Yesterday evening the DT published a remarkable article by the renowned historian Andrew Roberts. Please check out his credentials here. When someone of his caliber puts the Remain plots inside and outside the HoC under this microscope then one ought to take a closer look as well.
Therefore we will quote at length from his article which is, of course, behind a paywall. This is the title: “When the moment comes, Boris Johnson should enlist the Queen’s help in foiling the Remainers’ undemocratic plot” (paywalled link). Roberts’ arguments provide a counterweight to the attitude of Mr McDonnell about which we wrote earlier (here). From the top:
“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, has stated that if Boris Johnson refused to resign as prime minister immediately after losing a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons next month, “he would create the gravest constitutional crisis since the actions of Charles I led to the Civil War”. Dominic Grieve has further suggested that the Queen might have to demand Mr Johnson’s resignation.
If there is one thing that we can take for granted as we enter the new constitutional ground laid down by the (staggeringly ill-advised) Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, it is that the Queen will act with perfect propriety. She is not about, in the sixty-seventh year of her reign, to play fast and loose with the constitution after having adhered to it with such punctilious respect for so long. Under the Act, the prime minister may call a general election on a date of his choosing after losing a confidence vote, and all that Dominic Cummings was saying in his press briefing was that Mr Johnson will do that, which takes us out of the European Union before a general election takes place.
Assuming that no government can be formed in the 14 day period after the vote of no confidence – an easy assumption to make, as who would be the prime minister who could command the confidence of a majority of this House of Commons? – then the general election would be held in early November, with Britain safely independent once again. All the fury and resentment of the bitter Remainers – Gina Miller, Tony Blair, Mr Grieve, The Times, John Major and so on – will have achieved absolutely nothing, although they could always start a campaign to try to rejoin the EU if they wanted. (Good luck with that!)” (paywalled link)
Let’s remind ourselves that Mr Roberts wrote this before the second and more significant outburst of Mr McDonnell last evening. Thus he hasn’t addressed the spectre of a Labour coup. Now let’s continue with his next arguments which are very interesting indeed:
“Of course Mr Johnson does not need to resign the premiership immediately on losing the confidence vote in the event that no-one else can form a government, any more than James Callaghan did when he lost his confidence vote on 28 March 1979 but stayed on at No 10 until 4 May, in the only postwar example of a government losing a no-confidence vote.
Further, as prime minister, it would be up to Mr Johnson to advise the Queen on whether to give Royal Assent to a bill passed by the Commons and Lords blocking a no-deal Brexit. It would be well within his rights to advise the Queen not to sign such a bill into law, for reasons that go back to the Civil War that Sir Malcolm mentioned. For since the mid-seventeenth century, it has been the People whose will has been sovereign in this country, as almost every political philosopher has agreed since the days of John Locke and David Hume.
The Civil War was fought to establish that very principle, overturning Charles I’s Divine Right of Kings concept in the process. In the Civil War, the sovereignty of the People was championed by the Parliamentary forces of Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army, the victors in that struggle. Today the People’s will when clearly expressed comprehensively trumps that of the Crown, both Houses of Parliament, and even that of the BBC.” (paywalled link)
That’s actual history, and here’s more rousing stuff:
“When the will of the People was expressed on 23 June 2016 in the referendum vote to leave the EU, the Remainer Parliament lost its moral right to subvert it. Remainers argue that no deal was not on the ballot and therefore has no democratic legitimacy, but that is specious. The only thing that was on the ballot was to leave or remain, and no fewer than three attempts were made to leave with a deal, each of which failed. The sole way now, therefore, to honour the referendum result – at least in the face of Brussels’s refusal to do a trade deal that permits a meaningful Brexit – is to leave without one.
The EU is a glorified customs union; that’s its raison d’être, that defines it. Were we to stay in the customs union it would not be Brexit, but a denial of the referendum result. So even were Brussels to back down over the Irish backstop in their attempt to retain Britain’s huge annual trade deficit with the EU, it would not be acceptable if it were essentially Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Fortunately the new driving forces in No 10 and the Cabinet Office […] understand this and are completely committed to securing British independence, come what may. Future historians will commend them.” (paywalled link)
A brief excursion about the LibDems and their new leader is next:
“For the Liberal Democrats still to call themselves “Democrats” is a shocking twisting of the meaning of the word. The sole reason Jo Swinson is MP for East Dunbartonshire is because she got more votes than her SNP rival John Nicolson. That’s the way democracy works. […] The refusal to abide by the democratic result on the behalf of politicians calling themselves democrats has been one of the most outrageous and troubling aspects of British politics over the past three years.” (paywalled link)
Exactly! Andrew Roberts concludes:
“So when the moment comes […] that the Queen is presented by the Commons and Lords with a bill that bans a no-deal Brexit, Mr Johnson should emulate the ministers who advised Queen Anne not to sign the Scottish Militia Bill on 11 March 1708. On that occasion, her veto was recorded in the statute book with the words “La Reine se avisera” (The Queen will consider it). It is highly unlikely that Elizabeth II will depart from the most important of the provisions in our unwritten constitution, that the monarch acts upon the advice of her ministers. Every member of today’s Cabinet is now committed to a no-deal Brexit if necessary.
The way that the bitter Remainers could really now serve the country they profess to love – despite not wanting it to be independent – would be to persuade Brussels to dump the Withdrawal Agreement as any kind of template for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and to negotiate a comprehensive free-trade agreement in good faith. In the eyes of history, it might even mitigate their three year campaign against democracy.” (paywalled link)
Hope, as they say, springs eternal. In view of the possibility of a Labour Coup – and we need to take this seriously until that danger is past – one would wish that the other bitter Remainers might find a grain of patriotism within themselves. Should they find it and should they block such Labour coup then perhaps they might take up Mr Roberts’ proposal, but right now I won’t be holding my breath.