In the latest Brexit drama, the Scottish appeals court has ruled unanimously that UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation (i.e., suspension) of parliament until October 14 is unlawful. Courts in England, however, have rejected a similar challenge, saying that prorogation is a political matter over which they have no say. The courts in Northern Ireland are considering a similar case. So the situation is murky to say the least and it is not clear what comes next.
The starkly divergent conclusions of the English and Scottish courts are due to be resolved in a series of supreme court hearings next week. Northern Ireland’s judges are due to deliver their decision on a similar application on Thursday morning.
Johnson’s government has said that they would not be bound by the decision of the Scottish court (which has put further strain on England-Scotland relations) and would only bring back parliament if the Supreme Court ordered them to.
Meanwhile, the colorful Speaker of the UK parliament John Bercow has said that he would leave parliament on October 31 or before the next election, whichever comes first. He was first elected to parliament in 1997 as a Conservative MP and this article charts the evolution of his views leftward over time.
At university he was a member of the far-right Conservative pressure group the Monday Club and secretary of its immigration and repatriation committee. He had left the group by the age of 20 and has since described his views at the time as “boneheaded”. (He later led calls for Tory MPs to be banned from being members of the group.)
Around the early 2000s, Bercow’s politics began to become more socially liberal. In 2002 he married his wife Sally Illman, a Labour supporter, who stood to be a Labour councillor in Westminster in 2010. The same year as his marriage, Bercow resigned from the front bench after rebelling to vote for Labour plans to allow unmarried gay and heterosexual couples to adopt children. He told his constituency association in his new year’s message that year that voters saw the Tories as “racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-youth”.
Here are some tributes that were made to him following the announcement of his decision to retire.
His way of speaking and sense of humor has brought him a worldwide audience and endeared him to many (including me) who enjoyed the way he issued his rulings at a time when parliament was particularly rambunctious over Brexit and where many of the usual norms and processes fell by the wayside.