Last night one witnessed the outrageous spectacle of opposition parties that have been clamouring for a general election since the day after they lost the last, sit on their hands and oppose a vote which would have triggered a snap election. This clearly won’t sit well with a public that are more attuned to political hypocrisy than usual due to the sheer amplification of emotions surrounding Brexit.
But there were two other anti-democratic villains shaping events last night – albeit they were not in the Commons chamber at the time. The two guilty men in question are ex-politicians that have been largely forgotten in spite of the fact that they more or less ran Britain together as recently as 2015. Their names are David Cameron, a former Prime Minister and Nick Clegg, his former deputy.
When Conservative leader Cameron and Liberal leader Clegg formed a coalition government in 2010, many pundits predicted that it would not last more than a few months or a year. So spooked were Cameron and Clegg over these prognostications that they executed a legislative instrument to make sure that the coalition government would have to last – even if it had to last against its own collective will.
The piece of legislation that Cameron and Clegg brought forward in order to rig Parliament in their favour was one of the most constitutionally wicked acts ever to pass through the British Parliament. Sadly, in 2011 after thirteen years of the anti-British New Labour government, by the time the second rate Tony Blair impersonators called Cameron and Clegg got hold of power, few people were paying attention to anything of consequence.
According to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, the Prime Minister lost her/her traditional constitutional right to ask the Queen to immediately dissolve Parliament and call a new election. This anti-democratic device actually stopped a Prime Minister from potentially losing his/her own job after going to the country in a general election that would serve as a public vote of confidence (or lack thereof) in the government of the day.
Instead, under Cameron and Clegg’s disastrous piece of legislation, a Prime Minister must now receive the permission of 3/4ths of the House of Commons before being able to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament so that a new election can be held. This itself is an un-constitutional affront to the ancient principle of Royal Prerogative – something which in recent centuries has meant the Prime Minister’s practical prerogative to act directly on behalf of the head of state. Yet because few voices were raised to stop Cameron and Clegg’s constitutional vandalism in 2011, the traditional autonomy of Royal Prerogative was severely damaged.
This is an affront to the flexibility inherent in Britain’s constitution as it forces unpopular Prime Ministers to remain in power even if they themselves realise that they are no longer in a position to govern. The madness of disallowing a leader who knows that he/she can no longer govern effectively or who wishes to gamble with one’s own career in order to seek a fresh democratic mandate reminds one of a USSR that insisted on the health of its dying leaders Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko rather than admit publicly that the men in power were in no position to govern.
Before Cameron and Clegg got their avaricious hands on it, the British constitution made it fairly easy for opposition parties to remove a government through a simple no-confidence motion whilst a government could call for a new election at will – thus encouraging honesty and realism among leaders when it came to seeking a popular democratic mandate when the time felt appropriate.
Had Cameron and Clegg’s Act been repealed, Boris Johnson would have already sought the Queen’s permission to dissolve Parliament and hold a new election and as such, the travesty in the House of Commons witnessed last night would have never happened.
Every main party leader must now be asked if they seek to repeal the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act of Cameron and Clegg. If their answer is “no”, the parties they lead do not deserve a single vote.