This Is Why I Took My Seat In Parliament Despite Johnson's Unlawful, Manipulative Suspension

We are in the midst of the biggest national political crisis of my lifetime. Parliament and MPs like me should be urgently recalled, writes Labour's Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard

On Wednesday, I did something that almost every other MP has: I sat down in the House of Commons. This is usually not a very controversial action to take – indeed, MPs often do more controversial things when they’re standing in there to speak.

But this Wednesday was different. Boris Johnson, our unelected prime minister, at the behest of the also unelected bureaucrat Dominic Cummings, took the decision to suspend Parliament because he wanted to shut down any scrutiny of his government. An unelected leader stopping an elected body from meeting because he didn’t like what they were saying, is more like Tsarist Russia than 21st Century Britain.

This alone is already an assault on our democracy, but then it was ruled that prorogation is unlawful and that the Prime Minister had potentially misled the Queen in persuading her to shut down Parliament. Boris Johnson is no stranger to bluff and bluster to get his way, but this is another level of deliberate manipulation.

Now that the prorogation is not only undesirable but also unlawful, Parliament should be sitting again. We should be urgently recalled. Prorogation is both a matter for the law and a matter for politics. Whatever the Supreme Court rules on Tuesday, there is no moral and political justification for an action like this at a time of national crisis.

“I wanted to show Boris Johnson: I’m here, I’m ready to vote, I’m ready to debate, I’m ready to do what I was elected to do and represent the people of Plymouth”

That’s why I walked, calmly and peacefully, back into the House of Commons to take my usual seat in an act of defiance. No shouting or scuffling. I wanted to show Boris Johnson: I’m here, I’m ready to vote, I’m ready to debate, I’m ready to do what I was elected to do and represent the people of Plymouth.

It felt strange to retake my seat in the House of Commons. At some times it can be a noisy and rowdy place, at others it can be hushed and focused. Just a week ago I had been in there, squashed in shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, trying to find a way out of this political mess. Sitting in a prorogued parliament with school groups coming through on tours was a very different experience. Now a quiet had fallen over the room, and it felt much smaller than it had before. But I’d like to think my presence and those of my colleagues set an example to those young people about the importance of democracy.

Our democracy is precious and fragile, it can’t be taken for granted. What’s happening to it now is deeply disturbing. On the day that would have been Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris was nowhere to be seen. He has evaded scrutiny again.

“Every day the crisis we’ve found ourselves in grows deeper and deeper”

We are in the midst of the biggest national political crisis of my lifetime. The Yellowhammer documents - that outline the government’s plan for a no deal Brexit – reveal that if we get this wrong, life-saving medicines will be trapped at the border, lorries queueing on motorways in Kent for days, and there could well be violent clashes between fishing boats in our waters. They reveal that society’s most vulnerable groups will be most severely impacted by rises in food and fuel prices. What government would willingly do that to its people?

There are stacks of legislation we would need to get through to stop Yellowhammer’s worst-case scenario. As shadow fisheries minister, the most pressing bill for me is the Fisheries Bill, which would provide the bare minimum to keep our industry at sea and put fish on our plates. But that fell at the prorogation, and there is no way to pass a new one in the twelve days Parliament is sitting before the exit day on 31 October. That’s before we even get onto agriculture or the border.

And then there’s all the other issues that we’re not talking about: the NHS crisis, the social care crisis, the climate crisis – all being forgotten.

For now, I’ll be busy working hard for the people I represent in my Plymouth office. But every day the crisis we’ve found ourselves in grows deeper and deeper. The only way to get through this is to get Parliament open and working again. Parliament should be urgently recalled.

Luke Pollard is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport