Brexit latest: Group of Labour MPs could come together to support revised deal by Boris Johnson

Labour MPs could be ready to back a revised Brexit agreement allowing Boris Johnson to avoid crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Mr Johnson is focused on trying to negotiate changes to the backstop, a series of measures that keeps the UK in the Customs Union and Northern Ireland aligned to many EU rules, to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” of striking a deal with Brussels, ahead of a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker next week.

According to The Times, Mr Johnson is hoping to get a new deal through the Commons with the support of Labour MPs.

‘All sides must compromise’

Caroline Flint said a cross-party block is building up in support of a deal (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/GettyImages)

Caroline Flint, Stephen Kinnock and Yvonne Fovargue have already voiced their support for a revised deal.

Ms Fovargue, the MP for Markerfield, Greater Manchester, said: “We need to bring this process to a swift conclusion and to deliver the result of the referendum and all sides must be prepared to compromise.

Comment:

Former PM David Cameron’s lack of contrition for this political Brexit chaos is startling

“There are a number of Labour MPs who are committed to this process and want the chance to scrutinise and vote for a deal.”

Mr Kinnock said it was “very encouraging” to see the DUP edging towards a compromise, which will boost support among Conservative MP.

However he added that the Prime Minister would need to resurrect commitments offered by Theresa May to Jeremy Corbyn to maximise support from Labour MPs.

Speaking at the launch of a cross-party group called MPs for a deal, Caroline Flint said: “We know there are about 50 Labour MPs who are interested in getting through this and getting to the other side of a deal. Twenty-six of us wrote to Jeremy Corbyn when Theresa May stood down saying we wanted a deal before 31 October. There are others who share our views.”

‘We can do a deal’

Nigel Evans said a number of Labour MPs would back the deal. (Photo: Sky News)

Her views echo those of Tory MP Nigel Evans who claimed that 50 MPs from the Labour Party would be prepared to back a new Brexit deal brought by Boris Johnson.

The Brexiteer said on Wednesday said that progress is being made by the Government on finding a new solution to the Irish border issue and that members of the Northern Irish DUP are also onside.

Read More:

The DUP’s anti-backstop stance is softening — but that is no guarantee of a Brexit deal

Mr Johnson this week said the “rough shape” of an agreement was in place.

He added that recent meetings with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had made “a good deal of progress” towards an agreement.

Despite the Prime Minister’s upbeat assessment, Downing Street sources played down the prospect of a breakthrough, cautioning there was still “a long way to go”.

Under new rules, Boris Johnson must seek an extension to Brexit beyond 31 October unless either a new deal, or a no-deal exit is approved by the Commons by 19 October.

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The Conservatives are failing to make headway in the Brexit supporting North and Midlands

At the next general election, the Conservatives’ hopes of regaining the overall majority in the House of Commons will rest on winning a substantial number of seats from Labour in Brexit supporting areas in the North and Midlands of England. This is especially true given that they can expect to lose seats in Remain voting areas in London, the South East and Scotland.

The map above compares the results of the 2016 EU referendum on a constituency basis (with seats coloured to indicate whether the result was 70%, 60%-50%, 55%-60%, or 50%-55% in favour of leave or remain) with the results of 2017 general election. Overall, there were 242 constituencies where the majority of voters voted to remain in the EU, and 408 that voted for Brexit. A majority in both Conservative (75%) and Labour (60%) constituencies voted to leave the EU.

However, there is no sign that the Conservatives are making sufficient progress in leave voting areas in the North and Midlands to regain their majority through this path. To demonstrate this, I looked at the regional breakdowns in the two polls released by ComRes so far this month. One poll had the Tories with a 1% lead over Labour on 30%, the other showed them with a 4% lead on 31%; I took the average of the two polls.

The charts below show the regional breakdown of party support for the 11 regions in Great Britain.

The following charts show the same data, except instead of vote shares they show the movement of vote shares from the results at the 2017 general election (for the Brexit Party, I have used the 2017 Ukip results as a comparison).

To have a chance at regaining a majority, the movement in Conservative vote share will need to exceed the equivalent movement in Labour support in the West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. However, there is little evidence that this is the case.

In the West Midlands, both Labour and the Conservatives are down 14%, the Lib Dems are up 12% and the Brexit Party are up 12% on Ukip’s 2017 performance. Given that they are basically static in terms of the Labour vs. Tory contest, the Conservatives would be unlikely to make much of a dent in Labour’s 24 MPs, other than in ultra-marginal seats such as Newcastle-under-Lyme (Labour majority: 30).The Lib Dems aren’t really in contention anywhere here.

In the North West, the Conservatives will be hopeful of success in some of the 39 Labour seats that voted for Brexit, to add to the 20 that they won in 2017. Labour’s support in the ComRes polls indicated that their support is down 14% from the election, and given that the Tory vote is “only” down 10%, this suggests that they may be making a small of ground on Labour here.

However, there is not an abundance of Tory targets in the North West. There is only one seat (Warrington South) that voted Labour where the Tories were within 5% of victory, and only a further five (Workington, Bury North, Bolton North East, Weaver Vale and Blackpool South) where the Tories were within 10% of Labour. Only making a net gain of 4% in terms of vote share over Labour in the North West is unlikely to be sufficient to make substantive gains.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, there were almost four times as many Leave constituencies (43) as Remain constituencies (11). Labour won 36 seats in 2017, of which 29 had voted for Brexit. The Tories won 18. However, given that Labour and Conservative support appears to have fallen at around the same rate, there is little evidence that the Tories are on course to make many gains here either. The Liberal Democrats will be very confident about regaining the seats lost to Labour in 2017 of Leeds North West and Sheffield, Hallam.

