For millions of British Democrats, and so many Europeans, it's a shock. No one sees Boris Johnson as a dictator, even though his complete lack of fear of ridicule can be a real worry. But what the British Prime Minister decided Wednesday was a real punch in the stomach of all citizens attached to the central role of Parliament in all democratic life.
In deciding to suspend Westminster's work for an unduly long period – five weeks decisive on the eve of Brexit – Boris Johnson did nothing illegal. But taking Parliament hostage at such a moment is of unprecedented gravity for British democracy.
Even at the most serious hours, Parliament has always been involved. When, on May 13, 1940, Churchill delivered his famous speech in which he mobilized the British people and told them that they had " nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat " it's before Parliament. He summoned him for that purpose, considering that it was " public interest " which " commanded ".
Despite his idolatry for Churchill, Boris Johnson does the opposite. He plays the people against Parliament, a classic figure of populist movements. By playing legal quibbles to better destabilize the institution. Thursday, the Financial Times, a journal of the business world but, beyond, a daily newspaper read in all the chancelleries, published a fire editorial. A historical text in its own way. Denouncing the " constitutional vandalism " exercised by Boris Johnson and advocating a motion of no confidence as an absolute emergency, even if it must be launched by Jeremy Corbyn, the very Marxist leader of the Labor Party. Never seen.
In his tour of the beaches, this summer, Matteo Salvini was also attacking Parliament, lacking according to him legitimacy in view of the polls. He even asked " full powers " in his address to the Italians, as if political mediations were negligible amount. Faced with this claim, the other political forces decided to give birth to a new majority. Fragile. Counter-nature but constitutionally legitimate.
In London as in Rome, it is with the same wrestling that one attends. With the pretension of minority forces to put down the system of counter-powers. What distinguishes democratic life from undemocratic regimes is not the absence of conflicts between the powers constituted, it is the way of regulating them. By openly assuming mediations, compromises.
The populist ardor, in its deliberately radical vision, sees only compromise. The Westminster paralysis over the last three years to find a Brexit majority line offers Boris Johnson good reasons to believe his popular choice. Just as the return to power of the Democratic Party through a parliamentary maneuver gives Salvini strong arguments.
But what is at stake is the functioning of liberal democracy in its very principle. The most dangerous is the climate of farce that surrounds these breaks. Trump, Johnson, Salvini are like caricatures in permanent representation, putting their own bodies on the stage as legitimacy. What is at Westminster is not just about Brexit. It is a certain conception of parliamentary democracy that is at stake. The least worst of all regimes, as Churchill said. Exactly.
What's going on in Westminster …Ouest-France.fr