The Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab has said the possibility of sidelining parliament to force through Brexit should not be ruled out, as to do so would weaken the UK’s negotiating position in Brussels.
“I think it’s wrong to rule out any tool to make sure that we leave by the end of October,” Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as the Conservative party reels from its disastrous results in the European election, in which Eurosceptic voters flocked to the Brexit party.
Dominic Raab is the champion of democracy in modern-day Britain.
Specifically, he has just been appointed as Foreign Secretary in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new cabinet. This means it is his duty to act as Britain’s chief diplomat, negotiating with foreign powers and, theoretically, bringing the good word of democracy to those states which are yet to fully adopt it. The foreign secretary must represent the United Kingdom and its ideals, such as parliamentary sovereignty and a principled belief in representative democracy.
He sits in the cabinet alongside notable and well-respected politicians such as:
- Priti Patel, who has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors.
- Andrea Leadsom, whose impressive CV contributed to her role as Theresa May’s final competitor in the 2016 Tory leadership race.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man of the people whose dedication to Brexit is as selfless as it is principled.
- The Prime Minister himself, Boris Johnson, who has a long and prestigious career as a journalist and politician.
In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, Raab, in his role as a candidate for leadership of the Tory party, discusses the proroguing of parliament in order to prevent British MPs from taking any action to block a “No-Deal” Brexit.
Put another way, Raab suggested that Britain’s democratic government should be temporarily suspended, so that Britain would automatically leave the EU on October 31st, regardless of the effects that this would have on the country.
Given that one of the key arguments in favour of Brexit was because “[Britain’s] laws should be made by people we can elect and kick out – that’s more democratic”, it may seem hypocritical for a Leave campaigner and lead Brexiteer to suggest crippling the British parliament. And that’s because it is hypocritical.
In 2017, during the UK General Election, the Conservative Party secured 42% of the votes cast, and 317 parliamentary seats. This meant they were unable to form a government. As such, the leader of the Tories, Theresa May, bribed the Irish DUP party with £1 billion of public money to form a government with them. The DUP held 0.9% of the votes cast.
Which means the Conservative Party was able to seize control of the Government with just 43% of the popular vote – and it only cost them £1 billion of public funds to do so.
When Theresa May resigned in 2019, her successor was chosen from among Tory Party MPs. First the Tory MPs themselves – all 312 of them – voted to narrow the selection down to just two candidates – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.
This was followed by a vote of the Tory Party as a whole. Here, the winner of the two candidates was decided by a vote of 138,809 Tory Party members, i.e. 0.3% of the country’s general electorate, or 1 out of every 330 people eligible to vote in a general election.
Nearly 46 million people are eligible to vote in the UK, of a population of over 66 million.
Which means that Raab, an elected MP holding an unelected ministerial position, appointed by an undemocratically-selected Prime Minister of an undemocratic government which bought its way into power, wished to further restrict the role of democracy in British politics by suspending a body of elected lawmakers.
To Dominic Raab, democracy is useful only to the barest extent that it puts him in a position of power, and is seemingly disposable at any point thereafter.
And this is the Foreign Secretary who is expected to represent Britain overseas, championing our way of life.
It is worth stating, and re-stating, that the proroguing of Parliament is unlikely to ever occur. But the issue is less the likelihood of it occurring, and rather the fact that it is seen as a legitimate option by members of our current government, possibly including the Prime Minister himself.
Shortly after Mr Raab’s comments, I wrote to my MP, Shabana Mahmood, to raise my concerns. You can read this letter, and her response, here.
Given more recent developments, it seems important that we all put pressure on our parliamentary representatives to take a stronger stand against the kind of anti-democratic sentiment which seems to prevalent within the current government.
As matters stand currently, the Boris Johnson-led government is set to remain in power until May of 2022 – nearly three years of rule by a Prime Minister and cabinet who hold power due to a history bribery, lies and a broken electoral system.
This is the same government which, by all indicators, is intending to force the UK to leave the EU with no departure deal in place, and in just three months, on the 31st of October.
This is a government made up primarily of wealthy politicians of privileged backgrounds, at least one of whom has demonstrably already profited personally from the results of the Brexit referendum. It seems unlikely that Rees-Mogg is alone in having financial interests in a departure from the EU.
Should the best possible legal outcome prevail, and a successful vote of No Confidence in the current government force a General Election, the country would still be vulnerable to the same kind of back-room deals that saw the Tory Party retain power in the 2017 election, and we would then be in a worse position than we are now.
Once again, I’m writing about British politics and telling tales of doom and gloom, with no real suggestions to offer as to what to do. It feels like an impossible situation, where our right to vote seems meaningless, where our connection as private citizens to our own government seems non-existent.
We are staring down the barrel of a No Deal EU departure, and we have virtually no legal means to affect this course of action. We are being led by Prime Minister and a government who hold the population in contempt, who are flagrantly placing their own interests ahead of the interests of the country, and we had no say in their appointment.
This piece opened with a critique of Dominic Raab, but he is merely symptomatic of the disease. His appointment as foreign secretary is a result of a deeper, darker plague for which the cures are quickly eroding. By any objective measure, our system of government has failed us, and has been failing us for some time, and it seems there is still scope for matters to worsen.