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Editorial: Labour must stand for more democracy – not less

LABOUR’S likely mobilisation for a no-confidence vote in the first half of September — expressed in the party’s instruction that MPs cancel travel plans for that period — makes tactical sense.

Boris Johnson has indicated that he would seek to stay put in the event of a no-confidence vote in Parliament, putting off an election until after Britain’s latest Brexit deadline of October 31.

Doing so would be relatively straightforward if a no-confidence vote occurs in mid-October. Squatting in No 10 for two months following such a vote in early September would be a harder act to pull off.

There is an overwhelming democratic case for the removal of Johnson’s government as quickly as possible. He is not only the second unelected prime minister in a row to be imposed on our country — he succeeds a PM who was, in an unprecedented move, declared in contempt of Parliament and yet still managed to avoid going back to the people. 

The shrunken, scandal-ridden Tory Party has no majority of its own, limping on thanks to the bought votes of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

A Labour government is essential sooner rather than later. But the form of the challenge Labour poses to the Conservatives will affect the outcome.

A ComRes poll showing 44 per cent of respondents would back the suspension of Parliament if it was the only way to deliver Brexit — rather more than the 37 per cent who would not, and with 19 per cent saying they were unsure — should be ringing alarm bells across the left.

Pious observations about “parliamentary sovereignty” and repeated bids by the Commons to “take back control” of the Brexit agenda have not impressed a public that sees through the democratic rhetoric to the anti-democratic reality — that these have been bids to frustrate implementation of the largest democratic vote in Britain’s history, the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Following successive scandals about expenses, the revolving door between politics and lucrative corporate roles, the impunity with which ministers are able to lie and mislead and yet remain in office and the backstabbing and treachery that has characterised many MPs’ response to Corbyn’s cast-iron mandate to lead Labour, the drawn-out Brexit farce has left the reputation of Parliament in tatters.

It is not surprising much of the public would happily see it shut down if that’s what settling the question of Brexit takes.

But it is deeply worrying. The British state has made clear its fundamental opposition to a Corbyn government and the shift in power to ordinary people it could deliver, from generals talking of mutiny to civil servants briefing the press about concocted fears over his health.

Like talk of a “national government” by the pro-EU champions of the status quo, proroguing Parliament would be a means for the ruling class to maintain its shaky grip on the reins of power by an attack on our democratic rights.

As with the “state of emergency” used by French President Emmanuel Macron to rule by decree and attack workers’ rights, it would enable the undemocratic imposition of a hard-right reactionary agenda.

A Labour pitch to defeat Johnson based on preventing a no-deal Brexit helps feed his chosen image as the champion of the 2016 popular mandate to leave.

Labour should speak for the public’s anger against a Parliament that has thoroughly earned it and demand answers that involve more democracy, not less: more accountability for MPs, more power for local and regional government, more power for communities to take over and develop privately owned assets in the local interest, freedom from the pro-corporate competition rules imposed by the EU single market — and, first of all, the dissolution of this hidebound Parliament and the election of another.

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