Courting Danger : Scottish Court Deems Proroguing Unlawful

For crying out loud, I just wanted a nice, quiet rest. Last week was mental, Monday was mental, at least with Parliament prorogued we could have a nice, quiet conference season.

But noooo, heaven for-bloody-bid. They just had to go and ruin it, didn’t they.

Yesterday, just as things started to get back to normal (Labour at war with itself, Johnson insisting he can get a deal), boom – a bombshell dropped.

The Scottish Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, ruled that Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

That sounds big. And it is.

Unless something else, equally bonkers, comes in to overshadow it.


Rogue Proroguing

After Monday’s now typically crazy day in Parliament, it was shut down by Boris Johnson’s government. Not in a fun, Skepta way, but in a “MPs aren’t allowed to debate Brexit when it’s less than two months away” way.

This is known as proroguing, and there has been quite some backlash to it. MPs on Monday refused to take part in the ceremonial proroguing ceremony, with some holding up cards saying “SILENCED” in protest.

Now, here comes the fun part. Johnson and his aides claimed that, as a new government after Theresa May, needed to set out an agenda. This would be done via a Queen’s Speech, usually once a year, and Parliament is prorogued before this.

All of this is, in theory, completely conventional.

However, Johnson’s opponents immediately went eye-poppingly apoplectic about it. The real reason BoJo wanted to prorogue Parliament, they argued, was to prevent them from blocking a no-deal Brexit.

In normal circumstances, when everything isn’t on fire, to hold a vote in order to approve or deny a no-deal Brexit would take weeks. Boris’ plan, his opponents argued, was to deny them that time and to hide away from scrutiny.

In the end, they managed to seize control of the Parliamentary timetable, schedule in a vote, and defeat Boris anyway.

In fact, they’ve done that six times in the space of a week.


So Why All The Hullabaloo? The Rebels Got What They Wanted

Yes, but there is more to the story than just Boris trying to block no-deal.

According to the ruling yesterday, our Prime Minister lied to the Queen.

OHHH SNAP

Oh snap indeed.


Don’t Be A Meanie To The Queenie

So. Last week, while everything was kicking off last week, two separate legal challenges were made against prorogation. One was in England, the other in Scotland.

Initially, both failed. Both courts believed that Johnson’s move was a political one, not a lawful one, and could not be ruled upon.

However, yesterday, after an appeal to the “Inner House” of the Sessions Court in Edinburgh, the three Inner House judges disagreed entirely.

In a unanimous verdict (which is important), they decided that Johnson’s move was, in fact illegal. This is because prorogation in this instance was “a tactic to frustrate Parliament,” which is illegal under the constitution.

Quick politics lesson.

The Government (the Prime Minister and Ministers) governs – they are called the executive. Parliament (all of the MPs across all parties in the House of Commons) vote on new laws and bills – they are the legislature.

The role of the legislature is to scrutinise, pick holes, and eventually accept or deny the executive’s decisions. This is to ensure the executive governs to a high standard and society is represented in decisions made (we, the people, vote to elect MPs).

All of this is enshrined in our constitution – the rulebook for how our politics works. It is, at its core, the ultimate power in the land.

The courts yesterday said that Boris was denying the legislature its role to scrutinise. As such, he was violating the constitution.

This made proroguing Parliament illegal. The judges called the proroguing unlawful, and that MPs should be free to return to Parliament.

However, perhaps most damaging for Johnson is that, in order to get the Queen’s permission to prorogue Parliament, he would have had to have told her that he was doing it for a Queen’s Speech.

If, as the courts ruled, he was doing it to shut Parliament away, then he had duped the Queen into proroguing Parliament on false pretences.

I would imagine Her Majesty was a bit distracted while watching Pointless this afternoon.


So What Happens Now?

Well, first of all, this isn’t a done deal – the government is appealing the ruling at the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court next Tuesday. It could well be overturned.

Parliament could return this week, following yesterday’s ruling. However, this is supposedly Johnson’s responsibility – he must recall them before they can sit again. He is unlikely to do this, especially not before the appeal is heard.

If Johnson is found to be guilty, then he will have little choice but to resign. While being the champion of Brexit is one thing, a convicted liar in the highest elected position in the land is not a good look.

If he were to remain, it could be electoral suicide for the Tories.

There is also a slim possibility that Johnson might go to jail. That would be one hell of a story.

Additionally, he has seemed to have relaxed his stringent, no-deal approach to Brexit in favour of seeking a deal. The Brexit Party, by contrast, want a “pure” Brexit. Nigel Farage today offered an alliance to Johnson through a newspaper spread in the Daily Express, which they paid an enormous sum of money for.

Johnson, or at least, a No. 10 aide, told them to jog on.

For those voters who want a no-deal Brexit, the Tories are no longer that party. That could damage them, hard, at the next election.


Yellowhammer

Right, look, it’s too late to get into this now at the time of writing, but the government, after being forced to by Parliament last week, has just released some documentation from Operation Yellowhammer.

This is the no-deal Brexit team revealing the truths behind what no-deal would mean.

In short, it says there could be riots, rises in food prices and reduced medical supplies.

We knew this already, but now the government has confirmed it.

More on this tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that.

While it might have recently looked as though prorogation might have bought Boris some time, it now looks as though his time is running out.

Rapidly.

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