Hanging by a thread: calls for PM to resign
Will Johnson go? “He misled the Queen, the people, the Parliament,” proclaims one headline this morning. Today, he will face a furious Commons. Could it be the shortest premiership in history?
What happens next?
British politics is in chaos this morning as a humiliated Prime Minister cuts short his visit to an important gathering of world leaders in New York to face the wrath of MPs, in a hastily recalled Parliament.
The media is in uproar, some headlines calling for his resignation and others accusing the Supreme Court of wrongful interference in democracy.
The Queen is said to be upset and angry (though, as always, this is based on anonymous briefings). Despite a lifetime of staying neutral, she has been dragged into a political storm. There are calls for a written constitution. The role of the monarchy may be under review.
Experts are pointing out the bitter irony: in his fight for British “sovereignty”, has Johnson managed to undermine the royal family? What a pyrrhic victory that would be.
Late last night, Johnson was refusing to budge. This defiance could change extremely fast today when he faces Parliament. If he resigns, he would have a special place in history as the shortest-serving Prime Minister ever.
Against this volatile backdrop there are two big questions.
What does it mean for Brexit? Jeremy Corbyn was meeting the leaders of the Scottish Nationalists, Lib Dems and other opposition parties last night to work out how to exert maximum pressure to achieve their number one goal: making sure Johnson cannot escape the legal obligation set out in the Benn-Burt bill to delay Brexit if he has not reached a deal of any description by 19 October.
Johnson has always insisted he will not request an extension of Article 50, and may be hoping that the EU summit on 17 October will provide a breakthrough.
Government ministers have repeatedly dodged questions about whether they think there are loopholes they could use to avoid complying with the Benn-Burt legislation.
But it would risk another potentially humiliating legal battle with the courts if Johnson chose to go down that route. In a hint he could have another go at suspending Parliament, he said there was a “good case for getting on with a Queen’s speech”.
Does any of this make an election more likely? Johnson would like to have an election as soon as possible, but he has failed to force the necessary legal instrument through Parliament.
As he put it, “We have a Parliament that is unable to be prorogued […and] doesn’t want to have an election.”
The opposition parties don’t want an election until Johnson has asked for the Brexit extension.
Their calculation is that Johnson will be weakened by doing so because he has made delivering Brexit on 31 October “come what may” the totem of his prime ministership. They can, therefore, go to the country portraying him as someone who has failed to deliver his promises.
So, we return to the biggest question of all: will the Prime Minister resign?
Jeremy Corbyn pounced immediately after the court ruling was read out yesterday and said the PM must now “consider his position”. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, said a premier with “any honour would tender his resignation”. She said that if Johnson will not do the “decent and honourable thing”, then MPs should try to force him out.
But Johnson responded to the ruling by insisting he was right and the judges had got their decision wrong. He had previously said that he had no intention of resigning if the court ruled against him and based on his hardline comments last night that position has not changed.
- Should Boris Johnson resign?
- Is this one of the “great days in the British constitution” as UK constitutional expert Peter Hennessy said yesterday?
- Write down three reasons why Boris Johnson should resign and three reasons why he should refuse to go.
- Using the Expert Links, make a flowchart of the various different scenarios that could take place in Parliament this autumn.
Some People Say...
“No Prime Minister must ever treat the monarch or Parliament in this way again.”John Major, Prime Minister (1990-1997)
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Technically, a motion of no confidence can be tabled by Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Opposition later today. If Johnson loses and no other Government can be formed by MPs, then a general election is inevitable.
- What do we not know?
- Whether Corbyn will bother. Close friends of Corbyn, like Unite leader Len McCluskey, think that he should keep Johnson hanging on.
- The full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies
- A victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. It is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC.
- The Benn-Burt bill forces Johnson to ask for an extension to the UK’s membership of the European Union and makes a no-deal Brexit illegal without parliamentary approval.
- Article 50
- Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any EU member state the right to quit unilaterally and outlines the procedure for doing so. It gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal.
- A symbol.