British governance in Johnson crisis and chaos | Daily News

British governance in Johnson crisis and chaos

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to move a motion to hold an early parliamentary general election, in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday. - AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to move a motion to hold an early parliamentary general election, in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday. - AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a defeat in the first vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday, preventing him from taking the UK out of the European Union without a deal, and also had to face the rejection his bid to call a snap general election on October 15, just two weeks before the scheduled exit from the European Union on October 31.

The efforts by Johnson to prevent the House of Commons taking action to prevent him moving to a no-deal exit from the EU by a five week prorogation of Parliament, were overcome by an alliance of Opposition and Conservative members the Commons coming together to pass a Bill that would prevent a ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU, and also making provision to the final Brexit date to be moved to January 31, 2020.

The anti-Johnson alliance in the Commons, bringing Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and other opposition groups together also saw the support of Conservative MPs, moving away from the Government Whip, to vote against Boris Johnson’s ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU. After wresting control of the day's parliamentary agenda from Johnson, the House of Commons backed a bill that would force the government to request a three-month Brexit delay rather than leave without a divorce agreement.

This was a week of crisis for the Conservative government led by Boris Johnson with increasing opposition to what are seen as strongly rightwing and largely anti-democratic moves by the government, which has now lost its already slender majority in the Commons, and signs of wide splits within the Conservative Party.

An alliance of opposition lawmakers and breakaways from Johnson's Conservative Party voted 329-300 and then 327-299 for the Bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit, in the second and third readings.

Boris Johnson said the bill had ambushed his Brexit negotiations with the EU, and was designed to overturn the 2016 referendum on leaving the bloc. He said: it is “a bill without precedent in the history of this house, seeking as it does to force the prime minister with a pre-drafted letter to surrender in international negotiations,” Johnson told the Commons, saying: “I refuse to do this.”

“This house has left no other option than letting the public decide who they want as prime minister,” Johnson said, as he made the call for a quick general election, and said the British people must decide whether the next prime minister should be him or Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is Leader of the Opposition.

The crisis in British politics has deepened with Johnson deciding to remove the Party Whip from the 21 Conservative MPs who voted against the government and for the Opposition Alliance bill to prevent his ‘no- deal’ move on Brexit. This means these MPs will not be given Conservative Party nominations at the next general election. Many of them are senior Conservative MPs, including former Ministers. One of them is the much respected grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – Nicholas Soames, who has since decided to quit politics and blamed Boris Johnson for the current crisis in government and Conservative Party activities.

Divisions within the UK Government and the Conservatives were emphasized with Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson, announcing he will resign both as an MP and Minister due to the ‘unresolvable tension’ between ‘family loyalty and the national interest’.

Johnson's proposal for an election on Oct. 15 - a date that would allow him, if he won, to repeal the blocking bill - secured 298 votes to 56, far short of the 434 needed. Johnson cannot push for a hurried general election as the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, allowing governments to break the standard five-year period between polls, requires two-thirds or more of MPs to support the measure, unlike the ability that previous PMs in the UK had to call for a general election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was strong in his criticism of the support that Boris Johnson received from UK President Donald Trump, and the possibility of making the US the major trading partner of the UK, after leaving the EU. President Trump has himself expressed strong support for Johnson as the latter faces the biggest crisis in British politics and government in several decades.

Hong Kong crisis deepens

The crisis in Hong Kong deepens in the fourteenth week of protests here, with increased violence seen in recent weeks, and more clashes between ‘pro-democracy’ protesters and the police. Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s statement that the authorities will formally withdraw an extradition bill that ignited the months of protests and plunged the territory into its biggest political crisis in decades, has not eased the situation. The 'pro-democracy’ activists remain committed to their campaigns. Lam said her government would formally withdraw the controversial bill to “fully allay public concerns”. The bill, which would have allowed the extradition of suspects to China to be tried under the mainland’s opaque judicial system, prompted the start of mass protests in June that have led to increasingly violent confrontations with police and the arrest of more than 1,000 people. “Our citizens, police and reporters have been injured during violent incidents,” Lam said. “There have been chaotic scenes at the airport and mass transit railway stations; roads and tunnels have been suddenly blocked…For many people, Hong Kong has become an unfamiliar place.”

