World

Remove the Wrong Parliament

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the House of Commons in London, England, October 30, 2019. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters)

The United Kingdom is heading for an election on December 12 of this year, one that is long overdue. British voters decided in 2016 to leave the European Union. For the first time since that referendum, voters have a chance of electing a government that is politically committed to making that outcome a reality. The way to see it through is to elect a majority of Tory MPs to Parliament with Boris Johnson as prime minister.

We are now more than three years removed from the Brexit referendum — the largest democratic event in the U.K.’s history. Before that referendum, every major political party vowed that the result of the historic vote would be implemented. But elected members of Parliament who hated the result have consistently thwarted the U.K.’s exit. Although all Tory and Labour ministers ran on manifestos promising to deliver Brexit, many elected ministers were simply lying to voters and hoping for Brexiteers to relent before a Remain establishment. New prime minister Boris Johnson has begun to align the politics of Brexit to the existing party system. And polls show that his reformed Tory party, committed to Brexit, can win.

A failure of the Tories to win this election will have several adverse consequences for the United Kingdom. The likeliest alternative to Boris Johnson will be a government led by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, a retrograde socialist who is unfit to be prime minister. Corbyn’s premiership would likely be powered by a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists. The former will demand the reversal of Brexit and full reintegration into the European Union. The latter will demand another independence referendum for Scotland. Socialism, subordination to Brussels, and the breakup of a 300-year political union: Corbyn’s history of Third Worldist sympathy with the enemies of the U.K. will put its traditional alliances and security arrangement in jeopardy. The stakes are as high as they’ll ever be.

How did we get here?

Theresa May’s snap election in 2017 produced one of the longest-sitting Parliaments in modern history, and the least-accomplished. May’s negotiated Brexit deal was voted down three times, exhausting and extinguishing her premiership. In the meantime, as Parliament dithered, a rapid deformation of the U.K.’s constitution proceeded.

Both the Blair and the Cameron governments contributed to the institutional logjam and crisis of the recent Parliament. Cameron’s Fixed-Term Parliaments Act was supposed to copper-fasten a Tory–Liberal Democrat majority. Instead, the result was to create a novel situation where a majority of parliamentarians opposed to the government’s negotiating strategy with Brussels attempted to puppeteer the executive and undermine the prime minister rather than bring his government to an end and face an election. Separating power and responsibility in this way had the predictable result of sowing chaos and confusion in Westminster. The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, was supposed to be a neutral referee and guardian of parliamentary custom. He became a wild innovator and occasional usurper, undermining the executive on behalf of those committed to reversing Brexit.

These novelties were blessed by yet another. When Johnson made the perfectly normal political decision to suspend Parliament and call for a Queen’s speech, the Supreme Court that was invented by Tony Blair’s government jumped in to declare that what had heretofore been a royal prerogative was now an illegal act. This was an astonishing act of constitutional transgression that, if unchallenged, will resound in history until the days when the memory of a European Union is as distant as the Crimean War. A new Tory government must begin recommitting the institutions of British governance to their proper roles.

And so the Tory campaign Johnson leads is on the side of democracy, national sovereignty, the union, Britain’s traditional allies, and constitutional restoration. Prevailing means sanity. Failure leads to the abyss. Good luck to him.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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