Disclaimer: Although Wessex Scene are a SUSU-affiliated Union Group, the views of SUSU don’t necessarily represent the views of the publication as a whole. As with any political event, Wessex Scene as a publication are remaining neutral. However, we are as always happy to give individual students a platform to express their views in our Opinion section.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister and local MPs have each responded to SUSU’s condemnation of the prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson. Whilst Alan Whitehead and Caroline Nokes support SUSU’s stance, Union President Emily Harrison was disheartened by Steve Brine’s and Royston Smith’s dismissive reaction. Furthermore, Harrison alleges that Brine failed to read SUSU’s letter, reinforcing her belief that, ‘[t]oo often, students are dismissed and marginalized’.
In response to SUSU’s letter, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister issued the following statement:
The Prime Minister has the highest respect for our judiciary and the independence of the courts. However, he disagrees with Supreme Court judgement and does not think it was appropriate for the Court to intervene in what has always been a matter of political convention.
In August, Harrison released a statement on behalf of the Students’ Union strongly condemning the ‘highly undemocratic and historically unprecedented‘ prorogation of Parliament. The alleged mandate for SUSU’s stance stems from the All Student Vote of March 2019, where 82.9% of participants (of a turnout of 17.9%) called for SUSU to support the People’s Vote campaign.
Steve Brine, Independent MP for Winchester, commented that ‘I am not surprised but hugely disappointed and shocked […] Parliament should be sitting more this Autumn not less‘. However, Brine’s instruction that Harrison should listen to his interview on Radio 4 indicates that he had not read her letter, in which she had referenced it. Caroline Nokes, MP for Southampton and Romsey North is one of the 21 Conservative rebels, alongside Brine, who was suspended from the Conservative Party for blocking a no-deal Brexit. In her letter, she speaks out against prorogation ‘in the middle of a national crisis‘ when ‘Parliamentary scrutiny is essential to hold any Government to account‘.
Meanwhile, Alan Whitehead, the Labour MP for Southampton Test explains how he worked with MPs across the Commons to require ‘the Prime Minister either to put a new deal to the House and to the European Council of Ministers on the 15th October or if not to ask the EU for a further extension so that a satisfactory deal can be agreed‘. He proceeds to urge students to register to vote as a General Election is likely to occur before the end of the year.
Royston Smith, the Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen argues that the prorogation of Parliament during the Political Party Conference season was ‘entirely normal and nothing out of the ordinary‘.