We at The Independent are in favour of positivity, optimism and the common ground, so let us praise Boris Johnson for seeking to engage with the people in whose name he now governs. Let us admire the innovative use of a tablet computer on the prime minister’s desk in No 10 as a prop with…
We atThe Independentare in favour of positivity, optimism and the common ground, so let us praise Boris Johnson for seeking to engage with the people in whose name he now governs.
Let us admire the innovative use of a tablet computer on the prime minister’s desk in No 10 as a prop with which to conduct “The People’s PMQs” by video on Facebook.
Let us not dwell, therefore, on the quibbles about the exercise that small-minded critics, less endowed with positivity and optimism, might entertain. It would be negative and carping to point out, for example, that 10 minutes to camera in response to questions from members of the public selected by himself or his advisers is not exactly a searching test of democratic accountability.
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Even so, we cannot hold back from suggesting that 45 minutes of the real Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons might be a better way of holding Mr Johnson to account, even if – and again, we do not want to be negative – the leader of the opposition’s six questions hardly offer the most perilous interrogation.
Let us not waste the reader’s time, either, in suggesting that today’s was a soft exercise in giving our polymathic prime minister the chance to witter on about Pericles of Athens, and to repeat the government’s core message of its determination to leave the European Union with or without a deal on 31 October.
Nor should we pause to wonder whether the Acropolis, built in Pericles’s time, is really evidence that the Greek war leader “believed in great infrastructure projects”. Or whether “collaboration” was precisely the best word to use to describe the combination of forces arrayed against a no-deal Brexit in parliament and across the capitals of Europe.
Let us instead applaud Mr Johnson for what purports to be his intention. Let us congratulate him on seeking dialogue with the voters. We are not naive enough to call him the unelected prime minister. We understand how our parliamentary democracy works: we elect our MPs and the prime minister is then the person best placed to command the confidence of the House of Commons.
That probably is Mr Johnson at the moment – a proposition that may well be tested soon, in any case. It may make sense – for him at least, given his government’s notional majority of just one – for him to secure his own direct mandate through a general election, but that is not the priority right now.
If Mr Johnson really wants to engage with the British people, we have a modest proposal to make. He wants to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. There is no majority for this in the House of Commons and, according to the opinion polls, there is no majority for it among the British people.
The best way to secure legitimacy for such a disruptive outcome, which is not what people voted for in 2016, is to hold a Final Say referendum. That, and not some gimmicky social media video, would be real democratic engagement.