August 30, 2019 10.38 am This story is over 28 months old

Karen Lee: We must take back control from a government that has no respect for our democracy

“Plain and simple, this is a coup d’etat,” says the Lincoln MP

Boris Johnson, who is an unelected Prime Minister, intends to shut down a democratically elected chamber to deliver a no-deal Brexit with as little scrutiny as possible. Plain and simple, this is a coup d’etat. As a result, Lincoln may not have a say in how our country leaves the EU.

We were told that the central aim of the Brexit vote was to empower Parliament by taking back control of our laws. This week’s announcement saw quite the opposite and proved that the current Prime Minister is willing to undermine the British political process to deliver an ideological hard-right wing Brexit, which has no mandate and will damage the UK’s economy and living standards. This action has curtailed the democratically elected chamber’s influence during the gravest British political crisis since World War Two.

To be absolutely clear, I have been talking to local businesses for months now, and all the managing directors of those companies have told me that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit will negatively impact them and result in job losses in Lincoln. Their words – not mine.

Many are trying to muddy the waters of the discussion to present this abuse of power as part of a reasonable process. The fact of the matter is, Mr Johnson’s plan to shut Parliament for five weeks represents the longest prorogued closure of Britain’s legislature since 1945. As the Conservative Common’s Speaker John Bercow MP put it, this is an “offence against the democratic process.”

Don’t let those who attempt to justify the government’s actions fool you — I can guarantee that if it didn’t suit their political aims they would be in uproar. As the Senior Conservative MP David Lidington has said, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent that would have turned some of his “Tory colleagues who are cheering at the moment… purple with rage.” Shutting down Parliament to avoid scrutiny sets a very dangerous anti-democratic precedent, through which the former Conservative Chancellor, Phillip Hammond MP, asserted would cause a “constitutional outrage.”


We enjoy many freedoms in the UK, but let’s not kid ourselves, they were hard-fought. We can track the roots of Parliamentary sovereignty to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution. But the tireless struggle for freedoms has been developing throughout history and incorporates successes such as universal suffrage, improved labour laws and equal marriage. These improvements in working people’s lives were not simply given to us, we demanded them. Similarly, if we do not protect the freedoms won by previous generations, as we saw this week, they can be endangered.

This leaves us with the question, how do we oppose the attack on our democracy inflicted by Boris Johnson? As my colleague, Shami Chakrabati, put it in her Guardian column, one of the gravest dangers is ‘outrage fatigue’. The attack on our democracy is the latest in a sustained nine-year assault on working people through repressive government policies such as austerity. The public, whether leave, remain, left-wing or right-wing, need to resolutely oppose the government’s actions which are a mockery of the British constitution. It is vital that we spread the message that we are not willing to let Boris Johnson erode our democracy.

The Labour Party and the public have 63 days to avoid a no-deal Brexit. We have reached out to opposition parties and backbench Conservative MPs to find practical ways to prevent a no-deal in the short period we have left. 

If the Prime Minister is so sure that the public wants a no-deal Brexit, then why doesn’t he test public opinion through a public vote or a general election?

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Karen Lee was the Labour MP for Lincoln between 2017 and 2019. She is an NHS nurse and a Labour County Councillor for the Cathedral and Ermine ward of Lincoln