The dramatic twist and turn of UK politics continued this week – the early end to the opposition Labour party conference in response to the extraordinary ruling from the Supreme Court that parliament was, against the wishes of the government, still in session. The earlier suspension, granted by the Queen on the advice of her government was found unlawful. As we reflected earlier in the week, the UK’s unwritten constitutional settlement is being tested once more by Brexit.
So it is Brexit again that continues to consume everything. The Labour conference ended early on Tuesday to make way for parliament – Leader, Jeremy Corbyn ended it by launching Labour’s election campaign. It may not have been official, but everyone knew it. In the hall, on the podium and in the fringes. And it was radical. Corbyn’s speech was littered with red meat for the Labour faithful (scrapping the Trade Union Act), full-fat Corbynista policies on nationalisation and a National Education Service and frank rhetoric about taxing the top 5% to pay for it – even if a lot of it wasn’t new; it was a manifesto.
Today, parliament also returns on something of a war footing. Oddly, the Supreme Court ruling means relatively little, apart from the enormity of its judgement. The Government controls the agenda, meaning the opposition would need to seize control again if they wanted to do anything, and it’s not clear what they would do if they did.
Perhaps though, that’s by-the-by. Labour wants an election, just like the Tories, but Labour will control when it happens. The next few weeks will be about electioneering in parliament. They will hold Johnson’s feet to the flames, use the Tories’ conference next week against them by scheduling votes in Westminster (unless we have a brief conference recess), and generally cause them as much embarrassment and make them look as weak as they can.
It’s starting to look like Labour has the upper hand and the Tories desperately need to take back control. With a general election still possible before Christmas, once again we have a prime minister facing the most real call for resignation.