It’s amazing how politics parallels itself. At the same time Congress ponders whether to have an impeachment or an election here in the US, the Mother Country’s mulling over the same conundrum in Westminster. After a unanimous decision by the UK’s top court slapped down Boris Johnson’s attempt to sideline Parliament, some members are talking about the I-word. And it doesn’t help that the prime minister once attempted to impeach Tony Blair, either:
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said opposition party leaders should be ready to impeach Boris Johnson if he failed to request an extension to article 50 to avoid a no-deal Brexit. She said:
“Boris Johnson has already driven a bulldozer through the constitution, so no longer are ideas like impeachment far-fetched. I will tell other opposition party leaders, we need to be ready to impeach Boris Johnson if he breaks the law.”
In 2004, Boris Johnson supported an attempt to impeach Tony Blair over the Iraq war, co-signing a motion tabled by current Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price.
Writing in a column for The Telegraph at the time, Johnson said that Blair deserved to be impeached because he had “treated parliament and the public with contempt”.
Oof. Blair may have arguably treated Parliament with contempt in regard to the Iraq War, but at least he never convinced the Queen to prorogue it to prevent it from interfering in operations. Expect to hear a lot about geese, ganders, and sauce over the next day or two.
That may not be the only issue that Britons will hear about after Parliament resumes its work early tomorrow. A new scandal involving Johnson during his time as mayor of London has his opposition “smelling blood in the water,” and perhaps multiple potential opportunities to oust the prime minister:
In an article published this weekend, The Sunday Times of London reported that, when Mr. Johnson was mayor of London, his office directed tens of thousands of pounds in government money to a fledgling entrepreneur and close friend whose apartment he often visited during working hours.
The entrepreneur, Jennifer Arcuri, an American and a former model, was 27 when she first crossed paths with Mr. Johnson in 2012. In the ensuing years, she was given coveted spots on trade missions with the mayor to Tel Aviv, New York, Singapore and Malaysia. In some instances, Mr. Johnson’s office intervened to add her to the roster even though she did not meet the criteria for trade delegates, The Sunday Times reported. …
On a plane to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr. Johnson repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about the article, including whether he was in a sexual relationship with Ms. Arcuri at the time.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused the prime minister of an “alleged abuse of power.”
And the British Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which this year awarded Ms. Arcuri’s company a grant of 100,000 pounds, or about $125,000, intended for British firms, said it was investigating the grant after The Sunday Times reported that Ms. Arcuri had vacated the company’s registered address in England and now lives in California.
For his part, Johnson says the “obvious solution is to have an election,” while accusing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of “talking out the back of his neck”:
"Jeremy Corbyn is talking out of the back of his neck and he should have an election", Boris Johnson tells reporters New York. pic.twitter.com/z1zcvj7L6G
— Philip Sime (@PhilipSime) September 24, 2019
Coming on the heels of the court’s slapdown and a new emerging scandal, this might not be the most propitious time for an election for Tories, either. A snap poll from YouGov shows that Brits aren’t terribly happy about the prorogation of Parliament, with a near-majority siding with the courts to reopen Westminster, via The Guardian:
The Supreme Court have said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament. Do you agree or disagree with the ruling?
Agree – 49%
Disagree – 30%https://t.co/MUEKclvlUK pic.twitter.com/6XZuJ1rHIU
— YouGov (@YouGov) September 24, 2019
Johnson still gets majority support within his own party and with Leavers, but mid-50s is probably a lot lower than Johnson needs. Everyone else overwhelmingly agrees with the court, and if that has any indication how a national vote would go, Johnson and the Tories would be in very big trouble.
Still, impeachment and prorogation are both attempts to avoid the main issue. Johnson may have his own motives for this, but he’s correct that this kind of a standoff in a parliamentary system should be resolved by an election, not an impeachment and not another referendum either. If Johnson wanted to take an honest approach to this point, he’d arrange for another short delay in Article 50 to conduct an election to settle where British voters stand on the potential no-deal Brexit. The Tories should have called for such an election when they rejected Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement three times this spring.
Thus far no one’s budging on their previous position on triggering an election on a no-confidence vote, but Johnson will make another push for it now that Parliament has reopened. If he’s reading the tea leaves correctly, Johnson thinks that Conservatives can win an outright majority in elections based on their hard-line approach to Brexit. If he can, Johnson might be able to fall back to the Northern Ireland-only backstop that the EU first proposed to deal with the border in Ireland, once he no longer has to depend on DUP for his majority. If a 90-day delay gets Johnson his elections, will that be too costly a compromise?