Corbyn’s plan to topple Boris Johnson opposed by key MPs

UK Labour leader wants to lead ‘time limited’ government to prevent no-deal Brexit

The proposal is the first attempt by Jeremy Corbyn to forge a cross-party consensus on stopping a no-deal Brexit since Boris Johnson became prime minister. Photograph: Getty Images

The proposal is the first attempt by Jeremy Corbyn to forge a cross-party consensus on stopping a no-deal Brexit since Boris Johnson became prime minister. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit by being installed as caretaker British prime minister has been rejected by some of the key MPs needed for its success.

The Scottish National Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru signalled they could support the Labour leader’s proposal of a no-confidence vote, extension to the departure deadline under his premiership and a general election.

But, crucially, the Liberal Democrats rejected the plan, as did senior Tory Remainer Dame Caroline Spelman and the Independent Group for Change.

Mr Corbyn proposed forming a government on a “strictly time-limited” basis to prevent a sudden departure under Boris Johnson, hoping he could win over his personal critics to support the anti-no-deal cause.

But Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson, who gained her 14th MP on Wednesday, called for a less divisive figure to form a unity government. “There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and Independents to stop Boris Johnson. It is not even certain that he would secure all the votes of Labour MPs,” Ms Swinson said.

She instead suggested veteran MPs Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman for the role because they were “respected on both sides of the House”.

Anna Soubry, leader of the Independent Group for Change, which has five MPs, said Mr Corbyn “is not the person given he struggles to maintain the confidence of his own backbenchers”.

Dame Caroline also said she could not support the proposal. “I could not support a Corbyn Government, end of,” she told the Birmingham Mail. “I am not going to vote against my own government in a vote of no confidence.”

But Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon did not rule out the backing of her party’s 35 MPs. “It’s no secret, I’m not the greatest fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we won’t rule out any option if it helps avert what is a looming catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit,” she told the BBC.

Ms Sturgeon appealed for Ms Swinson to “rethink” her dismissal, as did Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts offered cautious support for Mr Corbyn’s initiative, saying the party was open to a unity government regardless of who leads it.

Divisions

Mr Corbyn appeared to have convinced some of his opponents within his party on the basis of blocking no-deal. Backbench MP Wes Streeting said the Lib Dems were “wrong to reject” Mr Corbyn’s offer, saying it should be “treated seriously” by everyone trying to stop no-deal.

But divisions were laid bare by a statement from Labour Against Antisemitism.

Spokeswoman Fiona Sharpe said: “We are concerned that many MPs, some who have previously professed themselves allies in the fight against anti-Semitism, appear willing to disregard the concerns of the British Jewish community to promote and enable a Jeremy Corbyn government.”

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey appealed to critics by saying the move was “not about implementing Labour policy” but about avoiding the “unfathomable” damage a no-deal could cause.

“What I would say is issue a plea to Jo Swinson particularly. I know that Jo wants to avoid a no-deal situation as we do, and we think this is the simplest and most democratic way of doing that,” she told BBC radio .

Mr Corbyn announced the plan in a letter on Wednesday to opposition leaders and Tory MPs Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline.

Mr Grieve said he was happy to discuss ways of blocking a no-deal Brexit, but that a unity government under the Labour leader seemed a “most unlikely way forward.” Some of Mr Corbyn’s views, he told the BBC, were “entirely abhorrent”.

“Even for a short period a prime minister in a caretaker capacity has got to be somebody who can inspire trust,” Mr Grieve said. “I have to say that seeing Jeremy Corbyn’s history, it’s difficult to see how he could possibly be in a position to do such a thing.”

The Labour leader said he would seek a no-confidence motion soon after the House of Commons returns from its summer recess on September 3rd. This would need the support of the majority of MPs.

He would then seek an extension to the article 50 process to delay the UK leaving the European Union past the October 31st deadline. Then, as prime minister, he could table a motion for an early general election which would succeed with the support of two-thirds of the seats in the Commons, in the same fashion as Theresa May’s vote in 2017.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would campaign in that election for a second referendum on EU membership with the option to Remain being available to voters. – PA

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