Political commentator Chris Lloyd tries to find the real reasoning behind Boris Johnson’s explosive and controversial decision to shut down Parliament for four weeks in the middle of Britain’s greatest constitutional crisis

THIS is an explosive announcement. Theresa May was accused of kicking the Brexit can down the road and getting nowhere, but Boris Johnson has decisively picked the can up, shaken it thoroughly and then – clink, chizz – opened it, with explosive results.

But, as with all things Brexit, how you view it will depend upon which side of the huge Brexit divide you are on.

Mr Johnson is to prorogue Parliament – ie: shut it down – in the second week of September and will start a new session on October 14 with a Queen’s Speech outlining his new Government’s agenda.

Mr Johnson is arguing that this is simply a natural course of events. His opponents are screeching that it is an outrageous attempt to prevent debating the biggest national crisis for decades.

If you are a determined leaver, you will agree with Mr Johnson. After all, the current Parliamentary session, which started after Mrs May’s election on June 21, 2017, is the longest since records began – Mr Johnson says the longest for 400 years, certainly the longest since 1800. Therefore, it is due a restart, and as a new Prime Minister, he is duty bound to bring forward a Queen’s Speech outlining his bold vision for the future.

To hold a Queen’s Speech, Parliament has to be prorogued. Usually this lasts a day or two; perhaps four or so – but very, very rarely the four weeks that Mr Johnson is proposing.

However, during those four weeks, Parliament will be in recess – ie: on holiday – for at least a fortnight due to the party conference season so nothing will be done in the House. So Mr Johnson will argue that about three of those four weeks are a natural shutdown, and he’s just rounding it up to four as there is no pressing Parliamentary business. Indeed, apart from bickering about Brexit, MPs have had nothing to do for almost two years now, due to Brexit, and they are unlikely to solve the social care crisis if Parliament is open for a week in September.

If you are a remainer, or if you are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, then you will believe that Mr Johnson is deliberately shutting Parliament down to prevent MPs passing legislation that would make a no-deal exit on October 31 illegal.

Yesterday’s opposition meeting agreed to use Parliamentary measures, like seizing control of the order paper, to block no-deal. But if Parliament is prorogued, there will be no order paper for them to seize control of.

Therefore, you will see that Mr Johnson is shutting down debate and forcing through a no-deal – one critic has called him “a tin-pot dictator”; others are pointing out that if Brexit was all about Parliament taking control, it is outrageous that a Prime Minister, without any direct mandate from the people, should shut Parliament down to prevent it taking control.

Speaker John Bercow, a Conservative MP with remain sympathies, said it was a “constitutional outrage”, saying: "Shutting down Parliament would be an offence against the democratic process and the rights of Parliamentarians as the people's elected representatives.”

But what can he do? Indeed, what are Mr Johnson’s opponents prepared to do?

They now have to act fast. They have to act next week to stop a no-deal on October 31 and they need a new weapon. There was talk of using Standing Order No 24 or “a humble address”, and more alternatives will undoubtedly be spoken of as the day progresses.

The biggest, most powerful, alternative is a vote of no-confidence in Mr Johnson’s government. The opposition parties didn’t opt for this yesterday because it is uncertain that anyone has confidence in the alternative to Mr Johnson – Jeremy Corbyn – and because they need Tory rebels, like Dominic Grieve and Rory Stewart, on side.

There are 20 or 30 anti no-deal Tory rebels, enough to create an anti no-deal majority in Parliament. But Parliament won’t be sitting… So will those Tory rebels really vote to bring down a Tory Prime Minister if it is the only way to stop no-deal on October 31? Will they really do that as Mr Johnson has promised to continue negotiating a deal with the EU which he will bring back to the Commons soon after the EU summit on October 17? Will they vote to stop no-deal on October 31 and thus prevent a deal from happening on October 17?

Mr Johnson’s people will have wargamed the no-confidence vote and thought “bring it on”. If he loses, he will be able to go to the country in a general election and fight for the people against the Brexit-blockers of Parliament. This could be the populist ticket that out-populists Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party as the best way to get Brexit done on October 31.

But, when you shake the can as explosively as Mr Johnson has done before releasing it, you cannot tell where the contents will fly…