British Labour MP Rachael Maskell On Johnson's Decision To Suspend Parliament Early
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Well, let's hear next from a member of Parliament. Labour Party MP Rachael Maskell joins me now from York in the north of England. That's her district. Welcome.
RACHAEL MASKELL: Hello there.
KELLY: Hi. Glad to have you with us. I want to start with your top-line reaction to this news today - Boris Johnson's surprise move to suspend Parliament after you all go back to work next week.
MASKELL: Well, this is a constitutional outrage, which has not been seen in our democracy before, when the prime minister, who has yet to go before the country in an election, just had a vote from his own party, has now decided to suspend Parliament so that he can get through his Brexit preferences, which looks like a no deal with the European Union, which would have a really catastrophic impact on the rest of the U.K. economy, on jobs, the environment and so many more things. It's deeply disturbing to see such an autocrat leading our political system, which clearly has so much confidence in its parliamentary democracy.
KELLY: You call this a constitutional outrage, although, from what I'm reading, legal experts say this does fall within the bounds of Britain's unwritten constitution. I mean, he can do this is what I'm getting at.
MASKELL: Well, it's incredible the fact that you can, but it's never been tested because there has always been respect for our Parliament. And I think today has been a bad day for British democracy. The people of our country across our constituencies vote for us to hold the government to account, to scrutinize their actions, to ask questions and to debate. And by preventing us on the biggest issue facing Great Britain at this time - it's quite shocking that the prime minister is not wanting to be held to account and seek the counsel of his peers.
KELLY: So I'm hearing loud and clear that you're not in favor of this move. What are your options for blocking it?
MASKELL: Well, all of the opposition parties have now come together, apart from the DUP, who get funding from the government, and have decided that they will work together. And yesterday, there was a declaration signed by the opposition parties to make it clear that we would do everything possible to stop the suspension of our Parliament. Legal measures, as well as political measures, are being sought by constitutional experts to be able to advance a democratic response to what has happened today. Now, the speaker of the House has made comment. He doesn't normally comment on political matters but has passed comment today.
KELLY: This is John Bercow, the speaker of Parliament.
MASKELL: Yes, that is right. And we have also seen the monarch, our queen, being dragged into a political discussion - again, unheard of. So we are now in a position where the people's voice of our country is being silenced. And Parliament has been so hard fought for through the centuries to ensure that ordinary people in our country have a voice at the heart of decision-making. And now an elite voice of one is determining the future of our country. We call that a dictatorship.
KELLY: So walk me through the next couple of days how this plays out. Parliament is scheduled to meet next week. What's your next move?
MASKELL: As Parliament gathers, there will be motions laid before the House to try and block the prime minister from undermining our seat of democracy. There have been measures put in place which will unite the opposition parties. And indeed many on the government benches we believe are deeply disturbed today by the actions of the prime minister has taken.
KELLY: You're making the point that members of Prime Minister Johnson's own party are not entirely onboard with this. Some of them have commented...
MASKELL: Oh, absolutely.
KELLY: So is your phone ringing off the hook? What are you hearing from constituents?
MASKELL: Well, constituents have been incredibly outraged, and the emails are flooding in, and really wanting to say, what is happening to our country? We put faith through a general election. I believe politics is about the voice of the people being heard, and I'm making sure that in York that happens.
KELLY: Rachael Maskell, thank you.
MASKELL: Thank you very much.
KELLY: She is a Labour MP representing the city of York in northern England. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.