by Martin Odoni

I must be naive. I genuinely thought throughout the last few days that, at a time of growing and really alarming constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom, even a Prime Minister as greedy and self-obsessed as Boris Johnson would have realised that now was a good time to tread lightly for a bit.

What does Johnson do instead? Having prorogued Parliament, an act that today was ruled unlawful by a the Court of Session in Scotland, he decides to double-down on his undermining of the authority of the House of Commons by violating a legal instruction it gave him by vote.

The instruction was to publish correspondence among Government officials and advisors relating to the decision to prorogue, along with the ‘Yellowhammer’ document – the Government’s ‘planning assumptions‘ for a No Deal Brexit.

Instead, Johnson produces a version of Yellowhammer that has been doctored, with an altered title to imply worst-case scenarios rather than expected scenarios, and substantial redactions.

 

More here.

Johnson has also refused to comply fully with the instruction to release correspondence.

Even without the appalling timing of these moves, this would be a terrible look. As it is, it makes a very swift mockery of Tory MPs who were scoffing during Monday’s Parliamentary debates that ‘of course’ the Prime Minister would obey the law at all times. As though that goes without saying and the very question need never have been asked.

But of course it needed to be asked, and now we have our answer. Johnson will bend and break the law when it suits him, so long as he thinks he can get away with it by making it look like he is complying. It took just two days for Johnson to disprove his defenders. Even with the pace of recent events, that is frighteningly fast. Well okay, the instruction was not a Bill and so technically it is not itself in law. But the sovereignty of Parliament is, and so when any MP disobeys Parlament’s express instructions, he/she is quite definitely breaking the law of Parliamentary sovereignty. If a Prime Minister does not accept the sovereignty of Parliament, or the majesty of the law, well, what checks will he accept? Will only the use of force rein him in?

(RELATED THOUGHT: When we have to ask ourselves, “Is what I’m doing legal?” that usually means that we know that morally we should not do it, but we want to know precisely how badly we can get away with behaving. So whether Johnson’s redactions and withholding of correspondence are within the law or not makes little difference. The point is he should not be doing either. But Johnson does not care about what he should be doing, he only cares about what he can get away with.)

I have to reiterate that, due to the summer recess, Johnson has effectively been in the job of Prime Minister for all of about three weeks. During that time he has triggered a constitutional crisis, compromised the authority of Parliament, and is now embroiling himself and the country in repeated and increasingly convoluted legal turmoil. He could hardly find a more effective deliberate way to turn chaos into pandemonium than what he is doing now. What can he be thinking with this move? Is he thinking at all?

I have already called him Britain’s worst-ever Prime Minister. It would seem Johnson is determined to prove me right.