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1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites): Eurasia Review: Defeated Johnson Loses His Authority And Credibility – OpEd


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By Yossi Mekelberg*

If there is any silver lining to the otherwise very cloudy atmosphere in
Westminster Village today, it is that MPs reasserted themselves on
Wednesday night in the face of the undemocratic attempt by Prime
Minister Boris Johnson to marginalize them in the weeks leading up to
the Brexit deadline at the end of October.

Johnson’s decision last week to prorogue Parliament until mid-October —
effectively sidelining the democratically elected body from having any
meaningful impact on if and how the UK leaves the EU on Oct. 31 — adds
to the sense that, for this government, adhering to democracy is just an
option when it might be convenient. Moreover, in one act by a novice
prime minister, he has exposed his inexperience, incompetence, hypocrisy
and detachment from reality. Now, with Parliament taking control of
Brexit and blocking both a no-deal exit and a fresh election, the two
options the prime minister favors, Johnson is left in a bind, for which
he has only himself to blame.

In a matter of a few days, the word prorogation, which was previously
confined to constitutional lawyers and the corridors of Westminster,
became one of the top trending terms on social media and was dropped
into almost any conversation up and down the British isles, almost as
frequently as Brits talk about the weather. In one simple act, which
entails the temporary suspension of Parliament until a new session
starts, Johnson took the route of a mad dictator. By suspending the
elected body’s sovereignty, which is a principle of the UK constitution
and grants Parliament the powers to enact or terminate any law and
scrutinize government activities, he entrusted all this power to his and
his government’s own hands. Not surprisingly then, more than 20 of his
own MPs rebelled and joined the opposition in their effort to block a
no-deal Brexit.

For him to deny that his action was for the sole purpose of taking
complete control of the Brexit process until the Oct. 31 deadline and
leaving with or without a deal is a blunt lie that disrespects the
British people. It adds the insult of lying about the real reason for
wanting to paralyze Parliament at one of the most crucial moments in the
nation’s recent history to the injury inflicted on the very essence of
parliamentary democracy.

In the five long weeks that Parliament is going to be completely shut
down, with legislation suspended and the executive free of parliamentary
scrutiny, Johnson intended to lead the country out of Europe, either
with an agreement or, most likely, without one.

The outrage in response to the decision to prorogue Parliament was
unprecedented in its force and crossed party lines. There was almost a
competition for who could use the strongest superlatives in expressing
their justified anger at the disregard shown by a government for the
country’s democratic processes. Speaker of the House of Commons John
Bercow described Johnson’s decision as a “constitutional outrage.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, condemned it as
“reckless,” while the former Conservative Chancellor Philip Hammond
tweeted: “It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were
prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national
crisis. Profoundly undemocratic.”

In Johnson’s world, arguments are matters of personal and political
convenience. Hence, he thinks that he can fool the entire country, and
Europe, into believing his claim that he has suspended Parliament in
order to advance other issues of importance on the government’s agenda,
and that this act of sabotaging the democratic process is to conceal
from the other 27 EU member states that there is disunity in the
political system and throughout the nation over Brexit. By his absurd
logic, he claims this will enhance his bargaining power with Brussels
for a better deal as he threatens its negotiators with a no-deal exit.
Does he genuinely believe this?

It is hard to tell what is worse: That he himself gives any credence to
such an utterly implausible argument or that he believes anyone within
the British or European political systems would fall for it. Suspending
Parliament will not encourage the EU to make more concessions, and it is
most definitely not a sign of either strength or unity. It sends a
message to Europe that the UK, chiefly its government and prime
minister, has lost its way. The EU’s representatives might now wonder if
it is not in their interest to let Britain inflict on itself the
ultimate damage of leaving without a deal, and wait for it to come back
later cap in hand, begging for further negotiations on relations with
Europe from a position of weakness.

Instead of attempting, as a new prime minister, to reach some consensus
in Parliament, Johnson is playing havoc with the democratic foundations
of this country. His actions might be technically legal, but they lack
any popular legitimacy and betray the spirit of constitutional
arrangements. In the process, Johnson has demonstrated great
carelessness in embarrassing the monarch, putting her in an almost
impossible situation whereby she had to approve the suspension of
Parliament. In this, he embroiled her in his partisan march of folly
toward a no-deal exit from Europe, compromising the Queen’s role as a
unifying force in British society who is above party politics.

If this political maneuver smacked of desperation, Johnson’s threat to
deselect rebel MPs from his own party if they joined forces with Labour
in bringing a bill designed to stop the UK leaving the EU on Oct. 31
without an agreement was the epitome of desperation combined with
foolishness. He was defied by 21 of his own MPs, who proved themselves
ready to adhere to their principles despite the threat of deselection.
Johnson’s actions have ripped the Tory party apart, and it is especially
counterproductive while he is planning fresh elections. This means
going into a campaign with a deeply divided party, while forcing out
some of its most prominent figures.

Following this week’s votes in Parliament — which look set to stop the
government from executing its promise to leave Europe, come what may, at
the end of October, and denied it from going to the polls — Johnson has
already lost any authority or credibility and he might even end up as
the shortest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

  • Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s
    University London, where he is head of the International Relations and
    Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA
    Program at Chatham House. Twitter: @YMekelberg

Eurasia Review

1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites)