Please disregard any scurrilous rumours that I may have stolen the title of this blogpost from a rather splendid rhyme used by the chair of the Alba Party last night.
One of the really annoying things about the last couple of days is that every time I have an idea for a blogpost, it's overtaken by events by the time I get round to writing it. But to hell with it this time, I'm just going to write the post I had in mind before Boris Johnson resigned, even though it's entirely academic now. There was speculation yesterday that the one way Johnson might have been able to circumvent the fact that he had clearly lost the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the Tory parliamentary party was by dissolving parliament and calling a general election before MPs had a chance to oust him. You can see the attraction from a selfish point of view - if, as seems highly likely, he had lost the general election, he'd have been no worse off than he otherwise would have been, but if he somehow had gained a renewed mandate from the public, it would then have been impossible for MPs to move against him.
But would the Queen have granted a dissolution in these extraordinary circumstances? There's one really interesting precedent which hasn't been mentioned much because it happened outside the UK. In 2008, there was a constitutional crisis in Canada, which has a Westminster-style system of government, with the Governor-General performing the Queen's functions. The Conservatives emerged from a federal election as the largest single party, but without a majority. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation idiotically kept announcing on their results programme that a "Conservative minority government has been elected" - an entirely meaningless concept, and sure enough the three main opposition parties swiftly concluded a coalition deal to oust the Tories. But the Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a cunning wheeze. He knew that if he could prevent a no confidence vote in his government from taking place for a few weeks, there was a decent chance that the Liberals would change leader and withdraw from the proposed coalition. So he went to the Governor-General and requested an extended and entirely needless prorogation of parliament. As in the UK, it was theorised that dissolution and prorogation is one of the few genuine powers that the monarch or Governor-General holds, and that there was a real chance that such a cynical request from the PM would be rejected, especially as there was no parliamentary majority for it.
But it wasn't. The Governor-General took advice and clearly concluded it was constitutionally unthinkable to resist the Prime Minister's wishes. Harper's brazen plan came off exactly as intended - parliament was prorogued, a no confidence vote was averted, the Liberals changed leader and withdrew from the coalition, and Tory minority rule trundled on. So perhaps Boris Johnson would have got away with a dissolution request - although he would have gone down in infamy (or even more infamy) if he'd attempted that tactic.
One interesting thing now is how Boris Johnson will fare in the historical rankings of Prime Ministers - because although his premiership fell apart in even more catastrophic manner than Theresa May's, he did (unlike her) achieve the goal of "getting Brexit done". He's a bit like Edward Heath - a short-term Prime Minister who nevertheless did something huge and with lasting consequences during that short term. In the case of Johnson those consequences will be heavily negative, but nevertheless Brexit was what he was elected to do, so his place in the rankings will presumably have to take some account of that.
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