The ‘coup d’etat’ originated in Napoleonic France and became popular throughout Latin America, Africa and some Asian countries during the 20th Century. In a typical coup d’etat, a strong leader takes power with the backing of the armed forces. Political opponents are rounded up, tortured and often murdered by the police; strategic buildings are occupied by the army and tanks are deployed on the streets.
And yet the tactics of history’s dictators pale into insignificance when compared to the rogue efforts of Boris Johnson’s government to execute a coup on British shores. Here’s how he seized power:
1. Punish the nation through prorogation
Boris Johnson knows that the quickest way to destroy public morale is not to restrict access to food and water but deprive the population of Westminster’s wisdom for two weeks. How can the British public be expected to get through the day without hearing the latest views of their local MP on high speed rail and climate change? As soon as he had taken the tyrannous step of banishing MPs from Parliament, Johnson rushed to a police recruitment centre, in Yorkshire, to muster a force of 20,000 new officers to seize power. He spoke with such zeal that one young recruit fainted at the thought of joining the Johnson dictatorship. We wait to see whether the 21 Tory rebels will be arrested and tortured on account of their defection. So far no Remain MPs have been ‘disappeared’ but we remain alert to the possibility.
2. Silence the rebels
When the coup was announced, a spontaneous uprising of 800 EU supporters succeeded in stopping the traffic outside Parliament, by sitting down. Buses were blockaded and the drivers caught up in the protest clocked off and went home for their tea. As the protestors spread their picnic rugs across Parliament Square, the London police responded with caustic brutality. One was heard deploying hate speech when he remarked: “What are they protesting about? Has Waitrose run out of vegan burgers?” Another used threatening terms to belittle the protest efforts, remarking that, “We’ll go home when they start gluing themselves to lampposts”. Johnson’s attempted coup faltered and the mass uprising gained momentum with the support of the BBC. We wait to see whether the EU flags that have been pinned to the railings around Parliament Square will be vandalised by Johnson’s henchmen from number 10.
3. Create a diversion – call a general election
Boris then took an unexpected step for a budding dictator; he called for a general election. Opposition MPs rose to the challenge by demanding that Johnson remains in power. MPs then raised the call to ‘defend democracy’. They understand that democracy is most effectively protected by opposing a public vote. This may seem unusual, but it can be explained when we understand the British tradition of representative democracy. MPs represent the views that they believe people should hold. When the views of MPs are confirmed through a referendum, or an election, MPs can do their rightful job. However, when the people fail to reflect the views of their MPs, as happened in the 2016 referendum, it shows that the people are unable to fulfil their democratic role. In this case, ‘the people’ need to be redefined by their representatives.
4. Allow ‘the people’ to be reconstituted
While Johnson’s coup trundles on, a campaign to re-educate the general population about the ills of voting for Brexit has been underway and those who remain intransigent have been ostracised. Recently, Scottish judges have been recruited to demand that MPs continue to represent the people until the people have been fully reconstituted. Ursula von der Leyen and her new EU Commissioners are preparing to take office and, in time, they will become the official representatives of everyone in Europe. History will remember the heroic MPs, judges, Remain campaigners and the media who banded together to crush the Johnson coup. Will you join them? Long live democracy!