Aaaaand breathe. Parliament is suspended; we can focus on the final TUC congress 2019 speeches; Labour has a little space to explore policy options and test run new manifesto ideas ahead of an early election. Right? Not exactly. Westminster was back on our tellies sooner than expected yesterday as a Scottish court found that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was not motivated by an innocent desire to bolster the government’s domestic agenda but instead a move to “stymy parliament”. And therefore unlawful.
We all knew that, of course – the question is whether it is legal or not. The Scots have said it isn’t, and – as the government hasn’t applied for that ruling to be suspended – it would appear that No10 is currently acting unlawfully. But they’re waiting for what comes out of the UK Supreme Court, which will consider this matter next week, and not budging until then, despite many MPs’ calls for immediate recall. (Technically, it would not be recall but an acceleration of its next meeting. Well, unless it was never prorogued at all. It’s complicated.) The English judgment on the Gina Miller case said prorogation for political advantage was not unlawful. Either way, though, a court has found that the Prime Minister has lied to the public and the Queen.
Later, Kwasi Karteng got in a spot of trouble when he told the BBC’s new Andrew Neil Show: “I’m not saying this, but many people… are saying that the judges are biased.” He did not go on to robustly correct this assumption as you might expect a minister to do; he simply put it out there. We’re returned to ‘Enemies of the People’ territory (a story written by the PM’s official spokesman, let’s not forget).
We wouldn’t want to cast doubt on Dominic Cummings’ genius, but the government’s woes didn’t end there yesterday. Dominic Grieve’s motion on Monday ordered the release of private communications relating to prorogation and the Operation Yellowhammer documents on no-deal disruption. Last night, as expected, the government complied with the latter but not the former. WhatsApps etc would be “an unprecedented, inappropriate, and disproportionate use” of the humble address, Michael Gove explained. But the five-page Yellowhammer text does not appear straight-forward either.
With warnings of medicine shortages, less fresh food, rising fuel prices, possible riots and an admission that “low income groups will be disproportionately affected” in the case of no deal, it is almost identical to the leaked version published by The Times in mid-August. And yet that one was labelled a “base scenario”, and this one is pitched as “worst case planning assumptions”. Another thing: Gove dismissed that leak as outdated, but it appears that it was only from August 2nd and not defunct at all. Never a dull moment with Boris Johnson in power. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.