Johnson’s decision to silence parliament may be slightly more sophisticated than Guy Fawkes’ attempt. But his attempt to constrain parliament’s ability to his government under review reflects his complete lack of legitimacy, as prime minister, and as champion of a no-deal Brexit. He presides over a minority government, support reduced by his hypocritical decision to remove the whip from his opponents. That he is only prime minister thanks to the votes of some 90,000 members of the Conservative Party hardly bestows great legitimacy.
He’s attacked those seeking to rule out a no-deal departure for thwarting democracy by preventing the fulfilment of the ‘will of the people’. But even setting aside the imperfections of the referendum (excess expenditure, the interference by a foreign power, lies on the bus etc), its result does not really represent the ‘will of the people’ in the way he suggests. It certainly provides no mandate for a no-deal departure: Gove, Farage, Fox and others spent the campaign telling us how easy it would be to leave the EU with a terrific trade deal in place. But it’s worse than that: despite a reasonably high turnout (72%) only 37% voted to leave – meaning therefore that 63% didn’t. At best, the referendum offered a snapshot of the views of 72% of the electorate over three and a half years ago: and it’s a very different electorate today. Since then almost two million people have died, and more importantly almost 2.3 million young people have attained voting age. These now form part of ‘the people’ whose ‘will’ needs to be respected. But since the polls suggest that there’s a substantial majority of remain voters among this group, Johnson is of course reluctant to seek their views, or indeed the views of any who oppose his no-deal Brexit obsession.
He’s now belatedly pursuing an election as the only feasible way to secure his no-deal departure. Meanwhile he and his government continue to show contempt for parliament through the action to prorogue, contempt symbolically demonstrated by the arrogance of Rees Smug during the recent debate, arrogance of which I’m sure Nanny would have disapproved.