The Supreme Court ruling and parliament’s return present a dilemma for opposition MPs.
In usual circumstances, any opposition party would be thrilled at the chance of a general election against a prime minister who had essentially been ruled as acting dishonestly by the highest court in the land. Especially when a minority government could allow the formation of an alternative government or, failing that, an election.
But these aren’t usual circumstances. And for the Labour leadership, not much has changed in terms of the risks of triggering an election. Pre-prorogation circumstances return tomorrow morning as the House of Commons sits again – with Labour’s reluctance to fight an election before the Brexit deadline included.
Before parliament was prorogued, both of Johnson’s attempts to call a general election were thwarted by MPs.
The Labour leadership wanted to wait until it was certain an extension of the Brexit deadline would be implemented, through the Benn Act – the legislation that delays a no-deal Brexit scenario – rather than risk crashing out during an election period. Another barrier for some is Corbyn’s lack of popularity (“we wouldn’t win anyway, have you seen the polls?” says one MP on the prospect of an election).
Although some Labour MPs and frontbenchers are putting pressure on the Labour leader to table a vote of confidence, there has been no signal yet from the leadership that this will happen – Corbyn has simply called on Johnson to “consider his position”.
The SNP is pushing for a vote of no confidence “as soon as is practically possible”, according to its Westminster leader Ian Blackford, but the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has so far also just been urging Johnson to resign.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, if a motion of no confidence passes then MPs have the opportunity to try and put together an alternative government that can command the confidence of the House within 14 days. If that fails, then parliament is dissolved and a general election is triggered. The so-called rebel alliance of cross-party politicians moving to stop no deal disagree over who would lead such an alternative government – so far showing little appetite or consensus for having Corbyn as its leader.