The Scottish Court of Session’s ruling that the prorogation of Parliament is unlawful has drawn a strong response from the nation’s newspapers.
Some titles say it shows Boris Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister, others that a judicial ruling on an action by the Government marks an entry into “murky” constitutional waters.
Those taking more of a middle line say Mr Johnson should now at least fully explain his reasons for the prorogation.
The left-wing Guardian came out strongly against Mr Johnson.
Its editorial highlighted the judges’ view that prorogation, which required the Queen’s assent, was a move to stymie Parliament, and not to push through the Government’s legislative package as claimed.
The Guardian says that, even if the Scottish decision is overruled on appeal next week, “the dishonesty of Mr Johnson’s prorogation gambit has been recorded as a matter of fact”.
The Prime Minister had “abused his power” by having taken “a ceremonial function of the crown and weaponised it for ultra-partisan ends”.
“He gamed the vulnerability in the system, inveigling the Queen into a potentially unlawful enterprise,” the Guardian says.
“Since Mr Johnson has no respect for the unwritten conventions that underpin the British constitution, he plainly cannot be trusted with the powers afforded by those conventions to the office of prime minister.”
The conservative Telegraph, however, says the Scottish ruling is a dangerous development, calling on the Supreme Court to overrule it next week when the Government appeals.
“We are getting into murky constitutional waters when the courts seek to strike down a Crown decision to prorogue Parliament through the exercise of a prerogative power that the judiciary in the past would have considered beyond their purview,” the paper said in its editorial.
“This is a matter of fundamental importance that goes far beyond the politics of Brexit and has significant implications for the future constitutional relationships between the institutions of the state.
“The Supreme Court must strike down the Court of Session ruling … if this age-old balance is not to be dangerously upset.”
The Telegraph also carries a column by the Lawyers for Britain group’s vice-chairman, Clive Thorne, saying the best check on a government is that which comes at election time.
“Enoch Powell once admonished that the people should not leave to judges what they themselves can dispose of at the ballot box,” he writes. “The current litigation relating to the legality of the advice to the Sovereign to prorogue Parliament is evidence of the wisdom of Powell’s dictum.”
Meanwhile, the Times treads a middle path.
In an analysis, it says that, regardless of whether it is overruled, the Scottish decision plays into Mr Johnson’s hands as a tool for the next election.
“If his political strategy is correct, then the legal intricacies of the case matter less than the perception that the establishment is trying to stop him from securing Brexit,” the analysis said.
“No matter how the case is settled … he is betting his political livelihood that setting himself against the establishment will win him a Tory majority.”
In its editorial, The Times says the Prime Minister should at least now fully explain his reasons for the suspension.
Saying the decision has added to the state of “agitated crisis” blanketing British politics, the paper calls on Mr Johnson to calm matters “by demonstrating the valid domestic political reasons to suspend Parliament”.
“The onus is on Mr Johnson to demonstrate that he acted properly in advising the Queen to prorogue Parliament,” the editorial says.
The paper adds that the Scottish ruling does not compel the Government to recall Parliament, as opposition figures are demanding, but that to “press on regardless of the state of judicial opinion would be damaging for British public life, and possibly terminally so for Mr Johnson’s premiership”.