Will he or won’t he? Jeremy Corbyn faces make-or-break decision on backing a pre-Christmas general election TODAY as Number 10 hints it could back SNP and Lib Dems’ rival plan for a December 9 poll if Labour leader bottles it
- MPs will decide later on whether to back Boris Johnson’s plea to go to the polls
- PM wants general election on December 12 but will need Labour support to get it
- Jeremy Corbyn says he will only support election once No Deal Brexit ruled out
- EU today granted UK Brexit delay to January 2020, piling pressure on Mr Corbyn
- Meanwhile, Lib Dems and SNP have hatched plan to outflank Labour on election
- If Labour block PM’s poll bid he could back the plan for election on December 9
Mr Corbyn is still insisting that the Prime Minister rules out a No Deal Brexit before he ill instruct his party to back a vote under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass
Jeremy Corbyn will today decide whether to back Boris Johnson’s bid for an election on December 12 as the Liberal Democrats and the SNP moved to outflank the Labour leader if he blocks the snap poll.
Mr Johnson will ask the House of Commons to vote for a pre-Christmas election this afternoon and he will need the support of two thirds of MPs to get his wish.
But Mr Corbyn has said he will only back a snap poll once a No Deal Brexit has been categorically ruled out.
The EU this morning granted the UK a three month Brexit delay to January 31 as the bloc seemingly removed the prospect of a chaotic split between Britain and Brussels.
Mr Corbyn will convene a special meeting of the shadow cabinet this lunchtime to decide how to whip his MPs for the election vote this evening.
However, despite the EU granting an extension there is growing speculation that Mr Corbyn will order his MPs to abstain on the crunch vote, scuppering Mr Johnson’s hopes of securing the support of the 434 MPs he will need.
Meanwhile, if Mr Corbyn does whip his MPs to vote for the December 12 polling day he will face a mass rebellion within his party with scores of Labour backbenchers adamant that they will not support an election before Brexit is resolved.
They believe Labour’s current position of staying neutral on Brexit will see the party decimated at the ballot box.
Should Mr Corbyn choose to abstain on the vote or if his MPs ignore any instruction to vote for the election then his political opponents are waiting to pounce with an alternative plan.
Yesterday it emerged that the Liberal Democrats and SNP had agreed a proposal to bring forward a simple piece of legislation which, if passed, would see an election held on December 9.
The draft law, which will be brought forward tomorrow if Mr Johnson fails to meet the two thirds threshold at today’s vote, was initially dismissed as a ‘stunt’ and a ‘gimmick’ by Cabinet ministers.
But Downing Street then changed tack and suggested the PM could embrace Jo Swinson’s proposed way forward as his Plan B if his Plan A fails to win enough support.
That would leave Mr Corbyn isolated and potentially being forced into an early election against his wishes.
MPs will decide later on whether to back Boris Johnson’s plea to go to the polls – amid signs that a rival plot that could sideline the Labour leader is gaining momentum
It is believed to have played a role in French president Emmanuel Macron dropping his opposition to a Brextension, following a telephone call with Mr Johnson yesterday
Government aide Bim Afolami became the latest Tory to make eyes at the plan.
The MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, who on the team of International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, told the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night: ‘I’m not necessarily averse to it (the Lib Dem/SNP election plan).
‘What I’d really prefer is a government version of it that still built in somehow that we could do the WAB first, but we’ll see where we get to.
‘But I do think it is important that we have a parliament that’s capable of resolving Brexit, if regrettably we make the judgement that this parliament can’t do so.’
December 9 is the earliest an election can be held if the Lib Dem plan is passed by MPs tomorrow, as 25 working days must be allowed for the election campaign.
That would be three days before the PM’s proposed date and, crucially, when more students are still at university to cast their votes in Remain-supporting target swing seats.
The draft law, currently scheduled for Tuesday’s sitting, would require a simple majority of 320 MPs to support it in order to dissolve Parliament – 114 fewer than under the FTPA ‘super majority’ rules.
Ms Swinson said this morning their plan is ‘still alive’.
She told the Today programme: ‘It certainly, it seems to me a sensible way forward.
‘We also understand from our contacts in the EU that putting forward this bill and sending the letter that we did has helped out EU friends have confidence that if they offer the extension that they’re discussing today that that will be time well spent.
‘One of their big concerns was that they offered an extension earlier this year, said ”don’t waste the time”, and then we had a Conservative leadership election and Boris Johnson mucked about not trying to get a deal, shutting down parliament, and you know, the very master class in time wasting so, understandably, they had a degree of reluctance, I think evidenced by the fact they didn’t grant the extension on Friday when many thought they would.
‘So I’m hopeful that as a result of what we’ve done we will see that extension granted today because otherwise we’re still in the very real risk of crashing out without a deal on Thursday.
Brussels is poised to sign off a three-month Brexit extension with the option of leaving by December 1.
According to a leaked draft of a proposal being considered by EU ambassadors this morning, Britain would be granted a delay until January 31.