The story in the North East is better for the Conservatives. Nearly five times as many constituencies in the North East voted Leave as Remain (24 to 5), whilst the Tories only won three seats to Labour’s 26. The fact that the Tories are “only” down 13% whilst Labour have fallen 20% means that they are making progress, but as with the North West, there is a lack of obvious targets.

There are only two Labour seats that were close in 2017 (Stockton South and Bishop Auckland), and a third (Darlington) where Labour had a 7% majority and the seat is within range for the Tories. However, the remaining 23 Labour seats were won with substantial double digit majorities and it will be very difficult for the Conservatives to win, assuming that the election is reflective of current polling.

If there is an area of strong opportunity for the Conservatives it is a perhaps unexpected one: Wales. Conservative support is broadly flat from the 2017 election here, whilst Labour’s has plummeted by 15%. This means that there are as many as nine strong opportunities for the Tories to make gains at Labour’s expense, in seats such as Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham, Cardiff North and Delyn.

Another possible outcome is that London isn’t as disastrous for the Conservatives as is widely thought. The Tories are down 7% in the capital, but Labour are down a catastrophic 26 points. Labour and the Lib Dems are essentially tied in terms of popular support in London, with the Conservatives only slightly behind. This may mean that they are able to sneak through the middle in new three way marginal seats.

Whilst the Conservatives are likely doomed in seats such as Richmond Park where the Lib Dems performed strongly in 2017, they may well survive in constituencies such as Finchley and Golders Green where the Tories only have a 3% majority over Labour, where the Lib Dems can expect to gain a substantial amount of Labour votes but might not be able to win the seat themselves.

It is obviously a horrendous cliché to say “a lot can change between now and polling day”, but it’s especially true for this election, when even the question of whether there will be an election this year is in some doubt. However, on the basis of current polling, the Conservatives are going to find a route back to Number 10 through the Brexit supporting North and Midlands an extremely difficult one.

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Labour’s John McDonnell wants fee paying schools to be treated ‘like any other business’

Labour wants private schools to be treated “like any other business”, John McDonnell has said. The shadow chancellor said Labour also wants a “fully comprehensive education system”.

His comments came after a leaked report about Labour policy plans and private school heads accused the party of trying to destroy the fee-paying system.

Speaking in Glasgow, Mr McDonnell told the PA news agency: “In the last election we said we would address what we believe is the inequality within our education system, and one of those inequalities is the way in which private schools do not pay VAT and on business rates there needs to be reforms as well.

“Let’s make it absolutely clear, we want private schools to be treated like any other businesses, because that is what they are.

Free at delivery

Eton is among England's most famous schools (Photo: Guyt Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)
Eton is among England’s most famous schools (Photo: Guyt Jackson/AFP/Getty)

“Our objective is to have a fully comprehensive education system, and to enable that to happen the manifesto we developed in the last election, and the one we are developing now, is the establishment of national education service.

“So just like the NHS, education will be free at the point of need, from the cradle to the grave. I think this will be one of the defining issues a Jeremy Corbyn government will be remembered for.

“In that way we need to address the issue of the role of private schools.”

Private education 

There are around 2,500 independent, or fee-paying, schools in the UK, and collectively they teach around 630,000 children.

This is about 6.5 per cent of the total number of schoolchildren in the UK.

The Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) latest census, the average boarding school fee, for a single term, is £11,565, while for a day school it is £4,763.

Fees have increased by an average of 3.7 per cent compared to last year.

Proposals to introduce VAT on school fees and axe discounted business rates could bring in £1.64 billion a year, according to the Daily Telegraph citing a shadow Treasury memo.

The plans drawn up by Mr McDonnell’s team are part of Labour’s “preparing for government” strategy in anticipation of an early election, according to the newspaper.

‘Dodgy maths’

Mike Buchanan, executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) which represents leading private schools, said: “The Labour campaign to effectively destroy independent schools is not only a fundamental attack on parental choice, but it would rip apart the fabric of education in this country.

“It is based on wrong assumptions and dodgy maths and will inevitably damage state schools.

“Independent schools have played a vital role in the education system for generations and they are acknowledged around the world as beacons of excellence.

“Any attempt to abolish these schools will not only prove disruptive, divisive and difficult, but ultimately would harm rather than help state-funded schools.”

Mr Buchanan said Labour’s plans are “likely to cost billions more than the estimated £3.5 billion already being saved by the education of children outside the state sector”.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), said: “A punitive tax measure such as VAT on fees would ultimately hurt the country’s education system, particularly state schools.

“As well as making independent school education an unaffordable choice for many families, smaller schools would certainly close, resulting in a sudden increase in the numbers of young people needing places at state schools – swelling class sizes and piling pressure on already-stretched budgets.”

Labour said it does not comment on leaks.

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The plan to force a second referendum, and the prospect of party realignment

Oliver Letwin’s intervention in favour of a second referendum may turn out to be of real political significance.  To understand why, let’s start by returning to Boris Johnson’s options, assuming that he isn’t able to agree a deal with the EU before October 31.

They are, first, to extend, which would mean breaking his word.  Second, not to apply for an extension, which would mean breaking the law.  Third, to resign.  It may be that there is a fourth option unclear at present – for example, a legal appeal against some defect in the Benn Bill.  But at any rate, such appear to be the Prime Minister’s choices, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision next week on progogation, and other action in the courts.

