Why Boris Johnson should pack the House of Lords

4 September 2019

7:48 PM

4 September 2019

7:48 PM

What should the next steps be in the battle between Parliament and the people?

First, Boris should appoint about 500 peers who are committed to leaving the EU. The House of Lords is dominated by Remainers and the appointment of additional peers should ensure that representation of Leavers and Remainers in the Lords is the same as in the 2016 referendum, namely a small majority in favour of leaving.

No doubt there will be the usual hyperbole about a coup and dictatorship, but the appointment of peers is morally justified because it will help to ensure that the Lords cannot defy the referendum result, when the people were acting through a constitutionally valid referendum authorised by Parliament itself.

In our system, as our greatest constitutional historian Dicey pointed out long ago, the political sovereign is the people and the legal sovereign is Parliament. MPs must act for the people, not for themselves. The narcissistic Tory turncoats appear to have no conception of either duty or trust. They are only in Parliament as representatives of the Conservative party, which stood on a clear manifesto promise to leave the EU.

Some Tory MPs like to quote Edmund Burke arguing that MPs owe the electors their judgement not their obedience. But far more relevant than his remarks to the voters of Bristol are his remarks in An Appeal From the New to the Old Whigs. He explained when he would recognise ‘the people’. Any mob or faction was inclined to call itself ‘the people’, but Burke argued that no such declaration was justified unless the people had agreed to create a political association which accepted majority decisions:

‘In a state of rude nature there is no such thing as a people… The idea of a people is the idea of a corporation. It is wholly artificial; and made like all other legal fictions by common agreement.’

When ‘great multitudes act together’ under such constitutional constraints, he said, then ‘I recognise the PEOPLE… In all things the voice of this grand chorus of national harmony ought to have a mighty and decisive influence.’ Only a people properly incorporated under a legitimate constitution can have rights.

We are a people in just this sense and we have a right to demand implementation of the referendum result.

The appointment of 500 lords could allow Parliament to prevent the passing of a bill prohibiting ‘no deal’. The result will be that a general election must follow. Under our constitution that is how irreconcilable differences in Parliament should be settled. It is only necessary because of the shameless refusal of the Labour party to vote in favour of an election until it has forced through a bill intended to wreck Brexit.

Finally, the purge of rebel Tories who have refused to act in trust for the people may need to go one step further. It may be that some local constituency parties will support a few former MPs, in which case they should be reminded that they are only branches of the national party. Selecting an MP not on the official list because they have refused to respect their manifesto pledges and forgotten their duty of trust should lead to their disaffiliation from the national party.

When necessary a new branch should be established by recruiting members who believe in the bright future of this country after independence. It’s a free country and disaffiliated branches will be able to fight the election as independents, but they will have to fight honestly, and not under a false party flag. Some Tory MPs have allowed their vanity to anaesthetise their sense of duty. They are free to test their electoral support compared with that of their party.

This is a time for iron discipline, not for its own sake, but to overcome the threat to our constitution and to trust in democracy itself.

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