Revolution haunts the air of Westminster.
More than 50 rebel MPs pledge to convene alternative parliament
by Jessica Elgot, The Guardian
Fri 30 Aug 2019
More than 50 MPs from the main parties have pledged to occupy an alternative House of Commons if the prime minister suspends parliament in September, saying they are determined to continue to debate Brexit policy over the five-week period.
In a letter to the Guardian coordinated by Best for Britain, backbenchers from the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Change UK and Plaid Cymru said they would convene an alternative parliament should they be barred from the chamber.
Signatories include the Labour MP David Lammy, the current and former Lib Dem leaders Jo Swinson and Sir Vince Cable, the Green party MP Caroline Lucas and Conservative MPs Antoinette Sandbach and Guto Bebb.
“We cannot allow the government to avoid scrutiny at this time of national crisis,” the letter reads, saying MPs will convene “an alternative parliament to continue holding the government to account and fight this most damaging Brexit”.
“Those who voted to leave in 2016 were promised a negotiated deal by the Vote Leave campaign,” the letter reads.
“The prime minister has now announced that he will prorogue parliament in a bid to get a no-deal Brexit through. Such an unconstitutional coup risks compromising people’s jobs, security and living standards, not to mention the Good Friday agreement. Now Boris Johnson is jeopardising all this for the sake of his own personal polling.”
“It is clear that this has been done to stop MPs debating Brexit at our country’s most constitutionally charged time in recent history.”
“If Boris Johnson succeeds in this unconstitutional coup and locks the doors of the Palace of Westminster at this crucial time, that assembly should make its voice heard by coming together elsewhere.”
A number of other direct actions are planned for the coming week, ahead of MPs’ return to parliament on Tuesday and the prorogation, which is planned for the following week.
Leftwing grassroots group Momentum has urged members of the public to block roads and bridges in protest at the move, which has sparked a ferocious backlash from across the political spectrum.
The move to set up an alternative parliament follows a similar gathering in Church House last week by MPs who demanded the recall of parliament and said they would oppose prorogation.
The meeting, convened by the Labour MP Stephen Doughty and the independent MP Luciana Berger, resulted in a pledge to sit through prorogation signed by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell and the former Conservative MP Anna Soubry as well as Swinson and Lucas.
The Church House declaration said shutting down parliament would be “an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country, and a historic constitutional crisis … Any attempt to prevent parliament [from] sitting, to force through a no-deal Brexit, will be met by strong and widespread democratic resistance.”
This is a silly idea and is doomed to failure.
Senior Tory rebels ready to back move against no-deal Brexit
by Jessica Elgot, The Guardian
Thu 29 Aug 2019
A growing number of senior Tory rebels have signalled they are now prepared to back urgent legislation to thwart a no-deal Brexit after Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament.
In an escalation of the civil war in the Tory party, David Gauke, the former justice secretary, became the latest senior Conservative to urge his colleagues to act immediately rather than wait to see if Johnson could deliver an alternative to the backstop in the 30-day period proffered by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said parliament would “legislate rapidly” on Tuesday next week to try to stop a no-deal Brexit and pledged to also launch an attempt to stop prorogation.
A significant number of Conservative MPs said on Thursday they were now prepared to back legislation in the Commons next week, which they may otherwise have viewed as premature.
Echoing earlier comments by the former chancellor Philip Hammond, Gauke said he believed Tory MPs could not afford to wait.
“It does look like next week is essentially the only opportunity parliament will have to maintain some control over this process and ensure that it has a say before we leave without a deal,” he said. “I don’t think one can rule out the possibility of parliament being able to find a way through this.”
Margot James, the former digital minister, said she had previously been minded to give Johnson time to negotiate. “I had wanted to give the PM until the third week of September – the 30 days he agreed with Merkel – to surprise us all with an alternative to the backstop that would be negotiable with the EU,” she said.
