The Rage Against Boris Johnson

by Brendan O’Neill

in The Spectator

“This morning, a petition demanding ‘Do not prorogue Parliament’ is doing the rounds. At the time of writing, more than 1.4 million people have signed it. Remainers are very excited. They’re holding the petition up as proof of a mass outpouring of democratic disdain for Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for a few more days than is normal. It is no such thing. It looks more like yet another middle-class hissy fit against Brexit and the people who voted for it. 

“As the petition map demonstrates, the signatories are strikingly concentrated in certain parts of the country, especially the leafy, super-middle-class bits of southern England. There are very high numbers of signatures from Brighton, Hove, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire; and in London from Islington, Dulwich, Wood Green, Hackney, Richmond and Twickenham.

“All of these areas have large numbers of working-class and poor inhabitants, of course. But they are also known, correctly, as the heartlands of the metropolitan middle classes. Some of the parts of London in which people have enthusiastically embraced the petition are especially posh: Dulwich, Richmond, Twickenham.

“Far from being an expression of national fury with Boris’s proroguing plans, the petition strikingly confirms the massive class-based and geographical divides over Brexit. So where, at the time of writing, 7.4 per cent of voters in Caroline Lucas’s Brighton Pavilion constituency have signed this anti-Boris, anti-proroguing petition, just 0.6 per cent of constituents in Doncaster North have signed it.

“So far, in Islington 6.3 per cent of constituents have signed; in Dulwich, it’s 6.1 per cent; in Richmond, it’s five per cent. But in Rochdale, it’s 0.7 per cent; in Boston and Skegness, it’s 0.5 per cent; in Merthyr Tydfil it’s 0.8 per cent; in Dagenham it’s 0.5 per cent. [In West Lancashire only 1.98% of the electorate signed it. And in Wigan only 1.23% of the electorate signed it].

“And so on and so on. The posher the area, the more likely people are to have signed. The more working-class the area, the more likely people are to have thought to themselves: ‘Sod that.’

“And it isn’t hard to see why, because for all the claims that this is a pro-democracy petition, it is nothing of the kind. Take a look at the wording of the petition. It is quite extraordinary. It says: ‘Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.’ (My emphasis.)

“Take that in. This petition isn’t even against the proroguing of Parliament as such, it is only against the proroguing of Parliament by Boris Johnson for the purpose of forcing Brexit through. The petition explicitly says that proroguing or dissolving Parliament is fine once Brexit has either been kicked into the long grass (through extending Article 50) or destroyed entirely (through cancellation).

“This is in keeping with the broader hypocritical hysteria over Boris’s plans to suspend Parliament for a few more days than normal. The furious reaction against Boris is not driven by a desire to defend democracy, whether of the parliamentary or any other variety. Rather, it is driven by anger at the fact that MPs, the majority of whom are Remainers, will be temporarily robbed of the ability to continue thwarting and potentially even killing Brexit. They rage against Boris for being anti-democratic on the basis that he is making it more difficult for anti-Brexit MPs to frustrate the largest act of democracy in the history of this country. You couldn’t make it up.

“Just imagine what is going through the minds of people around the country, outside of the woke, Brexitphobic bubbles in the south that so many politicos and commentators inhabit. Imagine what they think as they watch MPs who have spent three years trying to frustrate the democratic will suddenly present themselves as defenders of democracy against Boris the ‘tinpot dictator’. Imagine what they think as they see footage of middle-class people having a picnic, complete with olives and bubbly, in the middle of yesterday’s protest against proroguing.

“This petition gives us a glimpse of what they think. From South Wales to the Midlands, from the North West to Essex, so many people must be looking upon the metropolitan elites that loathe Brexit as eejits, hypocrites and liars”.

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