ConservativeHome concluded earlier this week that, faced with these choices, Johnson might do best to resign.  We added that this anti-No Deal Commons might then tolerate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister for as long as it took him to apply for the extension.  After which he would be no confidenced, and a general election would take place.

We added that there was a danger such a scheme might work too well.  In other words, that Corbyn might be kept in place by MPs as Prime Minister for months, not weeks.  Or that it might not work at all, because he would be unacceptable to the Commons, which would insist on putting someone else into Number Ten.

The Letwin intervention has further complicated these already mind-bending possibilites.  It should be viewed alongside Tom Watson’s almost identical proposal as a kind of pincer movement on Johnson, intended or unintended.  Both now support a referendum before an election.  Which suggests the following.

To date, the so-called rebel alliance has been unable to resolve a simple question about extension, namely: “what is it for?”  The referendum plan answers it by breathing new life into a familiar proposal.  “It is for allowing the Commons the chance to put Brexit back to the people,” comes the response.

Now there is still a majority, as far as can be seen, in the Commons against another public vote.  Motions supporting a second referendum have twice failed, though not by all that much: one fell short by 13 votes second time round, back in April; another by 27, the week before.

So there would almost certainly be a further struggle in Parliament over a second plebiscite.  But one can see how, were Johnson still Prime Minister in the event of extension, his premiership would slowly be bled to death while MPs debated a second referendum and other plans – with his Government still unable to obtain a majority for an election.

And were not still Prime Minister? At this point, further complexities kick in.

As we say, the Commons would be unlikely to settle on a second referendum quickly, if at all.  Were it to do so, a Bill to enact it would take time.  David Cameron’s original EU referendum bill took over six months to pass through Parliament, gaining first reading in May 2015 and royal assent in December of that year.

While it is possible to imagine MPs putting Corbyn into Number Ten briefly to agree an extension, before pitching him out again to ensure an election, it is very hard to picture them doing so for several months.  For even if a second referendum bill passed through Parliament faster than the first did, its passage would surely take many weeks.

It is here that the Letwin/Watson plan begins to run into problems.  One can see why most Labour MPs, perhaps the SNP and some of the minor parties would support a Corbyn-led, John McDonnell-driven government that would hold office for several months.

But Jo Swinson presumably would not, since propping up the Labour leader would run the risk of legitimising him among her party’s target voters.  Nor, it appears, would Letwin, and most of the 21 Tory dissidents who so recently lost the whip.

Instead, the rebel alliance would cast around for an alternative Prime Minister.  Let us call this person Ken Clarke.  Or Hillary Benn.  Or Letwin himself.  Or even Watson.  One can see that how such a premiership would suit all of these, and those who think like them.

For a Clarke premiership lasting several months, with all the above in place in Cabinet, would raise the prospect of realignment.  If they could all work together so smoothly, after all, wouldn’t the old party allegiances look a bit out of date?  Why should not this “moderate centre” coalesce permanently, and isolate “the extremes?”

Nick Boles would come on board.  So would Anna Soubry.  Philip Hammond would already be in place.  The Speaker would provide procedural aid.  This new force of “progressives”, cheered on inter alia by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, would begin to work as an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, who would already be well represented in this new coalition.  But you will already have spotted the red fly in this pinkish ointment.

For if we can work all this out, so can Jeremy Corbyn.  He would fight with as much of the Labour Party as he can command to stifle such a centrist infant at birth.  And would work in strange alliance with someone who has a mutual interest in doing so too: Boris Johnson, or whoever was Conservative leader at this point in time.  Seumas Milne, meet your new best friend: Dominic Cummings.

We apologise for burdening our readers with yet more speculation, all of which could be rendered out of date tomorrow by some new twist in the tale.  But the current floating of electoral reform – as by Amber Rudd in her recent speech which we carry today – isn’t coming from nowhere.

Behind the scenes, conversations are being had; possibilities are being broached; understandings half-reached.  Perhaps Johnson will get his deal after all.  Or the EU suddenly veto extension, and put us all out of our uncertainty.  In the meantime, though, watch Letwin, the man with a claim to the title of: our Real Prime Minister.

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British workers should spend no more than 35 hours at the office, Labour set to say in manifesto

British people should work no more than 35 hours a week, Labour is set to say in its next manifesto.

John McDonnell has backed calls for binding legislation to restrict the hours employees can spend at work. And he hinted the party may support a four-day working week.

The shadow Chancellor commissioned top economist Robert Skidelsky to write a report called “How to achieve working hours” which he will now submit to party bosses as they draw up the new manifesto.

The document calls for the Government to encourage a shorter working week by offering public-sector jobs to the unemployed, with all state jobs cut to 35 hours within the next decade. It also says that outsourcing contracts should only go to firms which guarantee to reduce the hours of employees while protecting pay and conditions.

Legal crackdown

And Lord Skidelsky recommended ending the opt-out to the EU’s Working Time Directive. The European law bans workers from spending more than 48 hours a week at the office, but currently individual employees can choose to reject its conditions.

Speaking at the report’s launch yesterday, Mr McDonnell said: “We are rapidly writing the new manifesto. Many of the ideas in this report I will be submitted for discussion in that debate.”

He backed the recommendation to enforce a maximum working week in law, telling i: “What we’ll be seeking to do is ensure that people have protections against long hours.”

The report stops short of imposing a French-style law which would mandate a 35-hour week, suggesting it would prove unworkable and end up undermining the push to control working hours. But Mr McDonnell refused to rule out a legal crackdown if Labour comes to power, saying: “We will never throw away a tool that might be useful to us in the future.”

