The Prime Minister has suspended Parliament. The Queen gave permission. MPs objected. The decision is being challenged in the courts. All of this shambles reveals how rotten Britain’s state institutions really are.
For centuries, the British state was the envy of the rich and powerful throughout the world. An unwritten constitution; an out-of-sight civil service; blurred lines between government and Parliament; and the reserve power of the Monarchy: all these helped to provide the appearance of democracy – all the while concentrating real control in the hands of the ruling class.
Now that envy has turned to disbelief. With the Tories engulfed in crisis, Boris Johnson has been forced to whip up and rely upon the most divisive, reactionary ideas in society. His right-wing, demagogic push for a no-deal Brexit has brought him into conflict with big business, which wants to remain as closely aligned with the EU as possible.
The ruling class has therefore attempted to mobilise the full weight of the state against Johnson – trying to block him in Parliament and through the courts. But the Prime Minister stands at the head of the state machine. It is he who has used the Queen – and threatened to use the House of Lords – to defend himself.
This civil war between different parts of the state apparatus has torn the veil from the hallowed institutions of the British state. They have been exposed as rotten, undemocratic institutions.
Johnson is an unelected leader of the country, heading up a split party, without the support of a majority of elected representatives. How can this happen in a so-called democracy? Voting in elections clearly doesn’t provide us with much real control over the government.
This unelected government, which should be accountable to the elected Parliament, is apparently able to suspend Parliament whenever it pleases – by appealing to an unelected hereditary monarch! The unelected part of the British state clearly trumps the elected part. This is ‘democracy’ in Britain.
Dozens of MPs challenged the proroguing of Parliament in the courts. The High Court in London decided that Johnson’s actions were lawful. The highest civil court in Scotland decided that they were illegal. This is only going to deepen the antagonism between London and Edinburgh.
The fact that judges in London and Scotland cannot agree on something so seemingly fundamental exposes what a sham our legal and ‘democratic’ systems really are. Why are the courts attacking Johnson but not the Queen, when it was both of their actions that allowed Parliament to be shut down?
The question is due to be settled by the UK Supreme Court. But that won’t repair the damage that’s been done by destabilising the relationship between England and Scotland, denting the authority of the courts, and questioning the position of the Monarchy.
On top of all of this, the independence of the judges has been publicly questioned by government ministers. And the government has threatened to use the unelected House of Lords to block legislation passed by the elected House of Commons.
We’re witnessing different wings of the British state tearing chunks out of each other in scenes without parallel in modern British history. All pretence that we were governed by a democratic system has gone out the window.
In truth, democracy under capitalism has always only been a democracy for the rich. This reality is what we’re now seeing in all its glory.