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  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
24 September 2019

The Supreme Court shames Boris Johnson and gives Jeremy Corbyn a boost

The Supreme Court has overturned Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament, and changed the political narrative.

By Stephen Bush

The Supreme Court has ruled that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament is “unlawful, void and of no effect,” as it was done with the express purpose of frustrating the constitutional role of parliament. In a worse defeat than expected for the government, all 11 judges agreed with the verdict – in contrast to Theresa May’s defeat over Article 50, where three of the 11 ruled that Article 50 did not need to be put to a vote.

That historical point has real political consequences because it makes it harder for ministers to argue that they had any point or case in proroguing parliament in the first place. But the consequences of the case go far beyond its consequences for Brexit.

Most importantly, a swathe of bills, on trade, domestic violence and divorce reform, which were not carried over into the new session, can resume their passage through the House. Equally importantly, it sharply limits the future use of a prime minister’s prerogative power to suspend parliament; as it means that the previous abuse of the power, by John Major in the run-up to the 1997 election, would likely not have held.

What does it mean for the wider political battle? Parliament has already forced one extension on the government so on Brexit the damage has been done. But it means that the government cannot use prorogation again in October, and, perhaps more importantly, it reopens an arena where the opposition parties can use every legal and legislative procedure in the book to repair the allegations levelled against Boris Johnson over his dealings with Jennifer Arcuri, the technology entrepreneur who received thousands of pounds from City Hall and whose friendship Johnson is accused of failing to disclose.

But more importantly, it arrives at the perfect time for Corbyn. He got a great clip for the news bulletins and his social media channels by taking to the stage of the conference floor to announce the verdict, it blows the stories about Labour’s Brexit policy out of the water, and if the Labour leadership is smart it will use this as an excuse to cancel Tom Watson’s speech – an event that can only bring them pain – and Corbyn’s tomorrow, and will instead make a big show out of Corbyn “turning up for work” at parliament.

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