While the decision by the Boris Johnson-led government in the United Kingdom to “prorogue” or suspend the parliament in Westminster for several weeks is not without precedent, and had been predicted for some time, yesterday’s announcement of a plan to prematurely end the current session of the legislature still managed to take many politicians and commentators in the UK by surprise. It was almost as if they had expected to thwart the controversial move by taking to the news media to debate and decry every aspect of the proposal over the last few months. However, under the guidance of the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg, the hard-right Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, the hereditary head of state was persuaded to give her imprimatur to a temporary suspension of the parliament in a meeting bound up in arcane ceremony at the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Balmoral. (An event which underlines the archaic nature of Britain’s democracy and one of the factors that contributed towards the semi-populist anti-establishment referendum vote of 2016.)
The main Opposition parties in Britain have reacted with outrage at the forthcoming constitutional sleight-of-hand by the minority Conservative Party administration, even if some of the huffing and puffing is more akin to political theatre. That said the accusation that Johnson and his equally chauvinistic Cabinet colleagues are engaged in an executive “coup” to gain the upper hand over the legislature, all for the sake of Brexit, is going to be a hard one to shake. Certainly as far as the optics go the international press is already putting the British leadership in the same company as the authoritarian, rule-bending governments of Poland and Hungary. Unfortunately it appears that a sizeable number of pro-Brexit voters in the UK are quite content to be in that company if the new tactics adopted by Downing Street gets their country out of the European Union, come what may. And with the ironically-named Democratic Unionist Party rowing in behind their Tory allies, as the elected representatives of the DUP become more English than the English themselves, it seems that the British are determined to set sail into an entirely unpredictable future.
As the apocryphal Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.”