What was so amazing about the Supreme Court ruling today, the one that declared Johnson’s prorogation of parliament null and void, for me at least, wasn’t the ruling itself but the fact that the decision was unanimous. It was a thumping defeat for the government. Interviewed from New York, the prime minister was bullish in saying that it didn’t matter, we’re still leaving on October 31st no matter what. The reality is somewhat different.
It will be interesting to see if a vote of no confidence takes place before October 31st. It is looking less and less likely due to the fact that Corbyn won’t step aside to allow it to happen. It probably won’t be necessary, but I find the Labour tactics here interesting. I think he should be encouraging a Ken Clarke led Government of National Unity, for his own political purposes I mean. It would split the Conservative party – then again, that’s probably going to happen anyhow.
Johnson will probably lose Dominic Cummings as an advisor soon enough, either because Cummings walks after Johnson stops proceeding as planned or the pressure to sack him from within the Conservative party becomes too great to avoid. Whether his top advisor happens or not, Boris Johnson only has two choices available to him if the GONU led by Clarke or Corbyn or whomever doesn’t usurp him before he gets the chance to choose: resign or ask the EU for an extension. The idea that he can ignore an act of parliament seemed wacky and outlandish before today; after the Supreme Court ruling, it is totally impossible. Beyond the legality of ignoring the Benn Act, politically he will be under massive pressure from members of his own cabinet to follow through, with threats of walk outs and possibly even voting against the government in a vote of no confidence. Johnson will have no real choice but to comply in the end unless he resigns instead.
Johnson and Cummings relied on the weakness of their opponents, something Sun Tzu (one of Cummings’ heroes) would have explicitly not been keen on (“If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”). It turned out the legislature and the judiciary were not willing to just roll over and let him do whatever the hell he likes. It is very possible that if there is a general election before the end of the year, the people whose will he enjoys citing so much won’t let him do whatever the hell he likes either.