It is hard for those of us outside of the political world to fully understand the prorogation proposals which were announced last week and which one assumes will be explained to MPs tomorrow when they arrive back in Westminster for the second working day since Boris was appointed as Prime Minister on 24th July. It therefore makes sense to read the views of local politicians and in Sussex a number support the Prime Ministers approach. In Hastings, Peter Pragnell who once led the Council tweeted “The prorogation isn’t an ‘outrage’ – it will allow Britain to move on from three toxic years”. Caroline Ansell who was Eastbourne MP wrote on Facebook which begins “PM asks The Queen to prorogue Parliament, to those who think this is undemocratic I say this: I fully support the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend parliament. He needs to set out a new legislative programme for the country post-Brexit with radical domestic and foreign policies to make a success of leaving the EU. This parliamentary session is also the longest in 400 years and has effectively become a lame duck because no meaningful legislation is being passed” Finally Daniel Hannan MEP tweeted “A prorogation normally happens every autumn. This parliamentary session has lasted three years – the longest since the Civil War. What kind of screwed-up mindset do you need to see the long-overdue of constitutional normality as “a coup”?”
As many people are aware one alternative to these views comes from Reigate resident, Mark Johnston who formed a petition which calls for the prorogation to be suspended. The petition emerged towards the end of last week and I signed it as one of the first 100,000 people but this information refers to local views after more than 1.5 million people had nationally signed it over the first two days. Compared to the larger petition which called for Article 50 to be revoked, residents in six of the 16 Sussex constituencies have substantially supported this petition compared to the national signatories. Along with the three Brighton and Hove constituencies, the two covering Worthing and one in Hastings have all signed this petition much more significantly than they did to revoke Article 50. The only constituency that has signed this petition significantly less than they signed the revoke petition is Crawley. Given that tomorrow all 16 MPs will be in Parliament, it seems reasonable for them to challenge the decision by Boris to close down Parliament, given the views of many of their constituents. However in case they need a bit more reasoning I looked at the history of Queens Speeches which Boris has called for to take place on 14th October following a much longer prorogation than most of his predecessors have ever used to prepare for a speech. Since the Queen became our monarch, and up to and including 2017 there were 66 Queens Speeches over 66 years even though there were two years without a speech. The last Queens Speech in 2017 did specifically state it would cover two years and one could question how many politicians challenged this at the time? Certainly the comments by our local politicians above are now deeply critical of Theresa May’s strategy. Although many years ago the speeches and prorogations did nearly all occur in the late Autumn, since 2010, all have taken place in the Summer. There has been a speech after every General Election since 1952 and since 2010 this accounts for 3 of the 8 Summer speeches, but the other five are due to how David Cameron chose to arrange them. All of the other Summer speeches come after a General Election apart from one immediately before the 2005 General Election. However Boris is only the second Prime Minister to organise a Queens Speech within a few weeks of being appointed outside of a General Election, Alec Douglas-Home was the other in 1963. In addition this will be the first time a Queens Speech and its prorogation has ever happened as early as the 14th of October. Most of the others take place in mid to late November with only 8 having ever taken place prior to the 31st October. These details make it clear that Johnson is using this as a tactic to mitigate Brexit scrutiny. The final clarification came from Ben Wallace MP who was captured on video as part of a TV programme explaining that the prorogation relates to the lack of majority in Parliament. Given his statement and the number of signatories from Sussex on the petition, perhaps our MPs can either demand a u turn from Boris or explain to us why they support his tactic?