Image Credit: dun_deagh
A protest has been organised in St Helen’s Square in objection to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of the Westminster Parliament earlier this week. The rally has been organised by Rachel Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, who said yesterday that Johnson was “removing … Parliament’s right to scrutinise Government and hold it to account.”
The prorogation, a measure called by all new governments to outline their proposals to the Commons, means that Parliament’s sitting time will be greatly reduced as it stops sitting to hear the queen’s speech. Many opposition MPs, as well as a handful of senior Conservatives, have argued that Boris Johnson’s move was politically motivated; suspending Parliament in order to reduce the time it has to legislate against a no-deal. Maskell had previously called the government’s move “unconstitutional”, saying he had “no democratic mandate” for the prorogation.
This is not the first time Maskell has participated in a People’s Parliament. Opposition MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, and Change UK all met on Tuesday to discuss the prorogation, and their efforts to “uphold democracy”. Jeremy Corbyn has since pledged to do “anything possible” to stop what he calls a “no-deal banker’s Brexit”. Maskell echoed his thoughts in an Op-Ed for the Yorkshire Post. In a scathing critique of the government’s plans, the York MP focused on the impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on working people from York.
Maskell’s decision has been largely welcomed by the Liberal Democrat-led York council. Councillor Keith Aspden, Lib Dem Leader of the Council, commented “It is clear that the ever-growing threat of a No–Deal Brexit will negatively affect communities, businesses and residents in York”, and said that his party would “continue to oppose the Government’s disastrous Brexit strategy.” Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, has yet to comment, although he is most likely to support the line from the government. Sturdy campaigned to leave in 2016 and has voted with his party on the majority of issues.
Labour-led People’s Parliaments have not been without criticism. Writing in the Guardian on Wednesday, Conservative leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg argued that UK law was sufficiently “robust”, and insisted that the Government was only following the “will of the voters”. For his part, Boris Johnson argued that the prorogation would nonetheless give “ample time” for MPs to debate Brexit. Suspension for the queen’s speech is common practise with new governments, and the Johnson administration has also been quick to point out that MPs will only lose, at maximum, eight days of debate.
The protest in St Helen’s Square clashes with another event in the city on the same day: Ellie Goulding is due to be married to Caspar Jopling in the Minster on Saturday, as we noted in a report earlier this morning.