UK Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been facing pressure from Labour MPs, including most of the shadow cabinet, to reject Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer of a general election for 12 December, writes The Times.
Chief Whip Nick Brown has insisted that the parliamentary Labour Party was united in rejecting the suggestion as soon as it was offered to the Commons, and warned Corbyn that he risked facing a rebellion if he baulked at publicly rejecting it as soon as possible.
However, as a sign of more generous options, Valerie Vaz, shadow leader of the House of Commons, said that Labour would back an election once “no deal” Brexit had been ruled out “if the [Brexit] extension allows”.
The Labour Party's official position has long been that they would agree to an election, as long as a delay to the country’s exit from the EU is agreed upon, as it twice rejected attempts by Johnson to go to the polls before 2022.
“…No deal off the table”
As Jeremy Corbyn met with shadow cabinet ministers and key advisers, a number of Labour MPs are said to have believed he was about to reject the election offer on Thursday night, writes the publication.
However, Corbyn struck a different tone before cameras later, saying:
"Take no-deal off the table and we absolutely support a general election. I've been calling for an election ever since the last one because this country needs one to deal with all the social injustice issues - but no-deal must be taken off the table. The EU will decide whether there is an extension... and then we can decide," said Corbyn.
Regarding the stance expressed by Chief Whip Nick Brown, a party source told the outlet:
“That whip was cleared. The idea that Nick Brown [the chief whip] would just send that out without the leader’s approval is ridiculous.”
Corbyn was also being lobbied to accept Johnson’s offer by allies in the shadow cabinet as well as by Seumas Milne, his communications chief.
Jon Trickett, the shadow cabinet office minister, wrote on Twitter:
“Let’s be absolutely clear. Getting rid of this awful Tory government is our top priority. Our troops are ready, the party is fully prepared. Let’s get at them!!”
Let’s be absolutely clear.— Jon Trickett (@jon_trickett) October 24, 2019
Getting rid of this awful Tory government is our top priority. Our troops are ready, the party is fully prepared.
Let’s get at them!!
The pro-Corbyn group Momentum similarly urged the party to back an election, as its national coordinator Laura Parker said:
“Bring it on . . . in 2017 Momentum’s campaign swung key seats for Labour, this time we’re going to run the biggest people-powered campaign the country has ever seen.”
However, whips think that more than half of Labour MPs will defy Corbyn if he backs an early election.
One source has said they believed 140 to be an estimate of the number of MPs who did not want an election without a Brexit deal or a referendum first.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, acknowledged “a difference of views”, but repeatedly refused to say whether the party would back an election before the end of the year, claiming “anything could happen”.
Johnson to try for 12 December poll
PM Boris Johnson has said he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal, if they agree to a 12 December election.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs the government would on Monday table a motion calling for a general election.
Under the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliament Act, two-thirds of MPs must vote for a general election before one can be held.
Current developments come in the wake of the House of Commons vote on 22 October, where the Prime Minister’s withdrawal bill won slim majority support from MPs but realistic prospects for the UK leaving the bloc by the 31 October deadline were dashed when the lawmakers rejected a three-day deadline for debating it.
The Prime Minister promptly froze all debate on his Withdrawal Agreement Bill while awaiting an EU decision, anticipated Friday, on whether they would grant a delay to Brexit, and how long that extension might be.
Earlier, on 19 October, Johnson was forced under legislation called the Benn Act to send a letter to Brussels requesting a three-month extension, after MPs voted by 322 to 306 to withhold approval of his EU exit deal.