Brexit and Queen’s speech


Rizwan Ghani
On Johnson’s request , Queen is due to deliver her speech to both houses next week.
Traditionally, the speech sets the annual agenda for the government of the day. PM had used the speech invitation to distract attention from the prorogation of Parliament and prompting speculations of early elections. And in the process put more pressure on opposition Labour party which according to the polls is trailing behind the ruling party.
As Johnson’s Brexit plan continues to lose support both at home and in the EU, Corbyn has managed to make a comeback for the Labour party by starting party’s election campaign in Northampton with an alternative Queen’s speech giving key policies on Brexit, inequality, education, the NHS, housing, crime and climate emergency. Northampton is an opposition stronghold because both the seats are with the Conservatives.
Corbyn has already rejected the planned Queen’s speech which is due on Monday. He described it as cynical stunt by the government before an election. He said that on Monday we will be treated to the farce of Johnson’s Conservative government, amid pomp and ceremony, setting out an agenda to the parliament that it has no intention and no means of delivering. He equated the speech to a pre-election party political broadcast for the Conservative Party. Queen should not deliver the speech because there is logic in what is being said. If a government has no plan to implement the agenda that will be given in the speech then it better not be delivered. Similarly, the government cannot set an agenda that it has no intention or means to deliver. Furthermore, the government has no plans to put any legislation before the parliament.
With 45 votes short for a majority and with a 100 percent record defeat in commons, the government is seeking a general election. It will end the parliamentary session the Queen is about to open. The Queen therefore needs to review her decision of opening the session with an agenda speech that has become irrelevant due to the objections raised by Corbyn. Johnson is openly using the Queen’s speech to promote his government and himself for the next election and in the process politicizing role of the Queen.
In terms of Benn Act (binding PM to seek extension to Brexit), Johnson has already been warned by the Queen. He could be sacked for not following the law. The pro-remain campaigners are preparing to launch contempt proceedings againt PM if he attempts to renege on promises to seek an extension to Brexit to avoid no deal (hard) Brexit. Although, the government has promised neither the PM nor any other minister or official would try to bypass the Act despite Johnson’s repeated promises that UK would leave the EU on 31 October come what may. But few believe Johnson. With no credibility, no one knows which way Johnson might take on Brexit. However, he is desperately looking for someone to blame for his failed Brexit plan.
Legal advice has already been sought on starting court proceeding for contempt next week in Scottish courts, after senior judges in Edinburgh delayed a decision on ordering PM to comply with the Benn Act. The Scotland’s most senior judge has already cleared time for a emergency hearing in the court of session at noon on Monday 21 October, where he could issue orders forcing Johnson to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension to article until 31 January.
The wider question is role of state and its institutions in situations like governments of the day and Brexit itself. Brexit is walking away from a system of global capitalism and its policies. Britain was a social welfare state and Johnson, a mayor, sold London, the financial hub of the country, to the global elite. Now he is all set to deliver UK to the capitalist waiting to take away of whatever is left of an Empire. No wonder big money is waiting to buy NHS, British rail, get rid of food safety standards and whatnot.
Everyone knows it. No one backs Brexit. May it be agriculture, industry or services sector. National capitalism is also against it. So why is Johnson and his allies pushing for a (hard) Brexit? May be it is the corrupt relationship between the PM and his donors as reportedly opined by Hammond and Rachel, PM own sister. It is opined that international investors are interested in their investments and they don’t care about the consequences for the others. Johnson is a perfect person to deliver Brexit because as ruling elite he has no connection with the ordinary people.
It explains why successive Tory governments failed to end austerity programs that played havoc with widows, pension funds, single mothers, child poverty, privatization of public assets, rise in crime, cutting policing, and infesting local communities with drugs and forcing children into drug mules.
The public welfare based policies of Corbyn, role of judiciary and human right activities has shown ray of hope in the pro-Brexit government gloom that is shrouding the country. The win of pro-left government in Portugal has also shown that the socialist agendas can still win. The policies that aim to protect public from the powerful elite, governments and leaders are beacon of hope and with stronger judiciary, media and civil service it can further check the government and head of state. This is how a democracy should work.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.