On Monday, Boris Johnson’s bid to conduct the UK general elections early failed to be passed by Parliament for several reasons, but the situation is not totally resolved at this point. Johnson wanted to conduct these elections while he is in power of the Conservative party, but because of the rules of the UK’s government, he is unable to just hold elections whenever he wants. He must hold the support of the majority of Parliament, which his party does not yet have, to be able to hold the general elections early, and he failed at gaining the support of the Labour party. The Labour party decided to reject this bid to hold general elections because, “the leader of the main opposition Labour Party said he did not trust Mr. Johnson and would not agree to a poll until the prospect of a no-deal exit from the European Union had been definitively ruled out (Adler). The next event that will follow this will occur later this week, where Parliament will have to vote on whether or not to have another election on December 12th because Boris Johnson is steadfast in the desire to have elections before Christmas. In this next vote, Johnson will attempt to win the support of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrat parties by including amendments that favor their platforms. This fight to have the general election early centers around the debate concerning Brexit because Johnson wants to gain a larger majority of Conservative MPs to strengthen support for his bid. This is so important to Johnson because, as Adler points out, “Leaving the EU by 31 October “do or die” was a key campaign promise in Mr. Johnson’s bid to become prime minister”, so if this does not occur, it is likely that he will receive a smaller vote tally for not being able to deliver on his promises. The rejection of this early general election bid in no way provides insight into how the Brexit debate will turn out, but it does show some Democratic norms in play in the United Kingdom’s actions.
This current event is highly applicable to the course meetings we had that pertained to the importance of democratic norms being upheld in order to maintain a functioning democracy. In this example of Boris Johnson’s attempt to pursue an early general election, we can see both institutional forbearance and mutual toleration at work. Institutional forbearance is especially important to this decision because Boris Johnson was attempting to increase his control over the United Kingdom while he is in power, by changing the date of the election in a way that favors him and the Conservative party. In a way, this is him skirting around the norm of institutional forbearance, which essentially means that the party in charge should not seek to abuse their power in order to benefit themselves and hurt other parties. This bid for the election to be moved up is an example of how this democratic norm can be abused because there is a direct link in the timeline in which he promised to have completed Brexit during his campaign and when he asked for elections to move up. This attempt to get around the democratic norms that have been in place for years shows Johnson’s disregard for historical precedent, and his desire to maintain control of the country. Instead of running the risk of losing some of his constituents, Johnson wants to rush into the elections before he officially fails on his promises so that the Conservative party can reign supreme over the Labour party for years to come.
On the other hand, it is possible to see mutual toleration being forgone in this situation because, at this stage in the UK’s politics, it is a kill or be killed environment. Adler’s emphasis on the Labour party’s actions is especially important to this concept. With how divisive Brexit is among Parliament, it is vital to each party to maintain their stances as firmly as possible, which is why the Labour party abstained from the vote in the first place. The Labour Party no longer views the conservative party as simply a competitor, but they have lost all trust for the party and its leader. If this issue does not get fixed in the future, the tension between Conservatives and members of the Labour party will rise throughout the Brexit debate.
This article made me wonder, is the United Kingdom straying away from democracy? With the disregard of two of the most important democratic norms, it seems as if Boris Johnson’s agenda is slowly bringing change to the regime of the UK, and if these norms are not restored, the UK’s democracy could slide back into the Gray Zone. Does this article support this idea, or do these norms have to be crossed in a more dramatic fashion for this to be possible?
Adler, Katya. “UK Election Vote: What Just Happened?” BBC News, 28 Oct. 2019. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50210441.