Friday, 30 August 2019

Brexitwatch: write to the Queen

Her Majesty the Queen has, foolishly in my view, rubber-stamped Boris Johnson's request to shut down parliament for five weeks during the worst political crisis in the UK since World War Two. This is the letter I have written to her:

Her Majesty the Queen,
Buckingham Palace,
London SW1A 1AA.

30 August 2019

Your Majesty,

I write this letter with great regret. I have always been a royalist, but now you have turned me into a republican.

The reason is straightforward. The national interest of our country, and particularly the long-term interest, such as protecting our democracy, is not the same thing as what a particular prime minister or government happens to find convenient at a particular moment. So there needs to be someone in our constitution who plays the role of standing up for the national interest, when necessary, against the prime minister or government of the day.

I had always hoped that, in extremis, the monarch would take this role. However, your caving in to Boris Johnson’s request to silence parliament during the worst political crisis since World War Two makes it clear that I was wrong. So if the monarch is not prepared to defend the national interest, the UK needs someone who can and will – probably an elected president. In which case, there seems little point in having a monarch.

With great respect, I think you were foolish to accede to Mr Johnson’s request. The argument over Brexit is the most bitter and divisive I have ever seen in this country during my (rather long) life, and you have now taken sides in it. And according to the evidence of virtually all opinion polls of the last three years, you have chosen the side that is in the minority.

Why did you refuse to meet Jeremy Corbyn before agreeing to Mr Johnson’s request? I am not an admirer of Mr Corbyn, but he is the Leader of your Loyal Opposition, and deserved to be heard at this time.

Could you not have demanded time to consider Mr Johnson’s request, giving you the opportunity to consult some of the many privy councillors who were denied the chance to come and meet you? Surely at the very least, the other five living prime ministers would have been worth talking to? Could you have agreed to a prorogation, but one for the normal three or four days instead of five weeks? Could you have said this must be a matter for parliament itself, and that it was up to MPs to decide whether it should be shut down?

The situation is made even more serious by the fact that it appears the privy councillors who secured your agreement may have lied to you. I do not, of course, know what they said to you, but what they are telling the rest of us is that the prorogation was necessary to allow Mr Johnson to prepare the Queen’s Speech and let MPs go off to the party conferences (though MPs had not yet voted on whether parliament should be closed during the conferences), but the ‘Secretary of State for Defence’ – who is apparently called Ben Wallace – has been recorded admitting that this is all lies and the real purpose of the prorogation is the fear that parliament may not obey Mr Johnson’s orders.

I appeal to you to reconsider this matter, and withdraw your permission for the prorogation.

Yours sincerely,

John Withington

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