Key Bristol politicians condemn government prorogue but student groups have mixed reaction


By Ellie Brown, Subeditor

A protest is to be held on College Green following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to delay parliamentary influence in key debates, but Bristol University Conservative Association (BUCA) show support.

On 28 August, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, announced his decision to prorogue parliament. For two weeks after the normal September recess for party conferences, parliament will not sit, allowing Johnson to bring forth a ‘new legislative agenda’ before parliament is re-opened with a Queen’s speech – just 16 days before the deadline of the EU’s extension of Article 50.

Bristol politicians have slammed the decision. Thangham Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, the University’s constituency, said: ‘It is outrageous that the Prime Minister is attempting to shut the people’s elected representatives out of the process of leaving the European Union.’

Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, was likewise ‘dismayed and angered’ by the government’s actions, and condemned the ‘false promise’ of a no-deal exit on the 31 October in his statement.

Many Bristolians themselves are similarly outraged. The petition Do Not Prorogue Parliament has gained 1.5 million signatures in just two days, with Bristol West contributing the most (over 10,000) at the time of writing. A protest, hosted by Rob Bryer and Wystan Palm, will take place on 31 August from 12-3pm at College Green. Called Bristol STOP THE COUP, the events does not appear to be affiliated to any particular party; over 3000 people are already ‘interested’ or 'going' on the Facebook event. Another protest is planned by Bristol People's Assembly on 3 September.

Posted by Bristol People's Assembly on Thursday, 29 August 2019

The University of Bristol’s student led political groups also provided statements on the latest national developments.

Robert Porter, Chairman of Bristol University Conservative Association, said: ‘We welcome the decision taken by the Prime Minister to prorogue parliament before a new Queen’s Speech on October 14. A prorogation normally happens every autumn, however we’ve not had one since 2017, making this parliamentary session the longest since the English Civil War. It is a constitutional norm for the government, particularly given its change in leadership, to prorogue parliament and present its own fresh legislative agenda.’

‘Politicians who are today screaming about proroguing parliament have sought to bend the constitution at every possibility to stop Brexit – from a politicised speaker to the suggestion that Ken Clarke become Prime Minister. They have demonstrated they are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union. Now the Government has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to make sure that - deal or no-deal - Britain leaves the EU.’

Fergus Ustianowski, President of Bristol Liberal Democrat Students, took a different view.

‘As we have seen today, the lengths Boris would go through to pass no deal, which will harm the country greatly, is terrifyingly unconstitutional. We should all unite against this to stop him ruining the country and the futures of all young people. Basically, this whole thing is fucked up.’

Finally, the Bristol Labour Students Committee gave this statement.  

‘BLS wholeheartedly and unequivocally condemn the decision of the Prime Minister to shut down Parliament in order to reduce the time available for MPs to find a way to avoid the real threat of a cliff-edge No Deal Brexit. A Prime Minister elected by less than one percent of the electorate choosing to block the ability of a mandated, elected legislature from sitting is the act of a cowardly dictatorship – not a proud and long-standing democracy.

‘The Government, their spin doctors, and their supporters will try to convince the public over the coming days that the shutdown of Parliament is in line with other years. They will, no doubt, point to the Parliamentary sessions of former Labour governments in their mission to suppress the true reason for prorogation.

‘But we urge people to remain vigilant and be aware that this year is unlike any other: we are hurtling towards an act of self-mutilation which will lead us into a constitutional and economic abyss. Instead of respecting democracy, Johnson has acted like an unashamed autocrat.

‘We fear that this Government will stop at nothing to silence anything other than their own view: that an extreme “No Deal” is acceptable. We completely support conclusions reached at meetings of Opposition leaders on 27 August. We have already seen what can happen when opponents of Johnson unite: protests outside Downing Street (on the day of the decision) saw hundreds of people, from all parties and from all walks of life, unified by a common outrage.

‘We stand in solidarity with these protestors and call on all Opposition MPs, regardless of Party, to act in the same way when parliament briefly reconvenes next week: ally against this shared enemy, act quickly and decisively and call for a No Confidence motion.’

Featured image: Pexels / Naveen Annam

What are your thoughts on the government's decision and how a no-deal Brexit will affect Bristol or student life?