If Boris Johnson prorogues (suspends) Parliament to force through his no-deal Brexit, then, says Tory maverick Rory Stewart, “I would work with colleagues simply to organise another parliament across the road.
“That sounds quite Civil-War-ist, but that is what happened in 2002 when Blair tried not to have a vote on the Iraq war”.
Tony Blair had tried to push along his support for the invasion of Iraq while Parliament was not sitting. The backbench Labour MP Graham Allen booked a hall to convene MPs “unofficially”. Blair backed down and recalled Parliament for a debate.
As we go to press on 15 July, all reports have Boris Johnson well ahead of Jeremy Hunt in the race to become Tory leader and prime minister on 23-24 July.
What Johnson will do as prime minister (and what difference it will make if somehow Hunt wins) we don’t know.
We can most firmly exclude what Johnson (and Hunt) say they will do: negotiate a “backstop”-free deal, very different from Theresa May’s, and have it done and dusted by 31 October or soon after.
Johnson has said he thinks it “absolute folly” to rule out suspending Parliament so that he can push through a “no deal” Brexit over the heads of the MPs.
If it seems improbable that he will attempt that, it is only because of the angry response of dissident Tories like Stewart.
Labour has consistently opposed “no deal”. But more limply than the dissident Tories. Labour has now said it will demand a new public vote on any Tory Brexit formula, deal or “no deal”, and back Remain in that new public vote. But with ostentatious reluctance. It has opposed “no deal” only through parliamentary manoeuvres.
Socialist internationalists demand Labour take the idea of an “unofficial Parliament” out of the hands of Rory Stewart and running with it.
We demand that Labour plan for mass protest demonstrations in every city if Johnson attempts to suspend Parliament. Besides that Labour should be supporting the anti-Brexit marches on 20 July and 12 October and putting a Labour-oriented political stamp on them.
Boris Johnson is enough of an unprincipled opportunist that we can imagine he might do a u-turn once prime minister, ditch his supporters, and delay Brexit.
If he tries that, or anyway, an energetic Labour campaign could force him into calling a general election.
One of the less-improbable improbabilities of the next few months is that he may call a general election anyway, gambling that he can scoop back the Farage vote.
Whatever the variant, we must work to mobilise the labour movement to fight and bring down the sub-Trump demagogue Johnson.
For that to work politically, we must push Labour into sorting itself out.
Into making a clear call against Brexit, for “Remain and Transform”, for free movement and migrants’ rights.
Into tackling antisemitism, and declaring clearly that hate-Israel conspiracy theories are off limits and, besides, no help to Palestinian rights.
Into standing firmly and emphatically with workers on strike, committing to repeal all anti-trade union legislation.
Away from reducing its anti-cuts message to a call for more spending on the police, and into pledges to tax the rich to restore the NHS, education, and benefits. Into serious action on climate change.
And to drastically extend public ownership and democratic control of economic life.