Prime Minister Johnson (I think we can ditch ‘Boris’ now?) prorogues Parliament… Prorogues? Isn’t that the Irish band with that Christmas number one? After careful research, it seems not.
What he has, in fact, done is to ask The Queen to suspend Parliament from 9th September to 14th October. Prorogation does happen routinely (party conference season and for general elections), but this time it’s a bit different, and political opponents are screaming from the rooftops that this is an assault on democracy – designed purely to help the PM force through a No Deal Brexit without opposition and scrutiny. Even the (usually) impartial Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr Bercow, took time out of his family holiday to fume that the action was a ‘constitutional outrage’. Strong words, indeed.
Only hours later, with petitions and protestors already getting in to full swing, Scottish Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson, indicated she would be stepping down. Many consider the timing to be more than coincidental. Certainly, her resignation cites the current ‘political context’ and it could be that this latest move from the PM was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the person who brought a Midas touch to Scottish Conservative electoral fortunes. Her loss will shake the Scottish Tories at Holyrood and will have repercussions for the UK Party. It wasn’t so long ago, remember, that some were tipping Ms Davidson as a future Prime Minister.
Voluntary sector organisations have been engaging freely with the Scottish Conservatives of late. We can only hope that this will continue under new leadership. I feel confident it will.
It’s fair to say that these two announcements attached jump leads to the day’s news and will energise a slightly stunted and lethargic debate. Trench warfare is about to become open warfare once again. Just the day before, opposition parties met to discuss how they might derail a No Deal Brexit and, at the eleventh hour, seemed to have a semblance of an agreement on tactics to achieve their aims. Perhaps this is why the Prime Minister acted so swiftly to counter-attack.
While Parliament looks set to lock its doors and set the burglar alarm, MPs will still have a small window of opportunity to act against the PM (with a few days of sitting time still available). I think it is highly possible they will. I also think this is part of the PM’s plan…
The Prime Minister has a tiny majority and no cast iron mandate. He could resolve both issues by holding an election and winning on his own merits and messages. How best to do that? Why not look like you tried your hardest, were thwarted by pesky ‘Remoaners’ and now need the Great British public to get behind you to deliver Brexit and tell those ivory tower elites again that you want your Brexit!? Wouldn’t it be a strong campaign? Wouldn’t it likely wipe out the Brexit Party and a divided opposition? I worry that it almost certainly would.
SCVO has long warned against a No-Deal Brexit and what it would mean for our sector (constrained funding, loss of staff, increased demand, regression of rights) and have baulked at the idea this dangerous approach could be reached by simply running down the clock. Only this week, our CEO, Anna Fowlie, wrote to all UK party leaders to reiterate these concerns.
Sadly, I fear a more worrying situation is developing. It could soon be the case that a forthcoming general election sees the UK electorate actively choose to crash out of the EU without a deal or any safety net. The arguments to prevent such an outcome would be totally destroyed, yet the impact would still wreck communities, lives and the organisations that so many people rely upon.
For now, we hold our breath.