There is plenty of constitutional outcry on the front pages of the British papers today, which all lead with Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament ahead of the looming Brexit deadline. Front pages from abroad show the international press is transfixed too.
The Guardian says there is “Outrage as Johnson suspends parliament”. The paper leads with John Bercow’s comments that the decision was a “constitutional outrage” and the paper’s leader says: “Johnson’s move represents a grotesque abuse of the country’s highest office”.
The i has a similar headline: “MPs outraged as Johnson shuts down parliament” but also teases an opinion piece on its front page that calls Johnson’s decision a “Bold move [that] will divide the Conservative opposition”.
According to the Mail’s telling, it was not the prime minister but Jeremy Corbyn who sparked “fury” by demanding a meeting with the Queen. The paper is far more positive about Johnson’s decision, calling it a “historic move … to thwart anti-Brexit MPs”.
The FT focuses in on the implications for the constitution: “Boris Johnson sparked constitutional uproar yesterday”, says the paper. Bercow’s “constitutional outrage” comments are prominently featured.
The Times’ front page features a large, flattering black and white photo of the prime minister under the headline “Johnson goes for broke”. While it leads with the fact that the news has “pushed Britain to the brink of a constitutional crisis”, it also features a front page sketch in which it mocks Speaker John Bercow who challenged the constitutionality of Johnson’s decision. “John Bercow, Speaker of the Commons, was on his family holiday yesterday when he heard of Boris Johnson’s prorogation plans,” writes Quentin Letts. “How did it go down? Let’s just say you would not have wanted your new sandcastle anywhere in Mr Bercow’s orbit in those moments after he heard the news. He might have stamped up and down on it in a tantrum.”
The Telegraph, which employs Boris Johnson as a columnist, is very positive about his decision, leading on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s accusation that it is “MPs trying to thwart Brexit” – and not the proroguing PM –who are risking a “constitutional crisis”.
“Jacob Reese-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, hit back at those who accused Boris Johnson of being undemocratic, reminding them Parliament’s duty was, in the words of the constitutional expert AV Dicey, to ‘give effect to the will … of the nation’ – which had chosen to leave the EU.”
The Sun says “Ballsy Boris” has “come out fighting”: “Battling Boris Johnson took the fight to his Remainer enemies yesterday.” The paper also wins the award for best headline: “Hey big suspender”.
The Express is thrilled with the proroguing, writing: “PM secures approval from Queen to suspend Parliament in bold move to sweep aside MPs hellbent on stopping Britain from leaving the EU”. It attempts a bit of a sleight of hand by suggesting that by granting the suspension, the Queen must be in favour of it, with a picture of Her Majesty captioned: “Boris Johnson has had his move approved by the Queen”.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Mirror is furious, dubbing Johnson a “Prorogue” and saying he has been “branded a tinpot dictator for suspending Parliament” and that a no-deal Brexit could lead the NHS to face “‘ritual suicide’”. The paper also has a very different take on the Queen’s involvement, saying there was “outrage” at her being “dragged into chaos”.
The papers in Scotland understandably lead on the news that Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative party, is likely to quit over her unhappiness with Johnson. The Daily Record, which calls Wednesday “the day democracy died”, reports comments from Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister: “If Ruth can’t stand him then why should we?”
The National has a similar headline and teases a comment piece from Sturgeon, in which she writes: “Today is the day that independence became completely inevitable.” The Herald leads with a quote form Sturgeon: “‘Today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy” and the Scotsman has a similar lead: “Dark day for democracy”.
European newspapers are mixed, with several in Belgium calling it a “coup”, including De Morgen, which labels the event a “very British coup”.
De Standaard reports: “Johnson puts everything at stake for hard Brexit”.
ABC in Spain says Johnson has “put the Queen into the Brexit war” and Liberation in France says we are seeing a harder and harder Brexit.