its own life and prevents other important legislation from consideration, debate, and passage in the House of Commons.
Such abuses and other abuses by opposition parties throughout history are exactly the reason why today’s Prime Ministers have such discretionary powers.
Again, it occurs in every generation that legitimate uses of discretionary power are advisable when the PM, acting in concert with his or her Privy Council, must suspend Parliament in order to assure the continued operation of the government.
And in the case of filibuster (which sometimes unduly prevents the people’s business from being conducted) the above-noted rules should likewise, in the exact same way, also apply to a Prime Minister considering a prorogation of Parliament.
On the Prorogation of Parliament (2019)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was handed a mess from the previous government — although much of it wasn’t the fault of former Prime Minister Theresa May and her MP’s — as half the blame was the fault of the sometimes intransigent but always on-message EU.
After Britons voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum, a vote in the House of Commons confirmed that the UK would be leaving the EU (via the European Union Bill) that passed with a healthy margin of 498-114, and subsequently, a UK General Election was held in June 2017 where all parties ran on a platform of delivering Brexit and Theresa May’s Conservatives won that election.
At that point, there was no talk of overturning the 2016 People’s Vote to leave the EU, nor of overturning the European Union Bill of February 2017, nor of overturning the results of the June 2017 General Election.
Then, the Withdrawal Bill happened.
From the day the EU announced that a ‘backstop’ would be required for Northern Ireland, relations between the UK and the EU plummeted and some British MP’s seemed intimidated by the EU’s insistence on a backstop, while some Britons seemed even more determined to get Brexit done — even former Remainers!
If it was a ‘divide and conquer’ tactic that the EU planned to destroy UK unity of purpose it worked — but only by a half measure.
But the other group of (non-MP) Remainers became convinced of the necessity to fulfil the result of the democratic referendum, the European Union bill vote, and the 2017 General Election result.
Three missed Brexit deadlines came and went in the spring of 2019, and the EU decided that October 31, 2019 would become the new Brexit date.
Now, after £69.5 billion in costs due to economic uncertainty — including the annual payments to the EU that amount to £12.2 billion (net) for 2019 alone — and a gestation period that would impress a brontosaurus, many Britons just want out of the EU. Even former Remainers are for turning… these days.
Yet, some British MP’s seem increasingly afraid of delivering the Brexit the country voted for and the Brexit that they themselves approved when they voted en masse to approve the European Union Bill.
Some things defy explanation to put it mildly.
With all of that (disastrous) recent history, opposition parties in the UK House of Commons then voted to remove power from the Prime Minister to put paid to the Brexit that voters have been waiting for since 2016, and have voted-down the PM’s call for a General Election, and were increasingly working with the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House to nullify the government’s best efforts to deliver either a Negotiated Brexit or a Hard Brexit. (EU in the driver’s seat regarding those two choices)
What’s a Prime Minister to do?
And this, in the context of having to be in a constant state of readiness to dash off to the continent — perhaps being summoned to a meeting in Brussels at 5:00am with no advance notice of any such meeting as former PM Theresa May was — to negotiate some tiny particle of a new Withdrawal Agreement.
How can a new UK Prime Minister get himself up to speed on his new job, keep himself in that state of readiness for a sudden trip to the continent, work with government ministers and others to plan out a workable Withdrawal Agreement, keep ahead of his House of Commons commitments, deal with the media, stay on the right side of Brexit deadlines, get the country ready for perhaps a Negotiated or Hard Brexit depending on the whim of the EU negotiators that week, and deal with defections by his own MP’s and the shenanigans of Remainers and anti-Brexit types on both sides of the English Channel?
Really people, we need to cut this man some slack! You wouldn’t want to be him!
The poor man probably needed sleep due to exhaustion, needed to give his people some quality time to work on Brexit delivery plans, some time for him to visit EU leaders to ascertain their level of interest in agreeing a new Withdrawal Agreement and test the waters for a future trade agreement/future relationship, to conduct some media interviews, and talk to regular Britons on the High Street about their thoughts on Brexit.
