Country Over Party
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
A growing number of MP’s are placing their concern for the future of British democracy above their own political careers. Regardless of the outcome of the Brexit fight that is continuing to rage in Great Britain, there is a group of politicians in the Parliament who are not mimicking their American counterparts in the U.S. Congress. Within the Conservative Party, there are some long-standing Members of Parliament as well as former Members and even Government leaders who have become outspoken in their willingness to disassociate themselves with their own party; in which many of them have served for decades. They have declared that they are unwilling to be bullied about by the new Prime Minister and participate in the destruction of the English democracy.
During his six-week term as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s Government has been subjected to an astonishing attack both politically and legislatively, the like of which have never been seen in British history. As Johnson has made an unprecedented effort to ride roughshod over his party, the Parliament, and the people the pushback against the Prime Minister has been extraordinary. While so far, the only clear voices which have been heard, aside for the media, have come from Parliament and some Members of the Tory party, public unrest is clearly growing.
The parliamentary and electoral machinations will continue unabated beginning on Monday, while the turmoil within the Conservative Party is growing. The Tories—and Johnson–appear to have to political options. Since Johnson was selected as head of the party on July 23 and assumed the Prime Minister position the next day, his already dubious one vote majority in Parliament has evaporated. Given the number of resignations and removal of the Conservative whip (firings) from at least 21 Tory MP’s over the past week, Johnson cannot control the action in Westminster as he has lost his parliamentary majority.
If Johnson is forced by Parliament to seek an extension from the E.U. beyond the October 31 deadline, and should he refuse, the Courts have informed the Government that Johnson could be held in contempt should he then refuse to acquiesce to the law. He would be forced from office. Presumably this would be the only way that Johnson could be removed baring a new election which Parliament is ordering to be held after October 31. Given the fact that polls are showing Labour trailing the Conservative Party by more than 10% at this time, Johnson could either resign or let the Courts do their work; but the Tory Party looks to be in better shape ahead than Labour.
While some of these maneuvers appear arcane to many Americans, there are two signals that suggest that the Mother of all Parliaments may be prepared to toe the line of decency and democracy more rigorously than their American counterparts. First, Members of Parliament have indicated that they indeed are willing to leave their party rather than to serve under a leader who violates democratic rules and norms. Second, it appears likely that should Johnson consider confronting the Parliament, he is likely to be immediately removed. Both considerations ought to present stark examples to American legislators of how democracies should function.
P.S. Lest one assume that all is smooth sailing in the Labour Party, the long-standing Labour MP John Mann, has announced he could not stand for re-election in the Labour Party with John Corbyn as its leader. He indicated that Labour’s continued tolerance of anti-Semitism within its ranks had become abhorrent. Mann, who has been one of the leaders in Parliament for years protesting the growing scourge of anti-Semitism, has accepted a new position to be an independent advisor to the Government on anti-Semitism.