Column: Can Boris Weather This Storm?

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: Barely two months into office Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is facing one of the toughest challenges of his political career with calls for his resignation getting louder. The crisis surrounding him and his government has deepened following a ruling of the British Supreme Court that he had suspended the Parliament unlawfully.

The court verdict was delivered while Jonhnson, a former journalist, was in the US. Even as the Parliament resumed much against his wishes he brushed aside the demand for his resignation asserting that he “ strongly disagrees with this judgement”. But the damage seems to have been done with his public image taking a knock and the Opposition’s chorus for his ouster getting louder.

The Prime Minister has sought to defend himself saying that he wanted to suspend Parliament until Oct 14 to clear the way for a new government work programme in a new session. But his opponents are unanimous that his failed attempt to prorogue the top legislative body was aimed at limiting the scrutiny of his plans for Britain to leave the European Union, with or without a deal, on Oct 31.

The court ruled that Mr Johnson’s advice to Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament “was unlawful, void and has no effect”. According to the top court of the country it was not a normal prorogation as it prevented the Parliament from carrying out its normal role.

Though Johnson sought to put up a brave front asserting in a speech in New York that the court ruling would not deter him “from getting on and delivering on the will of the people to come out of the EU on Oct 31,” the judgement undoubtedly had delivered a body blow to him. The newspapers here have been scathing in their criticism of the Prime Minister. “ The verdict could not be more disastrous for the PM. He has been humiliated. His government, exactly two months old today, has suffered a catastrophic defeat. His Downing Steer team look like dunces—with a fatal combination of hubris, deceit and incompetence. Above all, Mr. Johnson has been exposed as powerless. And all for nothing. There was nothing to be gained by trying to prorogue parliament—and everything to lose,” wrote the Evening Standard in its editorial.

The edit further noted: “But today does matter for another reason, even bigger than the Brexit battle. The power of our parliamentary democracy has been reaffirmed. The rule of law has been established. Government has been brutally reminded that it is servant to those elected by the public to represent it. To the great dates of democracy,1215,1689,1832 and 1911, we can now add 2019.”

The ruling has expectedly intensified political activity in the country amidst speculation that Johnson could take the gamble of calling for a snap poll. Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who had advanced his keynote speech at the party conference in Brighton in the wake of Supreme Court verdict, is positioning himself to be able to take full advantage of the emerging situation. Politics in the country remains fluid at the moment.

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