I’m hearing people say “he’s only proroguing for a few days, it’s not a big deal”. No, it is a big deal, and this is why.
Johnson is not just “slightly extending the recess for conference”, as I have heard many of his supporters disingenuously say.
First, it was likely that Parliament would have voted not to go to conference at this important time. Now they will lose the option to do that, and five weeks will be lost.
But more importantly, proroguing is the end of the parliamentary session; it is not a recess. All bills in progress will be cut off. Parliamentary business cannot simply pick up when Parliament reconvenes, unlike when the MPs break for conference. Even if Johnson only prorogued for one day, it would put a spanner in the works.
So now, any legislation must pass all readings in both Houses and get Royal Assent in five working days, which is almost impossible. (Yvette Cooper did it in 3 days, but first there had to be a bill to seize control of Parliament. The whole thing took just over a week.) And when parliament returns there will be a Queen’s Speech and the subsequent six-day debate (which even the Speaker can’t easily derail), leaving only a few days before 31 October. Not enough time to do anything.
So no, it is not a small matter of proroguing for a few extra days. It is completely removing the ability of Parliament to do anything. And incidentally, it will prevent the Government passing any legislation to soften the impact of no-deal, and will kill off several bills currently in progress, which just shows how much Johnson and his cronies actually care about the country.
I’m also hearing people say proroguing is common. Yes it is, it’s very common for a parliamentary session to be ended in order for there to be a new Queen’s Speech. And proroguing has been used in tricky ways before, for example for the government (crucically, with the support of the House of Commons) to force through law restricting the rights of the House of Lords, and another time to avoid publication of a damning report. But never before has a prime minister used it to circumvent the will of the House of Commons.
Make no mistake, this is a coup. In our parliamentary democracy, parliament (the legislature) is sovereign. One of its functions is to scrutinise the government (the executive). If the executive removes the power of the legislature in order to force through an action that the legislature is opposed to, this is a seizure of power. It has not happened in this country since King Charles I tried to rule without Parliament for eleven years, and we know how that ended for him.