And asked if the party will endorse the idea of a four-day working week, he replied: “Watch this space.”

Labour is set to use its annual conference later this month to draw up its manifesto for the forthcoming snap general election, expected by the end of the year. Critics warn the party’s crackdown on employers will harm the economy and drive up unemployment from its current low levels.

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Sign honouring former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s birthplace put up in wrong village

A sign dedicated to former Prime Minister Harold Wilson was erected in the wrong village.

Highways chiefs put up the road sign stating his correct birthplace as the Huddersfield suburb of Cowlersley in Yorkshire.

But a mix-up saw it erected in the neighbouring village of Linthwaite by mistake.

The mistake was pointed by a local resident who posted a picture of the sign on Facebook alongside the caption: “Our new sign in LINTHWAITE near the church.”

‘Embarrassing mistake’

Our new sign in LINTHWAITE near the church 🤡🤡

Posted by Christine Charlesworth on Sunday, September 8, 2019

According to people in the village of Linthwaite the sign has since been discreetly removed.

Former councillor Donna Bellamy described the error as an “embarrassing mistake” by the local authority.

“I would hope it’s the council that has taken it down and not some random member of the public,” she told Examiner Live.

“And if it reappears I would hope it’s several hundred yards further down the road – so that it’s actually in Cowlersley, not in Linthwaite.

“The fact that Linthwaite Church is across the road was a clue. This is just basic knowledge.”

Wilson’s birthplace

Mr Wilson served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976 (Photo: Getty)

Mr Wilson was born in a terraced house on Warneford Road in Cowlersley in 1916.

He became leader of the Labour Party in 1963 and served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976.

The sign, which stated “Welcome to Cowlersley” with a sub-heading “Birthplace of Harold Wilson”, was spotted on Gilroyd Lane close to Linthwaite Church – around one mile away from his birthplace.

During his time as Prime Minister Wilson oversaw the creation of the Open University, the modernisation of GP surgeries through the 1966 Doctors Charter, ending capital punishment, and the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion.

After his death in 1995 he was honoured with a statue in Huddersfield which was unveiled by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 1999.

i has contacted Kirklees Council for comment.

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Operation Yellowhammer: Government’s no-deal Brexit plans like preparing for ‘war or natural disaster’

No-deal Brexit preparations revealed in official government documents are more like planning for a “war or natural disaster”, Labour has warned.

Ministers were forced to publish on Wednesday secret documents produced as part of “Operation Yellowhammer” into the potential impact of leaving the European Union without a deal.

The papers revealed the country could face shortages of food, medicines and even outbursts of civil unrest as a result of a disorderly Brexit.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Parliament should be recalled so the Prime Minister can answer questions in relation to documents.

‘Absolute catastrophe’

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr McDonald said: “It reveals an absolute catastrophe for our country if he continues to drive the ship towards the rocks as he is going to do.”

He added: “This is more like emergency planning for war or a natural disaster. We cannot minimise this. It does not get more stark and we have got to wake up to the issues around us.”

Mr McDonald said Labour wants to stop a no-deal Brexit and gain an extension to Article 50.

Andy McDonald
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald (Photo: Getty)

He said when an extension is obtained, Labour would favour a general election. He also said the public would be offered a referendum with a “credible deal” opposite a Remain option.

His comments came as the chairman of Kent council called for police officers from all over the country to be redeployed to the county to help handle expected traffic disruption.

Paul Carter said he wants “boots on the ground”, and assurances that arrangements are in place for police officers and Highways England staff nationwide to be ready to “man the pumps”.

Boots on the ground

“I want assurance from Highways England and Kent Police that they have got the reciprocal arrangements with other police forces and Highways England officers around the country to make sure that they come into Kent in sufficiency to be able to man the pumps and make sure that the fluidity and the Operation Brock strategy, to keep the road network in Kent open at all times and direct them to where lorries if they are delays at the port, will be held until such time as they can depart from those ports,” he said.

Mr Carter, who leads the Conservative-controlled council, said “accelerated progress” has been made since the Yellowhammer report – released on Wednesday night – was drafted on August 2.

“There are still two or three outstanding matters which I am beating the drum on which need resolving in short order.”

Asked if he was worried about a no-deal Brexit, he said: “As long as we get satisfactory answers and progress on how the operating model for customs clearance is going to work and communicate that to the logistics haulage industry, I am pretty confident that we can avoid disruption in Kent.”

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Lord Andrew Adonis looking to resign from House of Lords to replace Kate Hoey as Labour MP

Lord Andrew Adonis is looking to become the first life peer to relinquish his title and run for election as a member of parliament, i can reveal.

The Remain campaigner has put his name forward to be Labour’s candidate in Vauxhall, South London, which is currently held by Brexiteer Kate Hoey.

Ms Hoey announced her intention to step down at the next election in July after 30 years representing the constituency, which voted 80 per cent Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.

It is thought the move would make the 56-year-old former minister the first non-hereditary peer to move from the Lords into the Commons.

‘Action in the Commons’

Lord Adonis would be the first person to resign a non-hereditary peerage to become an MP (Photo: Getty)

A friend of Lord Adonis told i: “Andrew is considering whether to seek a parliamentary nomination as the best way of helping Labour back into power in this national crisis.

“He has been fighting Brexit heart and soul, but the main action is obviously the Commons not the Lords and he relishes campaigning against the Tories and Farage.

“He has also been working on big ideas for how Labour should tackle the social divisions which are driving Brexit.”

