As I See It: Terry Murden
A lot of commentators have been indignantly objecting to those they accuse of confusing Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling with Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans. They are technically correct, but their argument loses the point of why the legal action was deemed necessary in the first place.
The legal action concerned the rights of parliament, specifically the suspension of Commons business, but it was pursued because of the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy, specifically the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal. Short of that, there would have been no suspension, as a number of senior Tories are now inadvertently admitting in their defence of the Prime Minister’s actions.
His opponents may be righteously claiming to have won the fight in the name of democracy, but to pretend it was not triggered by the deep divisions over Brexit and a wish to shame the Prime Minister’s strategy is disingenuous. It is questionable whether the legal action over suspension would have been pursued if Mr Johnson had ruled out the No Deal option and taken a more conciliatory approach to Brexit. To that extent it was personal; a move to oust an unyielding and elitist Prime Minister and weaken further the Tory government.
Aside from Brexit, the only other topic of debate when MPs take their seats in the Commons will be Mr Johnson’s future. Calls for his resignation because he acted unlawfully have so far been met with firm resistance from Downing Street even though they extend beyond the opposition benches. The Financial Times broke with a long tradition and house rule of not using its leader columns to call for heads to roll. Following the verdict, it said: “faced with such a damning verdict, any premier with a shred of respect for British democracy and the responsibilities of his office would resign.”
It has to be said that the crisis is one of Mr Johnson’s own making. His arrogance and untruths have been evident in the few weeks since he took office. It reflects badly on him, his party, the government and the country.
Yet he might just get away with it. The opinion polls give him a commanding lead – enough for him to confidently demand a general election – though we’ve yet to see the impact of this week’s events. His prospects of surviving depend on how much opinion swings behind Jeremy Corbyn who has the dubious distinction of being the least popular Labour leader in recent times. He has yet to convince either end of the voting public that Labour is fit to govern. The CBI yesterday condemned him and his party for an annual conference that amounted to a sustained attack on business that would undermine the economy, that traditional yardstick of voting intentions.
Mr Johnson may have lost respect among the commentators (including know-it-all telly analysts and the twitterati) but the wider public are deeply suspicious of Mr Corbyn’s plans for widespread nationalisation and new public services that will impose huge burdens on the taxpayer.
Britain has not voted for a such a left wing agenda since Attlee’s post-war administration ushered in the welfare state and the nationalisation of coal and the railways. Those were extraordinary circumstances when the country was in ruins and there was a need to tackle the evils of poverty, ignorance and ill-health and when the cancellation of a two-week holiday in Marrakech was not considered a national crisis.
We may be living in extraordinary circumstances of a different kind just now, but the country is not in a hurry to spend billions nationalising the electricity industry or scrap private schools. There is, put simply, just one story in town. The 17.4m who voted Brexit still want their own day in the sun. Many of those just want Mr Johnson to ‘get on with it’ and get Britain out of the UK, court rulings or not.