The Supreme Court ruled today that Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it stopped Parliament carrying out its proper duties. The Court’s decision was unanimous (with all 11 Judges concurring).
Lady Hale, the Supreme Court President, said: “The effect on the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme. The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
The ruling effectively means that Parliament was not prorogued and it is for the Speakers of the House of Commons and the House of Lords to decide what to do next. John Bercow, the Commons’ Speaker welcomed the ruling and said Parliament must be convened immediately. Subsequently he announced that the House will now meet tomorrow.
Mr Johnson is currently attending a climate change conference in the US. He's previously said he will not resign if the Supreme Court rules against him. He has even threatened to prorogue Parliament again but that would involve the Queen and it is possible she would refuse in the light of the Supreme Court ruling.
Disagreements about policy are the normal stuff of politics but there have been none as deep and bitter as this one in living memory
The Government has no majority in the House of Commons and has lost all six votes since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister. Traditionally those votes and this judgement would lead to the Prime Minister calling a general election. The Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 prevents him doing that unless he has a two-thirds majority of the House supporting it. The opposition parties are refusing to give him that because an election now would take us close to 31st October and the no-deal Brexit they oppose.
Underlying this situation is Boris Johnson’s maverick style of leadership. Calls for his resignation are already being made but he is unlikely to do that and a majority of his own party will remain loyal to him. His Conservative critics have already had the party whip withdrawn or left the party. The members of the party in the country who elected him as leader will mostly back him because they support his commitment to leaving the EU on 31st October even if it means doing so without a deal.
Whatever one thinks about this situation, it does nothing to heal the divisions in the country about Brexit. Disagreements about policy are the normal stuff of politics but there have been none as deep and bitter as this one in living memory. Finding a way out of the present muddle and confusion calls for the leadership skills to find a way forward that most people understand and support. Evidently, Boris Johnson does not have those qualities.