This is the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson’s short, brutal, unhappy premiership

Johnson now looks less effective than May, less statesmanlike than Corbyn – he should resign

Sean O'Grady@_seanogrady
Tuesday 24 September 2019 15:11
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Supreme Court ruling: Jeremy Corbyn invites Boris Johnson 'to consider his position'

It is beginning to look like it, isn’t it? Lady Hale, wearing a huge brooch that resembled a venomous spider, delivered a near fatal dose of judicial poison in her carefully worded, logical and comprehensive take-down of Johnson’s suspension of parliament. Johnson was the big fat fly caught in a sophisticated legal web, a ready meal for the Supreme Court.

Spiderwoman was scathing, and her colleagues backed her solidly. It was unanimous among the judges – 11-nil – an even better score than Manchester City inflicted on poor old Watford at the weekend. It could hardly have been more damning. In declaring the order in Council quashed they have left no room for Johnson to just organise a new prorogation, for that too would be quashed. He has no way out. It is a strategic defeat because it has strengthened the hand of parliament and weakened the government, permanently.

So there he is, then, our prime minster. A man who is yet to win a vote in the House of Commons. A man who then tells the Commons to just buzz off and then loses the court case. A man who destroys his own parliamentary majority at a stroke by sacking 21 of his MPs in a fit of pique - and thereby creates a guerrilla army of enemies with nothing to lose. Not so smart.

A man who cannot be seen in public without getting heckled and insulted. A man who cannot make a decent speech. A man who cannot command the Commons. A man who has to watch while the Commons outlaws his Brexit strategy. No deal is illegal, and the Commons will be back in business shortly to ensure it stays that way.

So if leadership is about judgement, Boris Johnson has been found badly wanting. It is true that, thanks to Labour’s ineffable ability to snatch defeat from any given political situation, he has a decent poll lead. But polling a third of the vote is no mandate for anything, and he knows as well as anyone that the next general election will be extremely unreadable – and could easily see another hung parliament elected.

Johnson’s divided extreme Conservatives could easily lose seats overall, having lost any hope of achieving Brexit on their terms. In a perfectly possible scenario, even if by accident, Jeremy Corbyn might even get to lead the largest party and have the constitutional right to try to form a minority government.

What, then, would the Tory party make of such a disastrous leader? He is starting to make Theresa May look good. Hell, he’s almost making Corbyn look statesmanlike. Johnson’s blunder has gifted Labour the best possible end to what was a catastrophically awful conference. Corbyn is able to pose as a saviour of parliamentary democracy, although Sir John Major did more to secure the case than he did, while Shami Chakrabarti is able to milk the judgement for all it is worth. No-one, for the time being, cares that much about Tom Watson or Composite 13. The Supreme Court has landed a famous dead cat on the table.

What would Johnson do? He ought to quit, but he won’t obviously want to go down in history as the UK's shortest serving premier. He’d also have nowhere to live, for a start. Chances are he would try and nail himself to the furniture and refuse to budge, but the very same treachery that led to the resignation of Theresa May would then be visited upon Johnson. The game would be up. He, Carrie and the Jack Russell would be out on the street, and few, frankly, would be that bothered.

To borrow a phrase of Johnson's hero Churchill, it is the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson’s short, brutal, unhappy premiership. Divorced, abandoned, his ambitions tuned to dust. No matter. The Supreme Court have, in a supreme act of public good, stopped the drift to rule by decree by Johnson and his Svengali Dominic Cummings (who must take a share of the blame) and restored our democratic rights. Job done, Lady Hale.

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