The Labour peer took up his seat in the House of Lords in 2005, after working as director of the Number 10 policy unit under Tony Blair.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown with then Transport Secretary Lord Adonis (Photo: Getty)

He served as an education minister and later as Secretary of State for Transport under Gordon Brown.

Earlier this year Lord Adonis was a Labour candidate in the European Parliamentary elections for the South West and Gibraltar, but was not elected. MEPs are allowed to maintain their peerage, but are unable to speak are vote.

MP selection process

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Labour at war over Brexit as Corbyn slaps down Tom Watson’s call for EU referendum

The party is in the early stages of selecting a candidate for the Vauxhall seat, which has been Labour since its creation in 1950.

However members in the constituency fear a candidate will be imposed by the Corbyn-allied national executive, after it decided to ignore a vote by the local party requesting an all women shortlist.

The move went contrary to Labour Party rules which dictate that a seat vacated by a sitting female MP should be replaced by another woman, until the parliamentary party has 50 per cent women.

A Labour spokesperson said of the decision: “The Labour Party has more women MPs than all other political parties combined and we are committed to improving diverse representation at all levels of the Party.

“In the next General Election, women candidates will be standing in more than two thirds of our key target seats.”

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Labour at war over Brexit as Jeremy Corbyn slaps down Tom Watson’s call for EU referendum before election

Labour’s Brexit civil war deepened again after Jeremy Corbyn slapped down his own deputy for demanding a second EU referendum before the general election.

Tom Watson called for a referendum as soon as possible, arguing that the snap election expected later this year won’t settle the Brexit question.

But the party leader hit back, saying an election should be the “priority” with a referendum taking place only once he is installed in No 10.

Mr Watson is now at loggerheads with most of the Shadow Cabinet. He claims the only way Labour can win the election is by uniting Remain-backing voters who are currently split between the party and the Liberal Democrats.

‘I don’t accept it’

Asked about his deputy’s comments, Mr Corbyn said on Wednesday: “It’s Tom’s view, I don’t accept it and I don’t agree with it. Our priority is for a general election.”

Mr Watson said in a speech earlier: “Boris Johnson has already conceded that the Brexit crisis can only be solved by the British people. But the only way to break the Brexit deadlock once and for all is a public vote in a referendum. A general election could fail to solve Brexit chaos.”

He added: “My experience on the doorstep tells me most of those who’ve deserted us over our Brexit policy did so with deep regret and would greatly prefer to come back; they just want us to take an unequivocal position that, whatever happens, we’ll fight to remain, and to sound like we mean it. If we did it, we could win, whereas if we don’t, I fear we won’t.”

Tom Watson says a second referendum should come before the election
Tom Watson says a second referendum should come before the election (Photo: Getty)

The deputy leader denied he is making a run for Mr Corbyn’s position, saying: “It isn’t a job application that I gave today and nor is it a resignation.”

Party policy is to push for a general election later this year, after they are certain that Boris Johnson can’t deliver a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Labour’s manifesto will promise a referendum on Brexit, with a choice between Remain and a renegotiated Withdrawal Agreement.

But Mr Corbyn has refused to say whether the party will back Remain or Leave in the event of a second referendum. He may have to give MPs the freedom to choose their side or risk opening up even worse divides.

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, said yesterday: “We need to ask the public whether they are prepared to leave on the terms on offer or whether they would prefer to remain. And then we need to move onto the wider issues that matter to so many people in our communities and across our country.”

Labour’s increasing shift towards Remain has angered MPs in some Eurosceptic constituencies who fear the stance could alienate voters.

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Brexit latest: Tory Brexiteer Nigel Evans claims there are 50 Labour MPs who are prepared to back deal

Tory MP Nigel Evans has claimed that 50 MPs from the Labour Party would be prepared to back a new Brexit deal brought by Boris Johnson.

Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, the Brexiteer claimed that progress is being made by the Government on finding a new solution to the Irish border issue and that members of the Northern Irish DUP are also onside.

Mr Johnson said that a no-deal Brexit would be a “failure of statecraft” during a visit to Dublin on Monday, despite concerns from some MPs that this is his objective.

Under the terms of a new law, which has been imposed on Mr Johnson by MPs, the Prime Minister must seek an extension to Brexit beyond 31 October unless either a new deal, or a no-deal exit is approved by the Commons by 19 October.

‘We can do a deal’

Nigel Evans said a number of Labour MPs would back the deal. (Photo: Sky News)

Mr Evans told Sky News: “Everybody’s been focusing on whether [Mr Johnson will] break the law. Of course, he clearly doesn’t want to do that.

“Nor does he want to disrespect the views of the British voters in that referendum, and so the way we do that is by seeing if there is a way that we can do a deal. ”

“And I talked to Arlene Foster yesterday who was over for discussions with the Prime Minister, I spoke to Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP, who is incredibly pragmatic at looking for all sorts of ways.

“And we all already know that the Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney has been looking at ways of facilitating the integrity of the single market but away from the border.

50 Labour MPs

Caroline Flint is leading the new group (Photo: Getty Images)

“And so there are all sorts of ways that this can happen. But what we need, and this is the one thing that has been lacking, is political will.

“And I spoke to a Labour MP yesterday, and she told me that there are about 50 Labour MPs who are ready to break ranks with the Labour Party, if necessary, in order to vote for a pragmatic sensible deal that’s going to deliver Brexit.”

Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint are trying to build a cross-party consensus for a deal, with support from former Tory ministers such as Rory Stewart.

