Thursday 26 September 2019

If The Queen Saves Boris, Will God Save The Queen?

Which Way, Maam? Thanks to her Supreme Court justices, Elizabeth Windsor may soon be faced with a daunting choice: to become the “People’s Queen” – or their last.

THE SUPREME COURT of the United Kingdom has struck down Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament and some people are cheering. The chances of those people being well-educated, well-housed and well-paid metropolitans are very high. In their eyes, the British constitution, in all its unwritten mysteriousness, has been upheld. By eleven votes to nil, the justices have legally obliterated the British Prime Minister’s attempt to silence his opponents. The Houses of Parliament will reconvene, and the Executive – Johnson and his Cabinet – will be held to account.

Some people, however, are not cheering. For them, the Supreme Court’s judgement is a further confirmation (as if one was needed!) that the Anti-Brexit Establishment will stop at nothing to thwart the will of ordinary Englishmen and Englishwomen. These people will not read the judgement: they are not interested in a daft-looking old lady-judge’s high-falutin notions of parliamentary sovereignty and executive accountability. All they know is that in 2016 a majority of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union and, ever since, the Powers-That-Be have done everything they possibly can to stop them.

If the Powers-That-Be succeed, will that be the end of the story? Will the people who “took back control” by voting to leave the EU simply return to their high-rise flats, their semi-detached units, and their bleak rows of cheaper-than-cheap housing, meekly accepting their appointed station in life as the UK’s designated losers? The Powers-That-Be had better hope so. Because, if they don’t, then the UK will find itself teetering on the brink of civil war.

And what a topsy-turvy civil war it will be. This time ‘round, Parliament will not be embraced by the common people as the protector of free-born Englishmen’s rights and liberties – as it had been in the 1640s. This time it will be seen as the protector of the elites; the corrupt defender of an over-educated aristocracy of posh bastards. This time, the Executive will not play the role of the people’s enemy, but of their champion. King Boris, thwarted at every turn by his parliamentary enemies, will appeal over their heads to the people – and the people (half of them, anyway) will flock to his banner.

Assuming, always, that his appeal reaches them. Much now hinges on whether or not the tabloid press decides to do what it did the last time the judiciary intervened in the Brexit saga – which was to brand the offending judges “enemies of the people”. If the so-called “red tops” decide to rouse the masses to revolt; if they call the people onto the streets; who will stop them? To whom will the Police and the armed forces answer? The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Berkow? Or, to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson?

It’s just possible that they will seek instruction from the person to whom they swore allegiance when they first put on their uniforms: “Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law.” But, what does that mean? The UK’s mysterious constitution insists that the Monarch can only act upon the advice of her ministers – her Executive. But, if her Executive is acting in defiance of, or attempting to silence, Parliament, should its advice be heeded? According to this historic judgement of the UK Supreme Court, it should not. Poor old Liz: she’ll be damned if she instructs her Lord Lieutenants to uphold the law, and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t. The first civil war saw the monarchy abolished (albeit temporarily) can it survive a second?

All the UK prime ministers who have been summoned to the Palace since Elizabeth II became Queen in 1952 have remarked upon her political canniness. The woman knows better than most how her kingdom’s politics are played. As this latest crisis unfolds, she will keep a watchful eye on the opinion polls. If the opponents of Brexit continue to refuse to allow a general election to be called to resolve the deepening constitutional impasse; and if the polls all indicate that the Boris Johnson-led Conservative Party would be returned to office by a landslide; then the Queen will have to think long and hard about when and how, if at all, she should wield her “reserve powers”.

The British monarchy has only survived as a serious institution by adapting itself to the needs and expectations of the British public. If it allows itself to be positioned as nothing more than a powerless adjunct of the political class; a rubber stamp to be wielded against the British public – or, at least, its humblest members – on behalf of the Powers-That-Be, then the love that has allowed it to endure for so long will evaporate, and the monarchy will find itself in the hands of those who hold it in thinly disguised contempt. If it loses the love of the ordinary people of England, the Monarchy will not be saved by a neoliberal establishment which has tolerated its existence only because it was too popular to abolish.

Thanks to her Supreme Court justices, Elizabeth Windsor may soon be faced with a daunting choice: to become the “People’s Queen” – or their last.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 26 September 2019.


Anonymous said...

Good summary. Thankfully Elizabeth is still on the throne at 93 & the UK people don't have to look to Charles for exceptional leadership at such a difficult time.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"that the Anti-Brexit Establishment will stop at nothing to thwart the will of ordinary Englishmen and Englishwomen."
After one of the most cynical, mendacious and corrupt political campaigns ever seen since the 18th century I suspect. At least now the electorate has a clear demarcation between Tories who want to leave, partly because so many of their "leaders" will make a killing out of brexit – those same leaders who have arranged German citizenship for their kids and shifted their headquarters to some country that has free trade with the EU. And the Lib Dems, who are going to revoke article 50. While Labour just vacillates. The common people will have to put up with the utter clusterfuck that has arisen because those same leaders didn't bother reading the fine print about how you are supposed to leave and assumed – telling everyone – that it would be smooth and painless. Personally I've got to the stage where however stupid it may be, I hope they leave. Then all those eejits who voted for it can have the crisis they deserve. After all, HP sauce is now made in the Netherlands.:)

Daniel Stride said...

