There’s nothing like the threat of a constitutional crisis to shock you back to real life after a bank holiday weekend. And that’s exactly what we got, thanks to Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, and his friends.
On Wednesday morning, the UK population had a rude awakening, when news bulletins alerted citizens of the government’s intention to ask the Queen to "prorogue" parliament in September. For those not in the know, “prorogue” is an old-fashioned way of saying “suspend”. And no sooner than we had come to terms with what this new move might mean for the future of the country and its hard-won democracy, were we alerted to the fact that that the Queen had approved the Prime Minister’s request. Right.
People were rightly outraged. The UK is hurtling towards the October 31st deadline for leaving the European Union, and the only thing that unifies experts and critics from both sides of the political divide is the opinion that we are woefully underprepared. Earlier this week, a cross-party alliance to block a “No Deal” scenario, backed by the leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, was launched to stop just that, so the timing of the prorogation is well, convenient. The prorogation means that parliament will now sit for little more than a week before it is reconvened on October 14th, just a fortnight before the Brexit deadline. This, obviously reduces the window of opportunity for the mechanisms of parliament to block attempts to leave the EU without a deal, which experts of all political colours agree is a Really Bad Idea.
In a well-rehearsed routine that has become depressingly familiar since the Vote Leave campaign's win in the Brexit referendum in 2016, chaos erupted. In the subsequent 24 hours, large-scale protests were held outside the UK parliament in London; the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, called the move a “constitutional outrage”; Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative party resigned; former prime minister, John Major, reiterated plans to take Boris to court; a petition to Parliament to block the move reached 1m signatures in little over 12 hours; and Jacob Rees Mogg, leader of the House of Commons and a tabloid villain of Dickensian proportions, stoked the fire by suggesting that outrage over the issue was misplaced. Oh and Hugh Grant lost his shit.
You will not fuck with my children’s future. You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects. https://t.co/Oc0xwLI6dI— Hugh Grant (@HackedOffHugh) August 28, 2019
Meanwhile, Boris sat watching from the sidelines, claiming that there was nothing malicious in the plan, that it was all above board, and that it was normal protocol for a new government. His intention, he said, was to bring about a Queen’s Speech when parliament reconvenes, where his “exciting plans” could be unveiled.
This is all a little bit concerning. I immediately had a thousand questions: should I go and protest? Will it make any difference? Where can I register my disdain? Will anyone actually read the petition if parliament is suspended? And where can I go to shout about this to other like-minded people?
The truth is, this is a worrisome time in British politics and it's easy to feel out of control - especially if you're one of the three million EU nationals who have made the UK their home. The pained pleas of the Portuguese woman who interrupted a live Sky Broadcast last night will not be easy to forget.
The best thing you can do in this situation is garner a sense of purpose, and that means doing something. Below, is a list of ways that you can help, places you can protest, and people you should follow to find out more about what we, as individuals, can do to help stop this mess unfolding and hopefully make you feel a teeny bit less powerless in the process.
1. Sign this petition. This asks for the withdrawal deadline from the EU to be extended, at least until parliament has reconvened for a sensible amount of time. That or that the prorogation be reversed. Within hours it had already reached the 100,000 signature threshold required for it to be discussed in parliament, which will reconvene this week.
2. Go to a protest. An awesome young woman called Stella has collated all of the various locations for upcoming protests here. While you’re finding yours, share the details of protests with everyone you know who is opposed to this. There’s also a handy interactive map.
3. Write to your MP. Urge them to defend our democracy by registering their dissent. Instructions on how to do that can be found here.
Below is a list of MPs who have signed the Church House Declaration which states that shutting down Parliament would be "an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country". Is your MP on there? If not, ask them why not.
A handy list of MPs seeking to overturn democracy. If your MP is on it please email and politely let them know your view and voting intentions.— #StandUp4Brexit (@StandUp4Brexit) August 28, 2019
Include your name and full address so they know you’re a constituent.
Find your MP’s email: https://t.co/B6iqjMkeEU#StandUp4Brexit https://t.co/6lB8WS0oHW
4. Follow independent journalist, Paul Mason for more ideas of what you can do to help.
5. Look after each other. Protests often result in civil unrest when emotions are heightened, but violence will get us nowhere, and will undermine legitimate concerns with the due process.
6. Talk about what is happening with people, even if they don’t agree. Get out of your echo chamber and interact with those you wouldn’t normally. Brits can often avoid talking politics for fear of causing offence, but that’s part of what landed us in this mess. Reasonable, logical debate is a healthy way of moving towards progress and compromise.
7. Drink some water. If it's hot out there lads, we need you hydrated.