Mr Johnson is focused on trying to negotiate changes to the backstop, a series of measures that keeps the UK in the Customs Union and Northern Ireland aligned to many EU rules, to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The DUP, who have helped prop up the Tory Government, are opposed to any deal that separates Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK.

‘Economic and constitutional integrity of the UK’

The Prime Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster held talks for over an hour in Downing Street on a way forward on Brexit
The Prime Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster held talks for over an hour in Downing Street on a way forward on Brexit (Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Ms Foster said after meeting the Prime Minister on Tuesday: “A sensible deal, between the United Kingdom and European Union which respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, is the best way forward for everyone,” she said.

“History teaches us that any deal relating to Northern Ireland which cannot command cross-community support is doomed to failure. That is why the Northern Ireland backstop is flawed.

“During today’s meeting, the Prime Minister confirmed his rejection of the Northern Ireland only backstop and his commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire United Kingdom as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.”

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Jeremy Corbyn commits Labour to ‘biggest extension’ of workers’ rights in UK history

Labour would put power “in the hands of workers” by implementing the biggest expansion of employment rights in British history, Jeremy Corbyn has declared.

He promised radical action to transform everyday lives by driving up wages, improving job security and giving staff more say in how their companies are run.

Mr Corbyn announced that a Labour government would set up a Ministry for Employment Rights with the remit of improving pay and conditions of workers across the UK. It would also appoint a Secretary of State for Employment Rights and a Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce rights and standards in the workplace.

Reiterating the party’s pledge to repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act, he said unions would gain the right to organise in workplaces while union representative would be given extra protection against dismissal.

‘Power in the hands of workers’

Jeremy Corbyn promised radical action to transform everyday lives by driving up wages, improving job security and giving staff more say in how their companies are run
Jeremy Corbyn promised radical action to transform everyday lives by driving up wages, improving job security and giving staff more say in how their companies are run

The Labour leader received a succession of standing ovations as he outlined his plans at the TUC Congress in Brighton. He told delegates: “The next Labour government will bring about the biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen. We will put power in the hands of workers.

“For 40 years the share of the cake going to workers has been getting smaller and smaller. It’s no coincidence that the same period has seen a sustained attack on the organisations that represent workers – trade unions.

“We have witnessed a deliberate, decades-long transfer of power away from working people. The consequences are stark for all workers, whether members of a trade union or not. Pay is lower than it was a decade ago in real terms.

“Labour is on the side of the people in the real battle against the born-to-rule establishment that [Boris] Johnson represents.

Workers’ protection agency pledge

“We stand for the interests of the many – the overwhelming majority who do the work and pay their taxes – not the few at the top who hoard the wealth and dodge their taxes.

“It’s Labour’s historic mission to transform people’s lives, and that transformation begins in the workplace.

“Rights only mean anything if they’re enforced. Too many employers are getting away with flouting laws. Nearly half a million people are still being paid less than the minimum wage.

“We’ll put a stop to that. We’ll create a Workers Protection Agency with the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.

“If you’re a worker with a boss who makes you work extra hours for no pay or forces you into dangerous situations, you deserve a government that’s on your side and ready to step in to support you.”

Support for shipyard strikers

After his speech, Mr Corbyn met workers who have been occupying the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast and striking health workers from Lincolnshire who have been taking industrial action against the county council over a pay freeze.

He said: “These are courageous workers who are taking action to protect their jobs. In the case of Harland and Wolff, workers are protecting the whole shipbuilding industry in Belfast, which would otherwise be condemned to the history books and replaced with apartments and a museum of shipbuilding.

“I was very moved by the passion of experienced health workers who care so deeply for the communities they serve, but who see first hand the damaging effects of austerity.

“I was honoured to meet and stand alongside these striking trade union members, all of them full of determination and dedication to their profession.

“Labour will treat our workers with the respect they deserve and will be on their side, not the side of asset strippers and austerity.”

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Labour’s Website Contradicts Their Policy

The Labour Party has shifted position on an election so much that their website currently hosts a page published less than a week ago that says Labour will back an election as soon as their Surrender Bill passed. The bill passed. Not a single Labour MP voted for an election last night…

The post Labour’s Website Contradicts Their Policy appeared first on Guido Fawkes.

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The impenetrable mysteries at the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit stance

As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit, “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity.

The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he seems unable, under the pressure of varying advice from different quarters, to decide on the stance he should take on Brexit. This is surprising, given that all the evidence suggests that he is a eurosceptic from a long way back.

My own impression of him in the days when we were both backbench Labour MPs was that he was, like most on the left of the party, suspicious of an arrangement that was manifestly dominated by bankers and bureaucrats and designed to serve the interests of big business and multinational corporations.

And in more recent (and especially post-referendum) times, he can hardly have been unaware that it has been his own voters who were most grievously disadvantaged by the high food prices, and the threats to jobs, wage levels, housing, schools and health services, that came with EU membership.

Even his much-touted internationalism surely does not preclude some recognition of the undoubted desire of ordinary citizens to live in a country in which they are masters of their own destiny.

Be all this as it may, there is an even more impenetrable mystery at the heart of his current Brexit stance. How is it that he has not taken the chance to press for resolving the Brexit impasse by going to the people? What Leader of the Opposition worth his salt would not leap at the chance of a general election, so as to submit the government’s record – on Brexit and everything else – to the judgment of the people?

It beggars belief that Jeremy Corbyn has twice led his troops into the division lobbies in order to negate the possibility of a general election that would offer a means not only of resolving the Brexit issue, but also of replacing a government of which he has been so bitterly critical.