Nitpick: Parliament in the 1640s *was* the voice of the privileged middle-and-upper classes. It's no accident that its support base was London and the South-East. Charles got his support from the poor and the North.

The reason is actually pretty simple. Only Parliament could raise taxes, and the poor couldn't vote. Charles' Personal Rule without Parliament meant that the common people weren't getting taxed, and they didn't see Parliament representing them anyway. The people who were annoyed at the Personal Rule were (ironically enough) the elites.

peteswriteplace said...

Lovely old girl, but should butt out and leave it to those who will have to live with any decision. Hope NZ gets a good trade deal.

Wayne Mapp said...

Surely you have a widely overstated thesis.

Right now the most likely outcomes are;
1. Boris writes for an extension and gets a deal. The Commons won't vote for it, unless it has a referendum
2. Boris writes for an extension and doesn't get a deal, then follows a vote of no confidence which is passed
3. There is an interim government that does a deal which goes to a referendum
4. An election follows, which I reckon Labour will win
5. Or Boris wins, although the second referendum has happened, so he probably won't
6. Or just like now, there is a hung parliament.

None of these scenarios involve the Queen. Just as in NZ, the politicians (and the courts) and the people have to solve their political problems. The Queen can't and won't.

I am postulating an interim government rather than an early election before a deal is done. If there is an early election, I reckon Labour will win on the basis it promises a second referendum. I reckon the mood has turned against Boris. Also Farange will scupper Boris's chances.

The Veteran said...

So Wayne ... what you are arguing is that the commitment to respect the referendum result made by both major parties in the 2017 election is now to be disregarded in favour of a second referendum ... and some wonder why politicians are held in a certain contempt. .... why?

Dave said...

The Queen won't be thinking anything at all.

Phil said...

UK Labour last week seem to have adopted a policy at their Conference of Freedom of Movement that gives access to the UK for the whole world. That doesn't sound like a vote winner to me.

Trev1 said...

Constitutional convention has been overturned both by the Blairite Supreme Court, which has decided that political as opposed to legal matters, are justiciable which the English High Court sitting under the Lord Chief Justice earlier wisely and correctly did not do, and by Parliament which has intruded on the prerogative of the Executive in the negotiation of treaties by instructing Boris Johnson through the Benn Act to ask the EU for an extension by 19 October if no deal is forthcoming by then. The Establishment has shown it will stop at nothing to overturn Brexit and they have done great damage to the constitution and people's faith in democracy. Johnson is adamant he will not seek an extension. Will Parliament have him clapped in irons if he disobeys the Benn Act? Will they revoke the UK's notice of withdrawal under Article 50 for which they voted two years ago, taking Brexit in any form completely off the table? Or will Johnson find some wriggle room by challenging the legality of the Benn Act? I believe he will "keep buggering on" in the words of his hero Churchill. It appears for every humiliation he receives from the Establishment his polling rises by about five percentage points each time. The dam will eventually break and he will be well placed to lead his party to a great victory in a campaign that harnesses the will of the people against Parliament. But there may be some way to go including a shabby interim administration led by Corbyn which might be installed after a vote of no confidence. That would truly be a coup and pour petrol on the fire, and perhaps even provoke the monarch's intervention. What would Spider Lady Hale do then?

Incidentally I am bemused by the NZ media and political establishment's continual smearing of Britain's efforts to break free of the EU which is an increasingly undemocratic monster intent on "empire" as the EU Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt gloated recently at the Lib-Dems' conference. (God forbid the EU Commission's subject countries should ever be treated like the Belgian Congo was!) No entity has done greater damage to the New Zealand economy over the past 40 years than the EU. They are not our friends.

Phil said...

I agree Trev. Ex UK Labour MPs Bryan Gould and Austin Michell have penned many good articles on their blogs on why the UK should leave the EU but I never see these articles in the NZ media. Bryan lives here and Austin was living here but may have returned to the UK.

The EU's attempts to bully Switzerland have gone largely unreported in the NZ media. My concern is that New Zealand will sign a free trade deal with the EU and will find itself to some degree controlled by the EU. I have read articles that the EU engages in Post Westphalian sovereignty and controls countries by allowing trade access and can then squeeze them in other areas. This is of course no different to what is happening with China so maybe the EU is less of a concern to us at the moment.

David Stone said...

That's how I see it too Trev.
In Britain the lack of a written constitution gives flexibility for the political system to adapt to a situation that has not arisen before and was not anticipated. It could either strengthen the political system or damage it badly. At the moment it looks more like the latter, at least in the eyes of the public, but we don't know yet I don't think. It depends how it plays out. But the threat is that the political system allows an elected government's stated programme , consistent with the expressed wishes of the voters to be overruled by the judiciary and a faction of parliament in opposition who do not want the expressed will of the electorate to be implemented . The public respect for their democracy colt take enduring damage. A second binding referendum could help resolve it but if that referendum offers the choice only between remain and a bullshit brexit that relinquishes participation in EU governance but remains under most of the controls will not restore any respect.
In America democracy is really being trashed. The office of President is being made a farce.

peteswriteplace said...

Boris will probably soon be dealing with the moronic Charles, probably King George the Seventh.