Following 8 months of Partygate headlines, explosive allegations within Prime Minister’s Questions and 69% of the population believing he is doing a bad job, Boris Johnson has wormed his way out of his recent tumultuous troubles.
Narrowly escaping the result of a vote of no confidence with 59% of support, Johnson has cultivated a new escape route to guarantee power. His recent changes to the Ministerial code, more particularly the role individual ministerial responsibility plays in an MP’s duty of resignation, are incredibly significant in the power grab Johnson is currently undertaking.
Recent constitutional changes implemented by Johnson included the removal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act which allowed for regular 5-year general elections. Under new rules there are no set timetabling arrangements for general elections allowing effectively the indefinite rule of the current government. And the proposed changes to the 1998 Human Rights Act reiterated in the 2022 Queen’s speech outline the notable shifts to executive dominance and enhanced powers of the Prime Minister.
Before the May changes to ministerial code, if an MP misled parliament or actions fell under personal misconduct they were expected to resign. Although this was a convention and hence not legally binding, it was regularly followed for example in 2018 when Amber Rudd was accused of misleading parliament over Windrush figures she resigned from her position as Home secretary. However, under the new changes to ministerial responsibility if a MP is now accused of misleading parliament, it will be the Prime Minister who will distribute punishments and decide if the individual needs to resign.
The same Prime Minister who claimed that Matt Hancock, former Health secretary, had no need to resign from his role due to breaking COVID regulations, but rather the duty to apologise. Boris Johnson, who himself has recently been accused of breaching ministerial standards and misleading parliament will now be in charge of controlling who resigns and who doesn’t.
Seems an awfully good coincidence that as soon as the rules may lead to Boris Johnson losing power, he changes them to see fit that he maintains power and control.
Not only does this attack the democratic and moral standards that our political system is meant to rely on, but it borders the lines of corruption. No Prime Minister should be allowed to extend the powers of the executive to this extent where unless a vote of no confidence effectively works the Prime Minister holds the power to stay in his role indefinitely.
The weakening powers on the fundamental checks and balances of our political system are being diminished.
In the words of Lord Hailsham, we are inching closer and closer to an ‘elective dictatorship’.
Nobody is stopping this juvenile grab of power, the tantrum Boris Johnson is throwing where he changes the rules exemplifies the souring of our political system and ultimately our country.