5 September 2019
Jesse’s Hereford Times column: Proroguing Parliament

The past week has resounded to wild cries that the decision to prorogue Parliament is a “coup”, a suspension of democracy, or even fascism in action.  The famous children’s author Philip Pullman has invoked the language of lynching, while other notables have launched into eye-popping denunciations.

So:  what has happened and what does it mean?  In the simplest terms, Parliament was due to sit until September 12th, and may now rise a couple of days early.  Overall, it might lose 3-5 days of sitting time between now and October 31.

Of course this is a decisive move by the Prime Minister, all the more so at such a contested moment in British politics.  It sets the scene for a new Queen’s Speech and the launch of a positive programme of new legislation in October, but it also sends a wider message of the Government's drive and determination to press on, both on a Brexit deal and on the domestic agenda.

Yet it is vital to note that Parliament is not being--indeed, it cannot be--sidelined. There is time enough this week for those opposed to Brexit to table a vote of no confidence, and if they have the votes, even perhaps to put through a piece of private legislation to delay Brexit.

The irony is that there has in any case been every opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn or other party leaders to put a motion of no confidence in the last few months, and they have not done so.  And here is a further irony:  how many of those MPs denouncing prorogation were calling for Parliament to sit over the summer recess so as to hold the Government to account?  Virtually none.

Meanwhile, there is no time to delay.  The Spending Review this week is expected to unveil a host of new measures of support:  for schools funding, for special needs pupils, for the NHS, for defence and policing and much else--all the result of careful budgeting.  These will make a huge difference in Herefordshire, on top of the funding we have won to replace the hutted wards at the Hospital and to support the new Medical Centre.

The Prime Minister is working round the clock to negotiate a proper deal with the EU.  If backbenchers seize control of the legislative agenda this week, it will only make getting a good Brexit deal even harder.  That's the last thing we need.