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Ponsonby: Prime Minister is in office, but not in power

Boris Johnson encountered his latest kicking at the hands of Scotland's highest civil court.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson Toby Melville/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Kicked repeatedly in parliament and now by the Court of Session, Boris Johnson encounters problems at every turn.

Lord Doherty, in a rare moment of respite for the Prime Minster, had ruled that the issue of prorogation was essentially a matter of politics, not law, that the Prime Minister's political behaviour did not give rise to a legal issue. In the jargon of the legal world, his behaviour was not justiciable.

Not so say three of the country's top judges. They have said that the exercise of prerogative powers are not normally reviewable by the courts.

They have, however, intervened because they say it is unlawful to use prorogation for the purpose of styming parliamentary scrutiny of the executive.

The judges clearly side with the argument that the suspension of parliament was nothing to do with helping to facilitate a Queen's Speech and everything to do with hiding from the scrutiny of MPs.

The UK Government will appeal this and ultimately the Supreme Court will give a ruling. If they uphold the judgment of the Scottish court then the Prime Minister faces the prospect of having to recall parliament in a further display of weakened authority.

Boris Johnson is being bounced around by events in repeated shows that he is in office but not in power. Defeated in parliament and now by a court of law, the Prime Minister still believes that the only court that counts is the court of public opinion.

Brexit supporting Conservatives will argue that Remain MPs are exploiting parliamentary procedures and now the courts to embarrass and harass the Prime Minister with an end game of reversing the will of the people. On that argument they believe victory will be delivered at a general election.

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