We have ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. There was no military putsch. Nobody passed an Enabling Act allowing rule by decree. But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are now the Dead Parrot Parliament.
They are dead because they do nothing to hold the Government to account. They are parrots because, when asked, they obediently confirm decrees Downing Street put into effect, sometimes weeks before. We used to jeer that the so-called parliaments of Communist and Fascist states were mere rubber stamps. Well, we cannot jeer now.
The most shocking instance of this so far was the £10,000 fine imposed on the eccentric weather forecaster Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) for his part in organising a protest in London.
That protest has, in my view, been wrongly portrayed as a mass of weirdos and conspiracy theorists. No doubt such people, and worse, were there. But many went to it out of a feeling their liberties are fast disappearing under a strange new regime based on fear and panic.
The keen-eyed lawyer Matthew Scott, an experienced barrister, is among many neutral observers greatly disturbed by what is happening. You may not like Mr Corbyn, and I have my problems with him, too. But he is in a fine and ancient tradition of troublemakers who have endured derision for standing up for what they think is right, so helping to keep us all free. They did not care if they were liked.
But what Mr Scott says is deeply worrying. The regulation used to fine Mr Corbyn – 5b of the Coronavirus Act – ‘was hastily made law the day before the demonstration was held. It was introduced under an emergency procedure and was neither debated nor given even the most cursory scrutiny by any parliamentary process.