Sturgeon support for Corbyn government gets mixed response

Labour leader role in event of no-confidence vote not backed by Lib Dems or Tory rebels

First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon: “My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson – the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime – out of office, stop a no-deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.” Photograph; Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon: “My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson – the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime – out of office, stop a no-deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.” Photograph; Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

 

Opposition parties seeking to prevent a no-deal Brexit appeared divided over their next moves on Friday after Scotland’s first minister suggested she could support a time-limited government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, tweeted on Friday that she agreed with a journalist who suggested the “only fail-safe way” to ensuring an extension to article 50 in the event of a no-deal was for opposition parties to pass a vote of no confidence and “install Corbyn or someone else as PM”.

Labour backed away from tabling a vote of no confidence this week, arguing it would not seek a general election until a no-deal Brexit had been taken off the table.

The Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru and most independent MPs have also argued that triggering a general election would not leave time to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31st.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that while she is “no fan” of Mr Corbyn and was “open-minded” about who could lead a temporary government, opposition parties needed to compromise.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “I’m not pushing Jeremy Corbyn as interim PM or anybody else as interim PM. I’m no great fan of Jeremy Corbyn.

“My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson – the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime – out of office, stop a no-deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.”

Watertight way

She added: “We are all going to have to compromise, we are all going to have to swallow our pride and put up with something for a matter of days to allow that to happen, and get on with it.”

In the wake of the supreme court decision on Tuesday that the proroguing of parliament was unlawful, opposition parties have been looking for a watertight way to ensure that Mr Johnson is unable to follow through on his threat to take the UK out of the EU on October 31st with or without a deal.

There are concerns the prime minister could seek to circumvent anti-no deal legislation, known as the Benn Act, that requires him to seek an article 50 extension if he cannot get a deal at the European Council next month.

Opposition parties are split on who any caretaker prime minister should be in the event Mr Johnson loses a no-confidence vote. Labour maintained its position on Friday that Mr Corbyn, as the official leader of the opposition, should lead any interim government.

A Lib Dem official said the party did not believe there was “any way” Mr Corbyn had the numbers in parliament to support him taking on such a role and urged him to allow a backbench MP to take up the role.

No-deal Brexit

“We think that a respected backbencher might have the numbers if the Labour Party pledge support,” an official said. “Corbyn has said he ‘will do anything he can stop no-deal Brexit’. This is what he might need to do.”

Many of the 21 MPs booted out of the Conservative party this month, dubbed the rebel alliance, are also opposed to Mr Corbyn taking on the role. Plaid Cymru said it would be open to supporting Mr Corbyn, or anyone else, if they were to commit to delivering a second referendum.

Opposition MPs will meet again on Monday to discuss their next steps, including the possibility of bringing forward a motion to censure the prime minister or hold him in contempt of the Commons for the language he used in a heated debate on Wednesday.

If successful, sanctions could include banning Mr Johnson from the Commons for a short period. Opposition MPs could also seek to amend the Benn Act.

Ms Sturgeon’s SNP said it has concerns the government could get around the Benn Act and Lib Dems officials have agreed the Bill was not “watertight”.

The Lib Dems have pushed for an amendment that would require Mr Johnson to request an extension before the date set out in the current Bill. But there are concerns that the 21 independent MPs and former Tories would oppose the move in order to give Mr Johnson more time to agree a deal with the EU. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019