It appears that the nation’s favourite grandmother was mugged while on holiday in the Scottish Highlands. The incident occurred on 28th August at Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire. The courts are currently looking for the alleged offender who was wearing an ill-fitting double-breasted suit at the time.
Now in all seriousness, the act of prorogation is usually used as a ritualistic and straightforward way to end one Parliamentary session in readiness for a new session shortly after. The new session of Parliament being opened by the Queen with the Queen’s Speech, this sets out the government’s legislative plan for the new session.
The gap between ending a current session of Parliament and beginning a new session is usually between three to seven days – to be clear – five weeks is not a normal gap. Though the government would point out that Parliament goes into recess for three of those weeks for the party conference season. This does provide the government with some cover. However, quite why the political parties need a conference season in the middle of a constitutional crisis is beyond comprehension. Setting out how you plan to modernise the kitchen, while your house is burning down, seems a bit odd.
Prorogation has always been used as an administrative function – which it is. The monarch grants it on the advice of her government and never questions it or withholds it.
However, prorogation is not a political device; it is not usually used to shut Parliament and hinder the democratic process of Parliament holding the government to account – however, this is what has happened here.
The court challenge started in Scotland failed in the first instance, but on appeal, the Scottish courts stated that the government intended to stymie Parliament and prevent it from doing its job.
The same argument failed in the High Court in London.
Now the Supreme Court has ruled against the government on this issue, unanimously.
There remains a clear separation of powers in the UK between government, Parliament and the courts. The courts gave their judgment because they looked at the effect of prorogation. They were right to reach a judgment (whichever way they chose to decide) because they were the only tribunal or body left to make a decision.
However, the possible smoking gun in all this is the alleged message trail left by the government and its advisors in the lead up to the announcement. The government is alleged to have discussed and planned prorogation for two weeks, before the announcement.
Usually, this sort of discussion would be via official channels, using the government and civil service email services, recorded telephone calls, attendance notes and memos. For such a serious matter, the government would want to keep extensive contemporaneous notes – if, for example, they were challenged in court over their decision.
Strangely, this does not appear to have happened.
Before Parliament was prorogued, it sought to obtain details of the communications used by the government to discuss prorogation, both the methods used and the actual communications. The motion named actual officials and advisors – this is a highly unusual step and would only be sought if there were information that the government or its advisors had used non-official means to communicate. These means are alleged to included, secure messaging apps, such as Telegram, personal phones, personal email addresses and so-called “burner phones” – a tactic more in keeping with criminal activity, such as drug deals.
The chances of obtaining such information are slight to non-existent.
The government has already cited data protection and human rights reasons, which is typically hypocritical – right up there with railing against the EU, all the while amassing significant sums from EU agricultural subsidies.
However, if the information can be obtained and it is damning – then everything changes.
The Queen has been put in a difficult situation; her role has been politicised – when it should not be. Furthermore, if the government and the Prime Minister are found to have actively misled the Queen, they should resign, this would happen in normal times, but these are not normal times.
As an endnote, it is depressing that so many people when polled on the issue supported the government’s decision to prorogue Parliament – leaving the EU was dressed-up as returning sovereignty to Parliament.
Parliament was closed, against its will.
The Brexit process appears to be damaging both sovereignty and democracy.
The public should be wary of those that wrap themselves in the flag but ignore the conventions of our country. Those that promise simple solutions to complex problems, and who profit from the chaos, both politically and financially.
The public should be asking themselves, are they benefitting from the current chaos, are they making money from it? Or are they concerned for their jobs, income and futures?