This bill was shelved by Lam in June, and in July she insisted it was “dead” after weeks of protest from demonstrators who argued it could be revived if it was not formally withdrawn. This call came after university and secondary school students launched a class boycott this week and protesters planned further action in the weeks ahead. It includes another attempt to paralyze the airport, and a rally outside the US consulate in Hong Kong, to call on lawmakers to pass legislation that would sanction officials deemed as suppressing freedom or human rights in Hong Kong. With this announcement, Carrie Lam has now conceded to one of five key demands of the demonstrators. However, the chief executive did not respond to protesters’ other demands, which include an independent inquiry into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, and democratic reforms to give Hong Kong residents universal suffrage. Instead, Lam proposed “four actions to help society move forward,” including pledges to follow up recommendations from the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and set up a platform for dialogue, inviting community leaders and experts to advise the government on social issues.

“After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that discontentment extends far beyond the bill,” she said. “Let’s replace conflicts with conversations.”

Lam’s announcement, is seen as an about-face after months of vowing not to back down to the protesters, comes less than a month before China celebrates its national day on October 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Response to the move was not one to stop all protests. There are many doubts whether this will calm the protesters, which have moved into a much wider political movement, than at its beginning against this extradition law. Youth involved in violence has taken control of much of the recent protests, and there is also public anger at the actions of the police and government.

“This is like applying a band-aid to rotting flesh,” said one protester, dressed in all black and wearing a mask and hard hat. “The withdrawal cannot compensate for our blood and tears over the past three months,” another said. The protest organising Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), said it would continue with protests until all five demands were met.

“The withdrawal of the bill is too little too late,” said Bonnie Leung, vice convener for CHRF. “One demand has been accepted so we maybe can celebrate a bit,” she said.

“But we see police brutality every day, we have victims every day. We cannot just leave it. Hong Kong people will still fight for justice and fight for the future of Hong Kong.”

The protests have pushed Hong Kong, a major financial and business hub, to the brink of a recession, with businesses and shops suffering and investors reconsidering their presence in the city. A survey of private business activity released on Wednesday showed the “steepest deterioration in the health of the private sector since February 2009”, at the height of the global financial crisis.

“This announcement cannot change the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have chosen to suppress protests in a grossly unlawful way that has seriously damaged the people’s trust and sense of legitimacy of the government,” said Man-kei Tam, the director of Amnesty International Hong Kong. The conciliatory move by Carrie Lam comes with increasing concerns in Beijing about the continued violence by Hon Kong protesters, and the huge negative impact on Hong Kong business. The Hong Kong authorities are reportedly seeking to ease the situation in time for the huge celebration of the 70th anniversary if the Communist Government in China, which is on October 1.

Italy – New Government

In the confusing twist of politics in Italy, Guiseppe Conte, who announced his resignation as Prime Minister when the recent political crisis began, has now remained as Prime Minister in his second government, heading a completely different government, than what he led from May 2018. This strange situation has come about after the collapse of the populist government that came to power in May 2018, bringing together the Five Star Movement and the League.

When Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, pulled the plug on this “yellow-green” coalition, it had looked like there would be an early election. That was the aim of Salvini since polls suggested his party would emerge victorious, making it possible for him to form a government of the far right – and be prime minister.

But, the Five Star Movement and the main party of opposition, the Democrats, joined to stop Salvini’s plans. Under the oversight of Conte, they began talks to form an alternative government. Giuseppe Conte's new government is a coalition between unlikely allies: the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and center-left Democratic Party. The coalition is expected to improve EU relations and soften the country's stance on immigration, with Italy facing high rates of debt and unemployment and general dissatisfaction over immigration and Italy's relationship with Brussels.

The Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio is the new foreign minister; at 33 years he is the youngest foreign minister in Italy's history.

 


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