But the document also lists December 1 and January 1 as potential Brexit days if Boris Johnson’s deal is passed by the Commons before the extension deadline.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson appeared to try to assuage Tory fears that the rebel bill could be amended to introduce things like votes at 16 when she appeared on the BBC
Sources last night said they were cautiously optimistic the ‘flextension’ proposal will be signed off by the ambassadors.
It is understood French president Emmanuel Macron has been leant on over the weekend and that due to developments in Britain, including a new Liberal Democrat plan for triggering a General Election on December 9, he is now open to signing it off.
Mr Macron’s position has been that a General Election is a good enough reason to grant an extension.
But last week he was not convinced one would happen, partly due to Labour failing to say whether it would back one in a Commons vote today.
Last night Labour frontbencher Lucy Powell told the Westminster Hour that an ‘election soon is now both inevitable and necessary’.
She said: ‘Parliament is in a deadlock and we need to break that deadlock somehow, even if Brexit is done.
‘The issue is the terms of that election, the when and how of that election. I think what we’ve seen from the Liberal Democrats and the SNP is trying to shape the terms of that election in a way that would favour them the most, it’s pure playing of politics.’
Labour will NEVER govern under Jeremy Corbyn due to his ‘extremely poor personal ratings’, says Lord Mandelson
Lord Mandelson has launched a brutal assault on Jeremy Corbyn, arguing a Labour government is impossible under his leadership.
The Blairite peer, who was one of the architects of New Labour and a Cabinet minister under Gordon Brown, also fires a broadside at the party’s ‘statist’ economic policies.
In a report, he warns that in government, ‘Chancellor’ John McDonnell would hand power to ‘a new generation of trade union barons’ and ‘reassert the statist mindset that New Labour disavowed’.
But he adds: ‘Were it not for Jeremy Corbyn’s extremely poor personal ratings – they make a majority Labour government an impossibility while he remains – Labour’s prospects would be far stronger than the party’s detractors imagine.’
His comments come in the foreword to a report by the free market think-tank Policy Exchange, which highlights the dangers of ‘McDonnellomics’ to the City of London.
The report examines Mr McDonnell’s plans for the economy and warns they are rooted in the politics of the 1970s hard Left.
It concludes a Labour government would in a short period undermine investor confidence, damage the tax base and hurt growth.
Labour’s plans for the City would be a ‘gift’ to financial centres in New York, Tokyo and elsewhere, it says.
The report’s author, head of economics Warwick Lightfoot, said a McDonnell ‘experiment’ would hit companies and ordinary people.
Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell want to bring rail, water, electricity and other utilities back into public ownership, policies that would cost hundreds of billions of pounds.
Mr Lightfoot said: ‘John McDonnell has set out a highly ambitious policy agenda in terms of increases in public spending, taxation, nationalisation, modifications to property rights and employment and industrial relations law.
‘This economic experiment would, over time, have a radical and transformational impact on the UK’s economy. But there is much more doubt about how it would benefit businesses and employees.’
Operation designed to keep traffic flowing on the M20 in case of disruption to cross-Channel services starts this morning with 30mph speed limits in place as Britain prepares for a possible no-deal Brexit
The operation designed to keep traffic flowing on the M20 in the case of disruption to cross-Channel services begins this morning as a 30mph speed limit is in place amid preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Operation Brock came into force at 6am today on the M20, with just three days until the UK is due to withdraw from the EU and as Parliament prepares to vote on whether to hold a snap general election.
It comes amid signs the EU is set to grant a fresh Brexit delay until the end of January after Boris Johnson was forced – under the terms of the so-called Benn Act – to request a further extension.
The M20 motorway near Ashford in Kent, where Operation Brock was activated at 6am today
Operation Brock began on the M20 (pictured yesterday) this morning as Britain prepares to leave the EU
The traffic measures are designed to keep the M20 open in both directions in case there is a disruption to services across the English Channel.
Lorries heading for Europe will face a 30mph limit on a 13-mile stretch of the coastbound carriage of the M20.
All other traffic on the motorway – including lorries carrying out UK deliveries – must use a 50mph contraflow of two lanes in each direction on the London-bound side of the road.
Several holding areas to park lorries are also available to be activated if required, including at Manston Airfield.
Hauliers must be ready to show they have the correct paperwork before reaching the border or face being turned back.
Motorists have been warned to allow for extra travel time and to make sure they have food and water in their vehicles in case of delays.
Highways England south east operations director Nicola Bell said Operation Brock is part of a set of measures in place to allow the M20 and the rest of Kent to keep moving in the event of cross-channel disruption.
‘We have worked extensively with our partners in Kent to ensure that the county is as prepared as possible for any disruption to cross-channel services,’ she said in a statement.
Operation Brock was initially deployed on March 25, four days ahead of the first planned Brexit date.
It was deactivated about three weeks later following the delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but the steel barriers for the contraflow system and 50mph speed limit remain in place.