Jonathan Djanogly, one of the MPs who had backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal as well as efforts to stop no deal, said he was angered by the lack of opportunity for scrutiny of Johnson’s plans. “Legalities of shutting down parliament apart, no deal has no democratic backing, so stopping debate on the issue is morally wrong in my book,” he said.
“Even if you support a no-deal Brexit, surely you would want government no-deal preparations to be scrutinised. For instance, my own Brexit select committee will not be allowed to sit to question ministers on the adequacy of Project Yellowhammer [the preparations for no deal]. This is a big mistake.”
Guto Bebb, one of the handful of Conservatives who has backed the People’s Vote campaign, said: “As Conservatives we prize loyalty. But it has become increasingly clear that our loyalty must be to our party’s long-term values and not to the man who leads the party at this time.
“I will be using my vote in parliament next week to do that. I know many of my Conservative colleagues, many of whom have never before defied the official whip of the party leadership, will be doing the same.”
Ministers privately admit the battle to block anti-no-deal legislation in the Commons next week appears all but lost, but efforts to frustrate the rebels are focusing on the House of Lords.
In the Commons, several other no-deal sceptic Tories said they still wanted to give Johnson time to get a deal before they were prepared to vote against him. Victoria Prentis, one of the key backers of Rory Stewart’s leadership campaign, said: “I am still likely to give him [Johnson] the benefit of the doubt next week. He has promised that he will get a deal; I want to give him the time to get a deal.”
Some said they believed they would still have time to act before no deal, even in October. Gillian Keegan said: “I am very much against no deal but I also very much want to vote for a deal. We are in uncharted territory but I do believe we have time, even in the last week of October, to find a way to stop no deal if it really looks like that is where we are headed.”
Others who have said they will continue to back the prime minister include Nicholas Soames, Richard Benyon and Tobias Ellwood, all of whom have spoken out against no deal.
Labour said it intended to play a central role in any legislative fightback. Corbyn told Sky News: “We will be back in parliament on Tuesday to challenge Boris Johnson on what I think is a smash-and-grab raid against our democracy. He’s trying to suspend parliament in order to prevent a serious discussion and a serious debate to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
“What we’re going to do is try to politically stop him on Tuesday with a parliamentary process in order to legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit and also to try to prevent him shutting down parliament during this utterly crucial period.”
Corbyn said he was confident there was enough time in parliament to introduce legislation. “We believe we can do it, otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to do it,” he said.
Labour later released a joint statement with the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Independent Group for Change and the Green party, saying: “It is our view that there is a majority in the House of Commons that does not support this prorogation, and we demand that the prime minister reverses this decision immediately or allows MPs to vote on whether there should be one.”
Even more piling on-
John Major to join legal fight to stop Johnson suspending parliament
by Jessica Elgot, The Guardian
Fri 30 Aug 2019
John Major has said he will seek the high court’s permission to join a legal fight to prevent the government from suspending parliament before the Brexit deadline, in an unprecedented legal battle that could pit a former prime minister against the incumbent.
And, hours after the news emerged, the shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, was granted permission to join the case on behalf of the official opposition.
In addition, Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has said he will seek to intervene in his role as an MP, while the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, said she too was seeking to join the case brought by the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller aimed at preventing Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament from next week until mid-October.
Major, who has been a prominent critic of the government’s Brexit policy, had previously vowed he would mount a legal challenge if Johnson sought to prorogue parliament in order to curtail parliamentary debates or legislative efforts to stop no deal.
“I promised that, if the prime minister prorogued parliament in order to prevent members from opposing his Brexit plans, I would seek judicial review of his action,” Major said in a statement on Friday.
“In view of the imminence of the prorogation – and to avoid duplication of effort, and taking up the court’s time through repetition – I intend to seek the court’s permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than to commence separate proceedings.
“If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and prime minister, and also in parliament for many years as a member of the House of Commons.”
I dunno, maybe the court case. I’m not encouraged by Corbyn’s reported strategy but he has until Tuesday to change his mind.
Straight ‘No Confidence’ on the suspension. Negotiate after you win.