And now, some want him in the stocks for proroguing Parliament? Give me a break!
Boris Johnson hasn’t had a good set of choices from which to choose since he became PM. In fact, his greatest gift so far, is that he’s been the master of choosing the least bad of the available choices.
I think these are extenuating circumstances occurring during uncommon days and he’s done well considering the mess he was handed, and is doing his best to make good on the government’s promises to citizens, to business, to Parliament, to our EU partners and is trying to meet all legal requirements on both sides of the Channel. Very admirable.
Where Do We Go From Here?
“Every day we teach others how to treat us.”
And if we’re teaching the new PM that he’s not allowed to deliver Brexit even after a majority of voters and after a majority of MP’s voted for it, and that he’s not allowed by his colleagues to hold an election to determine who’s in charge of the government, and that he’s not allowed to prorogue Parliament, and that he’s not allowed to succeed in reaching a satisfactory Withdrawal Agreement with the EU (because it is likely to get voted-down for no reason other than MP’s are suddenly afraid of their responsibility to deliver the Brexit their constituents and they themselves voted for) then what are we teaching this poor man?
We’re teaching him to fail, that’s what we’re teaching him. And that isn’t what we should be teaching British Prime Ministers.
Now, let’s resolve to become part of the solution and not part of the problem and help this man to deliver what the majority voted for, what Parliament voted for, what the country is crying out for (including many former Remainers) and help him obtain a withdrawal deal that the UK and the EU can both live with.
Parliament and all concerned parties; Give our man a way forward! Please!
And the only thing we should be asking of him — other than, “How can we help?” — is “Henceforth Mr. Prime Minister (and all future PM’s) could you please inform the Sovereign and the Supreme Court if you need to prorogue Parliament and we will do our utmost to facilitate your request?”
Anything other than that is on us, for (quite innocently and unaware) trying to turn this UK Prime Minister and every subsequent Prime Minister into quiet, paper-shuffling, do-nothing bureaucrats. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” will be their new mantra if we’re not careful.
In short, we’re teaching him to be the anti-success, the anti-hero, the least accomplished; And that, my friends, definitely ISN’T what built the great United Kingdom we see today!
Therefore, let’s get on with delivering the Brexit the people voted for on June 23, 2016 and that Parliament approved on February 1, 2017, and by extension voters re-approved via the General Election result on June 8, 2017.
And give our man a hand. He needs your help to get the country across the line.
There can be only one Captain of a ship.
Every sailor knows this. It’s a fact of life that all sailors know to be indisputable. No sailor challenges this view. It’s simply not up for discussion within professional navies.
For example, no professional crew member would ever feel so self-entitled as to waltz onto the bridge of a Navy or merchant marine ship and begin steering the ship and issuing commands — because aboard ship every member of the crew has specific duties for which they are well-trained, and in the absence of them performing their duties to near-perfection, the ship is likely to sink, run aground, miss it’s intended port by many miles, or get blown to smithereens by a foreign navy.
All sane people observe the hierarchical structure because they’re smart enough to know that only the Captain has the authority and necessary training to be in overall control of the ship.
Of course, every seaman/seawoman dreams of someday becoming the Captain, that goes without saying. And yearning for the top job is an admirable thing for crew members.
If they have the right aptitude and attitude, someone in the chain of command will recognize their diligent efforts and ensure they receive the appropriate training to allow them to become Captain, and they will be a Captain once they’re ready for the whole job. (And it’s a big job)
It must be repeated: There can be only one Captain of a ship, and this thinking is just as true in the corporate world, as it is in the world’s major organized religions, and in government.
And ‘the Captain’ of the UK House of Commons is the Prime Minister
Now, MP’s aren’t required to ‘like’ the Captain, they aren’t required to feel ‘afraid’ of the Captain, nor should they be compelled to do something ‘illegal’ by the Captain of the House of Commons.
But, there can only be one Captain of a ship — and Boris Johnson is it — whether individual MP’s like it or not!
So, get over it snowflakes.
How the Prime Minister Chooses to Deliver Brexit is Up To Him!
