Is Boris Johnson destroying British democracy? The sulphurous atmosphere of adventurism and arson that engulfed his Brexit policy is shocking to most German (and many English) viewers. The blatant suspension of parliament, the uncertainty as to whether the prime minister will respect the House of Commons legislation against an unregulated exit from the European Union (no deal) - such violations of good political customs raise the question of whether the country is still responsible and lawful is governed. It is by no means merely a matter of domestic affairs: a United Kingdom that would abandon constitutional integrity would no longer be a partner in sensible Brexit negotiations and prosperity afterwards. It would become another risk factor for the whole of Europe and the entire Western world.
In this situation, it is important to keep your mind in mind and language. Britain is not on its way to dictatorship. As soon as the lower house meets again in mid-October, it can at any time withdraw its confidence from the prime minister and bring a new prime minister into office (if the deputies can agree on a candidate). Likewise, it is by no means certain how long Johnson will retain the support of his party, the Tories. The normal mechanisms that limit government power are by no means overridden in Britain. At least not yet.
Above all, however, one must realize that good and evil in the fight between the prime minister and his opponents are not as clearly distributed as many commentators. The UK's core and core problem is not the headlessness of the head of government, but the fact that three years after a brief but clear referendum vote on Brexit, the country has still not left the EU.
House of Commons - Boris Johnson sends Unterhaus in compulsory break Parliament meets again after the Prime Minister's ordered break in mid-October. Previously failed also Johnson's second request for new elections in the lower house. © Photo: Reuters TV
The responsibility lies primarily with the lower house. Opposition Labor MPs and Liberal Democrats, who are now fighting so hard against the no-deal threat, have had three opportunities to say goodbye to the deal Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, had negotiated with the EU. It does not take much populist genius to foment anti-parliamentary sentiments against this background. Nor is it a demagogic invention that a hard core of EU friends in Britain simply does not want to accept the result of the referendum and, in principle, does not want to implement it. This can be called undemocratic for a good reason.
None of this justifies a scorched constitutional earth tactic to finally enforce Brexit. But here, too, when it comes to the choice of political and institutional resources in the current conflict, it is worthwhile to take a closer look. One will find that Boris Johnson's adversaries are by no means as heroic as many believe. The law with which the lower house of the government has banned the no-deal-Brexit is constitutionally questionable, to say the least: The legislature wants to take over in fact the most important topic of the moment, the government of the country, which is the central task the executive is. The opposition's strategy of preventing Johnson from holding swift elections is hardly more convincing. How can you portray the Prime Minister as a dangerous arbitrary ruler, but at the same time refuse to let him get rid of as soon as possible?
All this does not mean that Boris Johnson's course is right or wise. The risk he is taking with his Brexit political aggressiveness is enormous: there is a threat of a transformation of the traditionally more relaxed British conservatism into a nationalist right full of resentment. The consequences for political culture, in the UK and possibly beyond, would be disastrous. This is the field on which to look for the confrontation with the government in London. But that Boris Johnson would destroy democracy is a legend.