The answer to these questions is surely, after a mere moment’s reflection, painfully clear: Jeremy Corbyn does not want an election at this juncture, because he fears that it would be primarily about Brexit and that Labour – in the light of his own prevarications on the issue – would be soundly defeated.

So much for the constant message from Remainers (including those who currently seem to have Corbyn’s ear) that Brexit must not come to pass before the people have a further opportunity to express an opinion.

There is, however, an obvious escape route for Corbyn from this dilemma. He could reaffirm his earlier assurance that Labour will accept the referendum decision and deliver Brexit, thereby removing Brexit as the dividing line between the two major parties and as the potentially election-winning issue for Boris Johnson.

Taking this step would not only make political sense. It would allow Corbyn to stay true to what I believe are his own instincts (and politicians are always more effective if they are seen to be sincere and not merely posturing) and to campaign successfully, with a clear mind and conscience, on holding a Tory government to account in respect of its whole record and not just Brexit.

The post The impenetrable mysteries at the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit stance appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Johnson makes Corbyn look weak

The Prime Minister looked in ebullient good humour as he entered the Chamber at 10.34 p.m. to Tory cheers. He shared a joke with the Brexit Secretary, read over a few lines of his speech, leaped to his feet the moment the Speaker called him at 10.48, and set about ridiculing his opponent as “the first Leader of the Opposition to show his confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”.

What Boris Johnson said was less important than the sovereign way he said it. He conducted himself as a man who holds the initiative, because he knows what he wants, whereas the Opposition parties are reduced to the absurd contention that they are desperately impatient to hold a general election, but also to defer any contest.

So Johnson quoted Labour leaflets put out this weekend, “We need a general election now,” accused the party of “preposterous cowardice” for avoiding one, and observed: “The only possible explanation is they fear we will win it.”

At an early stage, Johnson demonstrated his boldness by moving the microphone onto the Despatch Box so the House could hear him better – the sort of thing a well-brought-up Englishman would not dream of doing, for it would seem both risky and rude.

With Johnson, it demonstrated his sense of freedom, his “why not?” approach to things, his fearlessness in the face of whichever authorities run the Commons sound system.

“I will not vote for another delay,” Johnson declared, and sounded as if he meant it.

If Jeremy Corbyn had wished to make the Conservatives laugh at himself, his speech could have been counted a success.

When he announced, “The Prime Minister is running away,” he provoked huge amusement.

Corbyn was soon reduced to accusing the Prime Minister of making “very poor quality posts on social media”. The Prime Minister chuckled. He was at ease, even though his microphone was by now back in its conventional place.

“The Prime Minister is talking up no deal to one wing of his party,” Corbyn said, and offered one of his over-long pauses.

“Chicken wing,” some Tory wag shouted – not a witty intervention, but enough to make Corbyn look a fool for giving the opportunity.

By the end of these exchanges, one could not help feeling Johnson might have done better to keep Parliament sitting continuously, though it is true that allowing more time would make the exchanges less dramatic.

Jo Swinson, the new Liberal Democrat leader, accused Johnson of treating the whole thing “like a game”, and told him sternly, “this is not a student debating society”.

A lot of people will agree with her. She was better than Corbyn, because she sounded as if she believed what she was saying. The Liberal Democrat vote will be swollen by Remainers who wish to vote for the genuine article rather than for a fake.

But on her point that Johnson treats the thing as a game – an accusation made by many people – it should be said that while it is true that a certain playfulness can usually be detected in his utterances, he is serious about winning any game he plays.

He won last night by 293 to 46 votes, which sounds decisive but was insufficient to meet the exacting requirements of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

More important, he won the debate, made Corbyn looked weak, and reminded everyone that he likes nothing better than to go out in rough weather.

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Neil O’Brien: Corbynomics – and why it means that your house, business and savings don’t really belong to you,

Neil O’Brien is MP for Market Harborough.

What is Corbynomics? It goes without saying that it’s a much more extreme economic programme than Labour have ever had before. And that government will spend, tax and borrow more. But Labour have a lot more damaging, half-baked and dangerous ideas.

No-one is thinking about them at the moment, but the scary thing is that within weeks these ideas could be affecting your house, your pension and your job.

For me, the most frustrating thing is that Labour have identified various important issues, but their proposed “solutions” would make matters worse. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Seizing 10 per cent of all large companies’ shares

Lots of people, including me, worry that current corporate structures create pressures that make managers behave in a short-termist way, squeezing investment to hit short term profit targets and dragging down productivity growth. I’m concerned that publicly quoted firms are beholden to increasingly transient shareholders, interested in immediate returns. They certainly invest far less than privately owned firms who can take a longer-term view.

But my answer to this would be to change the tax treatment of investment, and increase capital allowances so that there’s no disincentive to invest.

Labour’s answer, in contrast, is to forcibly transfer 10 per cent of all companies shares to create a sort of employee-ownership-at-gunpoint.

This is a terrible idea, which would make investment into the UK dry up overnight. After all, if government can steal ten per cent of your shares, what’s to stop them coming back for the rest? Labour protest that the shares are not being stolen – just given to the workers. But that’s a lie, as they also propose that a Labour-run Treasury would take the great majority of the dividends that those shares attract. At the moment, these are owned by savings and pension funds – so the money is ultimately coming out of your pocket.

The total value of the shares stolen by government would be around £300 billion, according to the Financial Times. For comparison, raising the basic rate of tax by one per cent raises £4.5 billion a year, so you can see what a vast tax grab this would be.

