Prime Minister Boris Johnson Now Odds On to Be UK’s Shortest-Serving Leader

Posted on: September 24, 2019, 09:09h. 

Last updated on: September 24, 2019, 02:13h.

Bookies believe British prime minister Boris Johnson will not survive in the job until the end of the year, which could make him the country’s shortest-serving leader of all time.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson’s days in Number 10 may be numbered after the UK Supreme Court found he acted illegally in suspending parliament. (Image: Getty)

The odds of Johnson making it through 2019 were slashed on Tuesday from 6/4 to 10/11 after the UK’s Supreme Court ruled emphatically that he had acted unlawfully in suspending parliament earlier this month.

The ruling was described by the BBC today as “legal, constitutional and political dynamite,” and will come as a fresh blow to Johnson’s short but tumultuous tenure.

Critics of the prime minister’s decision to suspend parliament — a procedure known as “proroguing” — for five weeks argued that he had done so to stop lawmakers from scrutinizing his plans for engineering the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union ahead of the October 31 deadline.

These include the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit,” which many fear could have disastrous economic consequences for the country, but which Johnson sees as key to his brinkmanship negotiating tactics.

‘Extreme’ Effect on Democracy

In the days before parliament’s suspension, lawmakers scrambled to get a bill across the finishing line that made no-deal illegal. Many suggested that proroguing parliament held chilling implications for British democracy.

The Supreme Court agreed. The court’s president, Lady Hale, said the process was illegal because “it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”

“The effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme,” she added.

Despite calls to step down, Johnson, who is currently in New York, appeared to be in no mood to resign on Tuesday, arguing that the ruling made his job of securing a good trade deal with the EU more difficult.

Nevertheless, bookmakers now believe he only has a 48 percent probability of seeing out the year as prime minister, down from a 77.8 percent chance before today’s ruling was announced.

Johnson has been in office for 62 days, and needs to survive another 57 in order to avoid the stigma of becoming Britain’s shortest termer. In case you’re wondering, the current holder of that title is George Canning, who died in office in 1827 after 119 days.

Who Would Win a UK General Election?

All this Brexit-based turmoil makes a general election before the end of the year a very likely prospect (1/3 with bookmakers), with November now considered the most likely month. Paddy Power has Johnson as an underdog to lead the Conservative Party — which no longer has a parliamentary majority — to the ballot.

Betting volume often provides a clearer picture than bookmakers’ actual odds when trying to predict an election winner, simply because people will wager wildly varying amounts of money on their preferred outcome, but they only get to vote once.

And it’s really, really close. According to Oddschecker, 38 percent of all bets are currently being placed on the Conservative Party, while 37 percent on Labour, the main opposition party.

Plenty can happen before election day, of course — although on this evidence, we’re looking at another hung parliament, with no one party gaining a clear majority. That suggests more of the same Brexit impasse in the legislature that has been plaguing British politics for the past few years.