It’s not up to individual MP’s to decide how to negotiate Brexit with the European Union, nor is it up to backbench MP’s to decide whether the EU was dealing in good faith during Brexit negotiations that took place in the past, nor in talks with the EU that may take place in the near-present or future.
Those MP’s aren’t ‘in the know’, they likely haven’t a minute’s worth of Foreign Secretary experience, and almost for certain they’ve never been a political or trade negotiator for the government of the United Kingdom.
Nor (likely) have they served as the CEO of a major company with a corporate GDP of any significance (Ford, GM, BP, Toshiba, Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.) so why is it they think they know better than the Prime Minister and former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom how best to run the country and deal with the European Union?
How is it they think they know better than a majority of British voters who voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016? (In a democracy, the voters are always right, and even if they’re wrong, it’s their call!) And even now, public opinion polls are running 60% for Leave and 40% for Remain with very few Undecided voters.
Why is it they think they know better than the Prime Minister and then seek to impose their will on him — and when they don’t get their way! — they embarrass the PM by crossing the floor to join the opposition bench, or ride off into the sunset, or send disparaging resignation letters to the newspaper, or in other ways seek to punish the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for not doing what they wanted?
Who do these people think they are?
When such MP’s try to embarrass the legal Head of Government and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, such actions serve only to further the interests of foreign powers, and as such, those MP’s aren’t worthy of the honour of being called ‘British citizen’ let alone being granted the title of ‘Member of Parliament’.
MP’s work for ‘The People’ and are to fulfil the wishes of ‘The People’ in a timely manner and in a responsible fashion.
The term, ‘timely manner’ does not provide remit enough to drag Brexit out over +3-years with an all-in cost to the government and the economy of £69.5 billion (so far) nor does the term ‘responsible fashion’ authorize MP’s to cancel Brexit when ‘The People’ have clearly chosen to leave the European Union.
MP’s work for ‘The People’ and must do as ‘The People’ instruct them to do. And only the Prime Minister gets to decide (after consulting with his Cabinet) which policy vehicle will be utilized to carry out voter instructions. MP’s shouldn’t be shooting their government in the foot because they’re not getting their way on Brexit! Boo Hoo!
Pity the Poor Prime Minister!
…For here’s what he’s been told:
- ‘The People’ instructed the government to leave the EU. There was nothing on the ballot about ‘Deal’ or ‘No Deal’. Further, in the 2017 UK General Election where every party ran on a pro-Brexit platform, the Conservatives won. Therefore, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who is also the official Head of Government for the United Kingdom — is obligated to follow voter instructions — no matter what certain backbenchers or Cabinet members think about Brexit. Obviously!
- The European Union told the UK Head of Government, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that they’ll only accept Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement (which failed miserably 3-times in the UK House of Commons) and told Boris Johnson that further Brexit negotiations won’t be tolerated. In short; It’s the failed WA, or nothing. It’s the ultimate brinkmanship game designed to bring the UK to its knees and have it trapped in a bad relationship with Brussels forever! Insanity!
- The UK House of Commons voted strongly in favour of the European Union Bill to leave the EU (498 votes to 114) but now with cold feet on Brexit, they won’t let the UK Head of Government, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, employ a ‘No Deal’ threat as a way to gain a better exit agreement than the thrice-failed Withdrawal Agreement. Thanks to the UK House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson now has both hands tied behind his back and he’s supposed to get a better Brexit deal than the thrice-failed WA deal! You couldn’t make it up, folks. More insanity!
- The UK House of Commons voted to prevent the UK Head of Government and Prime Minister of the country from calling an election to settle matters by putting it to ‘The People’ for a vote. Why are British MP’s so afraid of ‘The People’ who employ them? Even more insanity!
- Some individual MP’s (seemingly) do everything possible to embarrass Prime Minister Boris Johnson, (seemingly) to weaken the UK’s bargaining position vis-à-vis getting a better exit deal from the EU than the oft-failed Withdrawal Agreement and, (seemingly) take every opportunity to make the UK appear weak, uncertain, and ready for takeover by a larger power, namely, the EU. Even more insanity!
