John Major vows to take Boris Johnson to court if he tries to shut down Parliament to force no-deal Brexit
4 min read
Sir John Major has threatened to take Boris Johnson to court if the Conservative leadership frontrunner tries to shut down Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.
In an extraordinary intervention, the Tory former Prime Minister said it would be “utterly and totally unacceptable” to drag the Queen into a political row by asking her to prorogue Parliament.
He said he would be one of “a queue of people” willing to launch a judicial review if Mr Johnson pushed ahead with the controversial plan.
Sir John’s comments came just hours after Mr Johnson told a leadership debate with rival Jeremy Hunt that prorogation should not be taken “off the table” to ensure Brexit happens on 31 October.
The former Tory leader, who is backing Mr Hunt, told the Today programme: “I think the idea of proroguing Parliament is utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat.
“In order to close down Parliament, the Prime Minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue.
“If her first minister asks for that permission it is almost inconceivable that the Queen will do anything other than grant it... and then she is in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the Queen in the middle of.
“Now, I think this is completely and utterly against Parliamentary tradition and against the way in which our government should work.
“If that were to happen I think there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review.
“The Queen’s decision cannot be challenged in law. But the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law.
“And I, for one, would be prepared to go and seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed.”
Sir John said he was “proud” to have served in Parliament for more than two decades and felt “admiration for our Parliamentary traditions”
He said: “I’m not going to stand by and see them disregarded in this fashion.
“It is utterly, utterly and completely the wrong way to proceed.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Sir John also took a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Johnson for suggesting he will sack Sir Kim Darroch, the UK’s ambassador to Washington, if he becomes Prime
Sir Kim is at the centre of a political storm after leaked diplomatic cables in which he described Donald Trump’s administration as “inept” were leaked to the Mail on Sunday.
The US President has responded by severing ties with the ambassador and attacking Theresa May.
Sir John said Sir Kim had been doing “precisely and absolutely what he was instructed when he went there, which is to report fairly to the Government”.
He added: “The whole of the diplomatic service - which is vital to the interests of this country - will have seen that one of their most senior diplomats was prepared to be thrown to the wolves because of the criticism of a non-British government.
“I do not think that is good for the morale of the civil service. And I do not think anybody who does that will endear themselves in obtaining the loyalty of the civil service in the future. Loyalty is a two-way street.
“Mr Darroch has not misbehaved. He has behaved exactly as he was expected to behave - indeed, probably instructed to behave. And he deserves the support of the British government.
“We cannot have our diplomats frozen out by governments who are hostile to a private report that a diplomat has made. Once that happens it may happen elsewhere. Once that happens you undermine the whole of our diplomacy.
“If this means a short-term freeze in relationships that would be very unfortunate because America are a very important ally of this country and always have been.
“But nonetheless - there comes a time where principle has to come first. And the principle that we stand by our ambassadors when they have behaved entirely properly is one that cannot be changed.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe