Why I’m ready to occupy parliament to stop the coup

Clive Lewis
© Chris McAndrew/CC BY 3.0

Strange things are happening in Britain. An unelected Prime Minister has asked an unelected head of state to shut down parliament so that no one prevents him from delivering his agenda. The Queen said ‘yes’ and normal legislative processes are about to be suspended.

If this happened anywhere else (Turkey perhaps? Or Hungary?) our government would most likely be quick to condemn it as an assault on parliamentary sovereignty. When it’s happening in the UK, the Prime Minister has the cheek to pretend he’s acting in the name of democracy.

We simply cannot let Boris Johnson get away with this. When basic democratic norms are undermined, it gives a green light to anti-democratic extremists to not play by the rules either. It then becomes a race to the bottom. This is how democracy is undermined and the rot sets in.

On Wednesday, I tweeted that if Boris Johnson suspends parliament, they will have to drag me out of the chamber. This wasn’t an empty threat posted in the heat of the moment – I meant it. Multiple colleagues have told me they are prepared to do the same.

We will not be stopped from doing our job, which is to represent the people who elected us. We will not stand by and watch as the Prime Minister singlehandedly drives our country off a no deal cliff, in full knowledge that it would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and risk food and medicine shortages. We will not let this cabinet sign off our rights, our planet and our NHS to a trade deal with Trump.

We will occupy parliament if we need to. We will call an extraordinary session if that’s what it takes to stop no deal and defend fundamental democratic principles. While we’re inside, we will need millions of people supporting us outside. Boris Johnson wants to present this as a battle of the people versus parliament. We need a mass movement organising up and down the country to expose the nonsense of this claim.

When Another Europe is Possible, alongside Momentum and Owen Jones, called a protest on Wednesday, thousands of people mobilised with just four hours’ notice. Young and old, Remainers and Leavers, members of various political parties and none – all came together to fight for democracy.

This Saturday, dozens more protests have been announced all over the UK, from Aberdeen to Newcastle to Brighton. More than a hundred trade unionists, including the assistant general secretary of the PCS John Moloney, have called for direct action, “including protests, strikes, and occupations.” We need nothing less.

All of our democratic freedoms were won through struggle, by the many standing up to the few. Now, the time has come to defend these hard-won rights from a political elite that holds them in contempt. When people take to the streets, Labour must be part of the movement. And when workers walk out of their workplaces in protest, I will refuse to leave mine.

Everything is at stake here. If parliament can be shut down, what will come next? Much like his friend Donald Trump, the born-to-rule old Etonian Boris Johnson thinks he can do whatever he wants. Together, we will prove him wrong.

The Love Socialism group (formerly Love Socialism Hate Brexit) is a set of radical and socialist Labour MPs fighting to stop Brexit. We will be writing a column for LabourList every week until the Brexit crisis is over. You can find out more about us here, and follow us on Twitter here.

James Kelly is editing LabourList while Sienna Rodgers is away.

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