So, why oh why and for the love of God… don’t certain UK Parliamentarians understand that they’ve greatly weakened the UK’s bargaining power and effectively tied the hands of the UK Prime Minister, thereby preventing the better deal they say they want?
Or, is it as I fear, that they fully understand what they’ve done and are working (at first secretly, but now overtly) for the interests of a foreign power called the European Union, instead of the interests of their own country, the United Kingdom?
It seems Remoaner sleeper agents embedded within UK institutions and government were once among the loudest to chant, “Brexit!” “Brexit!” “Brexit!” — but every time it appeared that an actual Brexit day was approaching — they’d pull the rug out from under whichever UK Prime Minister was in power and work intensely to ‘delay, delay, delay’ Brexit until the British people would finally give up on Brexit and surrender to the European Union.
My only question is; Who are the Remoaners and why do they hate their country?
What is wrong with some people in the UK Parliament?
I’ll tell you what’s wrong; They had their chance and they duffed-it-up beyond all fixing and it took them 3-years to accomplish nothing… other than cost the UK economy £1 billion per month (totalling £38 billion since June 23, 2016) due to economic uncertainty.
To add insult to injury, over that same 3-years the UK continued to pay a £10.5 billion (average) annual net payment to the EU, for a total of £69.5 billion (so far) due to the prolonged Brexit negotiating period. A ‘negotiation’ that in the end, failed spectacularly.
And now they see Boris is going to get the job done in short order — which they imagine will have the effect of making their efforts look pathetic by comparison.
In Short; These People are Poor Losers!
And worse, they won’t allow the new team to get the job done, thereby outing themselves for the ditherers they are. (Fun Fact: The Free Dictionary cites former UK Prime Minister Theresa May 4 out of 10 times in the ‘References’ section under the word ‘ditherer’)
Remoaners… You’ve Already Had Your Chance! So Get Out of the Way and Let Boris Have His Chance!
After 3-years of trying to gain a Brexit deal these people failed to pass the Withdrawal Agreement three times in a row when they were leading the government.
The Conservative Party ‘called time’ on their efforts, because for all the bouncing around the EU and cravenly sucking-up to all and sundry, they accomplished nothing on the Brexit file. Not one thing.
It’s like the proverbial 7-year-olds who tried to play against an adult rugby team; ‘You were getting hammered by your opponents, let alone being unable to keep up with your own team members, and team management pulled your sorry behinds off the field so you wouldn’t embarrass yourselves to the point you’d get booed every time you walked onto a rugby pitch for the rest of your lives.’
In the case of the ‘Remoaner’ Brexit team, getting ‘benched’ by ‘management’ was a mercy! Do these people not get it?
Please View This Chart if You’re a UK Taxpayer & Are Concerned About the Size of the Net Contributions to Brussels (plus the Economic Uncertainty Losses Over the Past 3-Years) All of Which Total £69.5 Billion, so far…
Remember, a ‘net’ payment is the money you don’t get back. It’s a net payment. Get it?
So, Who Really, is Working for the UK taxpayer?
- On the one hand, there are those who created this entire mess by dragging Brexit out over 3-years and want the government to double-down on the failed tactics of the Remoaner Brexit team and want the new Prime Minister to tell Britons they must continue to pay insane amounts of money to the EU annually and accept economic uncertainty as a permanent state of affairs in the UK. Meanwhile, the EU continues to say there is absolutely no chance of a change in their Brexit position. So, why work for more delay? What’s to be gained by another missed Brexit deadline? What do you hope to accomplish over 3-more months that you couldn’t accomplish over 3-years? Why are you attempting to play the ball when you’ve been ordered off the field by your own management?
- On the other hand, there are those who want to stop the economic haemorrhaging by November 1, 2019 by getting Brexit done and dusted, working diligently and under trying conditions for the country’s taxpayers so that Britons can move on with their lives in a better economy and with proper UK sovereignty restored.
So, who is working for the UK taxpayer? You tell me…
- Brexit showdown: Who were Tory rebels who defied Boris Johnson? (BBC)