Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

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Boris Johnson set to be accountable to MPs for four of 82 days as PM


At two minutes past ten on Wednesday morning I was sitting in court number one just behind St Giles on the Royal Mile. A minute later Lord Carloway announced the unanimous decision by the appeal court judges that the British government had acted illegally in proroguing parliament.  There was an audible intake of breath as the decision hit.

I was pleased to join my colleague Joanna Cherry QC, and other cross party MPS, in this legal action and in truth the unanimous decision was even better than we hoped for. The government will appeal but for now it stands charged of breaking the law.

And so another lie from our most mendacious premier is exposed. Shockingly, rather than acknowledge the decision and agree to review their action, the government’s first response was to suggest the Scottish judges were biased against them – an allegation they were soon forced to retract.

Boris Johnson keeps a straight face as he claims there’s nothing to see here: the government is just behaving as normal and having a wee break before introducing a new legislative programme. Aye right!

Remember the Queen’s Speech is simply a list of the bills the government is planning to introduce in the next session. Nothing more. It’s a very short document, the parliamentary equivalent of the back of a fag packet. Given the wild ideas the PM has been waving around all summer he could put together that list in five hours, not five weeks.

The dogs in the street know Johnson is at it. The truth is he has no mandate to pursue the hard Brexit he seeks either in parliament or amongst the electorate. But rather than face the questioning of a critical parliament he is avoiding accountability by shutting it down.

If parliament remains shut down until the 14th October Johnson will have been Prime Minister for 82 days. Parliament will have been able to question him on just four of those days. That this can happen at all is shocking. That it can happen by executive diktat rather than a vote in parliament is quite outrageous.

We have a government which demonstrates complete contempt for parliament, and now for the law. Usually an incoming government might expect to be cut some slack, a brief period of being given the benefit of the doubt. Well, the honeymoon is well and truly over and parliament wants a divorce.

All of the opposition parties and a few dissident Tories have now united against this rogue Prime Minister. Never mind a two thirds majority for an election – he couldn’t even get a simple one. Parliament is determined that Johnson doesn’t get to play with our flawed procedures as if they were a board game.

That’s why we have severely limited his room for manoeuvre – making it the law that he cannot crash out of Europe without a deal. So, by 19th October there will either be an extension to the Brexit process. Or a deal. Or his resignation.

But having stopped no deal and created new breathing space, parliament must then agree to an election – most likely on November 21 or 28. 

I can possibly see a deal scraping through parliament with both extreme right wingers and Labour leavers joining in. But I cannot see parliament agreeing the most sensible option which is to put the whole matter back to the people and ask them to stop this mass masochism. That is because too many of the MPs feel constrained by their last mandate. So it’s time they got a new one.

And when we get that chance the SNP will be fighting not just to stop Brexit and get rid of the Tories. We’ll be fighting to make sure Scotland gets the right to choose never to have to be dragged along a path like this again. To always get the government we vote for. To choose a different future. An independent future.

Written for the Edinburgh Evening News - 13th September 2019

August News - Constituency
The SNP, Brexit and calls for a General Election

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