Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 22, November 30, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

General Election:

Boris Johnson's Nonsense about Representing the People vs Parliament


Large demonstration against the government in Parliament Square, September 9 2019

In calling this General Election, Boris Johnson declared that the problem facing the British people is that they are not represented by the Parliament. This is in fact true. According to the logic which underlies the British parliamentary tradition, the election of members of parliament makes them representatives of the person of state, the Queen of England. The person of state rules over the people. In other words, the democracy is divided between those who govern and those who are governed. The role of the citizen is merely to put an "X" on a ballot during an election to indicate that they authorise someone else over whom they exercise no control to speak in their name.

But, of course, this is not the problem Boris Johnson is addressing when he declares that this election is about "the people versus Parliament". Far from proposing how the people can be vested with the decision-making power in such a manner that they can speak for themselves, he claims that Theresa May's coalition with the DUP and then his own minority government were "firmly on the side of the people". The very suggestion that his government's use of prerogative powers to get rid of dissenting voices represents "the people" is too ridiculous to deserve comment. Everyone knows that a Boris Johnson government is in the service of the wealthy and that it is incapable of sorting out the contradictions within the ranks of the wealthy to get their cake and eat it too. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the needs of a British economy that serves the British people.

But Boris Johnson's assertion that his government represents the people is not only untrue; it makes a mockery of what the parliamentary relationships are supposed to be. The government is understood to be in a relationship with the whole parliament and the whole parliament is where the decisions are presumed to be taken based on the claim that the House of Commons is its main component. The Parliament is an ensemble - all its parts taken together in which each part is considered only in relation to the whole. To pit one component of the relationship against another serves what purpose, does Mr Johnson suppose?

How is it that the government claims to be separate from the Parliament which is said to represent "the Commons"? Is the government not supposed to be an integral part of "the Commons"? Clearly, Mr Johnson is speaking nonsense. He is not coherent, which is par for the course. But his admission that the House of Commons does indeed exclude the "common people" also reveals the truth of the matter - the government is not governing with the consent of the governed. This is a serious problem which requires first-rate attention. Imagine the current Parliament as a musical ensemble. Far from being in harmony, most instruments are literally at war with one another. The sounds coming out of it are so harsh, dissonant and cacophonous that nobody wants to hear them.

Of course, the fact that the parliament is an ensemble and must be considered as such does not mean we support the existing ensemble. In no way does it address the serious problems facing the polity at this time. Furthermore, despite the disharmony and discord, the media pundits and cartel parties present it as "normal", as something the people have to put up with. Far from activating the people to take control of the situation, everything is done to distract attention from the real problems people face and providing them with viable solutions. The future is made to look very bleak, which is what happens when the political imagination is not directed at what is taking place in the present.

So long as what are called the democratic institutions are not on a par with the requirements of the conditions today, the needs of the people and the serious problems they and the society face will increase. The fundamental question of whom this democracy represents will continue to block any way out of the impasse which exists today because the role of the people is reduced to that of being spectators and authorising others to speak in their name. The call for change must be directed towards change in this relationship between people and Parliament.


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