After the Supreme Court judgement declaring the prorogation illegal, Boris Johnson flew home to attend to parliamentary business. Why did he do this? Was it for personal gain or is he required to by parliamentary rule/convention? Was he summoned back by some official process?

It seems to his personal detriment to attend, as the sanctions which could be imposed on him by the house (no confidence, leadership election) all waste that same time that the attempted prorogation seemed to be designed to waste.

He seems to be taking a strategy where he gently implies illegitimacy of the post-prorogue parliament, the Supreme Court decision, "will of the people", etc, which he could have effectively achieved by just by carrying on his foreign business and leaving parliamentary business to his deputies. Prime Ministers are away for a couple of weeks from time-to-time.

Was anything in statute or long-held convention compelling him to return? If not, how was it to his political advantage?

  • 1
    Upvoting, just for question formulation. Like a story from children book, or a label for puzzle image.) Sep 26, 2019 at 10:59
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    Gently? Sep 26, 2019 at 11:28
  • @Martin, you ruined so cool question title!!! Sep 26, 2019 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


It seems to have been a personal choice to enable him to attend Prime Minister's Questions, and also to attempt to take control of government business.

Having just run a campaign against Corbyn calling him a coward for not calling an election, not attending Parliament would leave him wide open to accusations of hiding from it. Instead he has returned to attack its legitimacy in person.

Edit: I'd forgotten the conference! There was a vote just now to have a recess (distinct from prorogation) for three days to allow the Conservative Party to go to their conference (29th September-2nd October). They lost this 289-306.

The disintegration of the Conservative party continues; I think this now means there are days when Parliament is sitting and can pass motions (although probably not legislation at that speed) during the conference. So the MPs can't attend it in case they miss a critical vote. (Please correct this paragraph if it's not correct)

  • Yes, I suppose James "Crisis? What Crisis?" Callahghan would have been a worry. I think I've made the eternal mistake of forgetting that political acts are usually motivated by the next election rather than attempting to achieve some policy goal.
    – Dannie
    Sep 26, 2019 at 12:44
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    Well, the policy objective is Brexit, which is still the default course of action; he's here to stall anti-Brexit actions to ensure No Deal Brexit. The fighting language is part of that. At the moment holding a VONC or any other anti-Boris action makes that more likely, unless an unlikely coalition can form around Corbyn.
    – pjc50
    Sep 26, 2019 at 13:15
  • Brexit is getting weirder every day, indeed. Labour could indeed derail Brexit during the Tories congress, and if the Tories are absent from Parliament then Labour can even set the agenda. So if's not a matter of "if there is a critical vote in their absence". In the absence of Tories, there *will be a critical vote.
    – MSalters
    Sep 26, 2019 at 14:02
  • Was there actually a formal PMQs? I'd understood that the slot had to be missed due to lack of notification of the order of business, so there were only "ordinary" emergency debates.
    – origimbo
    Sep 26, 2019 at 15:51
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    It appears to have been "Prime Minister's Update": hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-09-25/debates/…
    – pjc50
    Sep 26, 2019 at 17:45

It would have looked very bad for Boris if he had not returned, having just lost a major court case and with Parliament meeting to scrutinize his actions. If he had stayed away it would have looked like he was trying to avoid being held accountable or having to defend his actions.

He also has some business to attend to in the House, mainly trying to secure a recess for the Tory Party Conference starting on Sunday.

With an election looming it seems that at least part of the reason for his early return was to score some political points and push his narrative that the opposition parties were scared (of an election) and frustrating the will of the people. Hence the extreme language he used in Parliament yesterday, with words like "surrender" and "traitor" flying about.

More generally speaking Prime Ministers are expected to return from whatever trip or holiday they are on when major national crisis happen.

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    So you agree with @pjc50 that the act is best understood in terms of his personal standing (say, for a future election) rather than implementing to assist in implementing brexit as he wishes?
    – Dannie
    Sep 26, 2019 at 13:06
  • (I can't edit my comment above any more but @pjc50 has since clarified his answer in comments and if I could I would remove "So you agree with @pjc50" from my comment above).
    – Dannie
    Sep 26, 2019 at 13:20

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