What even is a prorogue? What happens when Parliament is suspended? How does any of this affect me?
It’s simpler than you might think.
When you vote during a General Election, you’re not really voting for a party, you’re voting for a Member of Parliament (MP) to represent you.
Your MP may belong to a party, and that might be why you voted for them. But the reality is that your MP has their own mind and will to vote on issues as they see fit.
Your MP joins hundreds of other MPs in casting votes on which laws are made. Every law we live by today, from environmental protections to dealing with organised crime, has been decided by MPs in Parliament.
Theoretically, the party currently in government will have the most MPs. However, if that party is not behaving itself, its MPs may “rebel”, and vote against the Government on key matters.
In this way, Parliament is what limits the Government, and what prevents it from doing things that are clearly immoral and damaging to the country.
Or at least it should be.
On September 9th, Prime Minister Johnson will be “proroguing” Parliament. This is another word for “suspending”, or “shutting down”. What it means is that, from September 9th through to October 15th, Parliament will be unable to create any new laws, debate any topics, or act in any way.
This is not normal.
Parliament is occasionally prorogued, or suspended, in this manner, but usually only for a few days. Johnson’s current plan is to shut Parliament down for 37 days – more than a month.
What’s more, is that even after October 15th, there will still be a few days where Parliament is unable to vote on new laws, as they will be debating the Queen’s Speech – the agenda which lays out Government priorities. This means, in reality, Parliament will not be back to its normal functionality until the 21st or 22nd of October, so the shutdown will really last for closer to 43 or 44 days.
This is not normal.
Another term you will hear is “precedent.” This simply means that, in British law, and in Parliament, things that have happened before are more likely to happen again.
When Prime Minister Johnson shuts down Parliament for this long, he will be setting the precedent for it to happen again. He will be making it easier for himself, and future Prime Ministers, to shut down Parliament when it is politically convenient for him to do so.
Prime Minister Johnson wants to prevent Parliament from creating laws which block his political agenda. Because he knows enough of his own party’s MPs will rebel and vote against him, he is therefore shutting down Parliament before they have the chance to challenge him.
If he is allowed to do it this time, he will do it again.
In the big picture, what this does is take away Parliament’s power. By proroguing, or suspending, Parliament, Johnson is removing any power MPs have to challenge the Government in any way. And he is making it easier to repeat this trick in the future.
If your MP cannot vote on laws, and cannot challenge the government, then your vote in a General Election is effectively meaningless. You may draw a cross in a box on a sheet of paper, but it will carry no more meaning or power than an online petition, or even a Twitter poll.
You have a right to vote. Your grandparents fought for this right during the Second World War. Great Britain fought a war to preserve your right to a vote. Your right to a democracy.
Now, Prime Minister Johnson is trying to take that vote away, and break down the democratic process.
But you can help to stop this from happening!
Talk to your friends and your colleagues. Bring up the fact that your right to vote is being taken from you, in a very sneaky way. You might still vote, but the power and meaning of that vote will be completely gone.
You can also write to your MP and urge them to take immediate action via the website below – but you need to be quick about it, because very soon they might not be able to take action for you.
Finally, you can join protests and demonstrations. There will be protests all across the country over the next few weeks.
Protesting doesn’t mean getting arrested or causing a riot. It just means being present in a place with a lot of other people who feel the same way as you, and making your presence known. You can protest completely peacefully. You can join in chants, even lead chants, and you can make new friends. Most of all, you can feel powerful, because you really are making a difference.
You can find protest events near you on social media.
Britain is a great country, but only because of the people in it. And our rights will be taken away if we don’t have the courage to stand up for ourselves.
Britain’s Parliament has served as a model for other countries all around the world. Our legal system has inspired other nations’ legal systems. We are a powerful, influential country, but Britain is only as powerful as its people, and there are some very clever, very selfish people in Government right now who want to take away your power.
Don’t let them. Defend your democracy. Save your right to vote.