Royal assent and the NHS….
Mark Ferguson, writing on LabourList, has a point. He’s right that it is absolutely democratically wrong for campaigners to ask the Queen to refuse the Health and Social Care Bill as a Jubilee ‘gift to the people’. However, Mark misses the main point that stems from this, the complete failure of our democracy that has backed the valiant campaigners against these changes into this corner. This is not even the first time this has happened. The most notable recent example is the House of Lords desperately trying to amend the Welfare Reform Bill.
Relying on the Lords is another democratic anomaly but they are at least part of the legislature and furthermore they are a clearly subordinate part to the elected Commons. Victories in the Lords really then have mostly propaganda value and increase the pressure to amend a flawed Bill. The House of Lords cannot, however, continue in its current form and no matter how much it does things we like, that will remain the case regardless.
It is utterly unacceptable, from a democratic point of view, to ask the unelected monarch to strike down a majority vote in the Commons which despite its many flaws is elected. True, this government has an electoral mandate which is threadbare but it still outweighs by a considerable margin that enjoyed by the Queen. Refusing Royal Assent for any Bill would set a dangerous precedent which could lead to places with dire consequences for democracy.
Having said that, I entirely empathise with why campaigners feel they should do this. It’s a last, desperate throw of the dice in a worthy cause. Our democracy has failed them and the people who depend on the NHS. However, this begs the question of how we make it better, how we make our Parliament more representative and responsive and whether it can indeed be made so. If campaigners want to carry on the fight for the NHS, to reverse the damage being done, this is the only way forward, not a supine appeal to the unelected monarch whose powers simply have no place in a democratic society.
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