Forcing people to sell their properties at a price set by government, and control rents

There are major issues about the balance of rented and owner-occupied property in Britain. We had a long period when the number of properties being moved into the rent-to-buy sector was outstripping the number built, meaning owner occupation fell dramatically. Between 1996 and 2016, the home ownership rate among middle income people aged 25-34 fell from 65 per cent to 27 per cent.

However, in 2015 the Conservative Government reformed the tax treatment of rent to buy and second homes, and in the years since we have seen homeownership rebounding upwards, with both ownership and the rented sector growing in a more balanced way. There are lots more things we could do to grow home ownership.

Corbynista Labour doesn’t really believe in home ownership. They are nostalgic for the world of the 1970s, where around two thirds of households in places like Islington lived in social housing. But they know ownership is popular.
So they have announced the “private sector right to buy”. This will give private tenants the right to make their landlords sell their properties to them at a discount.

In an interview last week, John McDonnell made it clear that government would set the price: “You’d want to establish what is a reasonable price, you can establish that and then that becomes the right to buy,” he said. “You (the government) set the criteria. I don’t think it’s complicated.”

It’s not complicated. But it is deeply unfair. It would be a retrospective raid on people’s assets. People, including some who are not so rich, have invested in property under certain rules, and would have their savings ripped off them, while other people who invested their money in other things would not. This is arbitrary and unreasonable and would I’m sure be challenged in the courts.

Labour would also set rental prices, promising in a recent document that “There should be a cap on annual permissible rent increases, at no more than the rate of wage inflation or consumer price inflation (whichever is lower).”

This is unworkable or will lead to under investment in rented properties. Why spend lots doing up a flat if you can’t charge more for an improved property? We would quickly be heading back to the 1970s, when there wasn’t enough rented accommodation to go round, and conditions were squalid because of rent controls.

Sectoral wage bargaining

With the National Living Wage, the Conservatives have introduced one of the highest minimum wages in the world. For the lowest paid, the National Living Wage plus the cuts in taxes for lower paid people mean that they take home £4,500 more than they did under the last Labour Government – while employment has soared to a record high. We should be really proud of our record.

However, the National Living Wage is still set by an independent body, and as percentage of average pay in the market, so there is a sensible link to what businesses can afford without sacking people.

In contrast, under Labour politicians would just set rates directly. Labour have also pledged to “roll out sectoral collective bargaining”. Labour said it would “fix the going rate” in each industry and “set fair conditions” for the sector. This would represent an end to the system whereby unions negotiate company by company and, instead, give them power effectively to set national standards on pay and conditions. A new government unit would work with unions to bring firms into line.

This means that if politicians or trade unions decide your business is part of a particular “sector” (a pretty subjective question) then you would be in line for a change in wages which your business might simply be unable to afford. The scope for union bullying and endless court cases and demarcation disputes is obvious. In the car industry, wages are high, so a sectoral wage would be high. If I make plastic bits for the car industry but also other industries, is my business in or out of the automotive sector?

Rebecca Long Bailey has also said that “Labour will also legislate to reduce pay inequality by introducing an Excessive Pay Levy on companies with staff on very high pay.” There is no detail on what the rules will be, but the idea of having wages directly controlled by Jeremy Corbyn is likely to deter inward investment.

What do these ideas have in common?

When New Labour left office, a million people had been thrown on the dole, we’d had the deepest recession since the second world war and government was borrowing more than at any time in our whole peacetime history. In the final year alone, they borrowed £7,900 for every family in Britain.

And that was New Labour. Imaging what the country would look like after Corbyn and McDonnell.

Where Corbyn’s ideas really differ from previous Labour leaders is that he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law. Your house, your business, your savings: all these things don’t really belong to you, in Corbyn’s eyes: you have them only as long as the government suffers you to have them, and they can be retrospectively taken away if he sees fit. In the week Robert Mugabe died, we’ve seen underlined just how important the rule of law is. But under Corbynomics, it would be the first casualty.

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Lord Ashcroft: What my latest focus groups say about the twists and turns of the Brexit drama

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

As last week’s Parliamentary drama unfolded, I decided to find out how things seemed to the people on whose behalf it was supposedly being enacted – namely the voters, in the shape of focus groups in Barnet and St Ives.

It was no surprise that people were sharply divided over their new Prime Minister. For many Labour voters, he was “dangerous”, a “charlatan”, “bullying”, “running the country into the ground” and “trying to baffle people with poshness;” “he’d be an amazing character if he was fictional.”

But Conservative remain voters also had mixed views: while some thought he was divisive, dictatorial and untrustworthy (“I don’t think he’s as proper as some MPs – he can probably go rogue”), for others he was colourful, “flavoursome” and “quite statesmanlike compared to the rest. If you think about how Britain is presenting itself on the international stage, who else would have the personality and persona to stand up and be heard?” “His inauguration speech was actually quite rousing. I thought, we are where we are, but he’s got the right attitude, he wants to try and fix some things.”

A few were less positive than they had once been: “initially, I felt it was a good thing, but after what’s happened in the past 24 hours I don’t know. He’s playing a very dangerous game and I’m concerned the game he’s playing could hand the keys to Jeremy Corbyn, which is my worst nightmare;” “There is a sinister side underneath the foppish hair that I didn’t think was there.”

The notable thing about that view, though, was that it was rare: most seemed to feel much as they as they had previously done, only more strongly. For Leave voters he was “realistic,” “robust,” “a doer,” “more proactive,” “bombastic” in a good way and “kind of like Trump – he’s going to make some changes and make things happen.”

On issues other than Brexit, people had heard the new Government promise money for the NHS, schools, universities, the police and social care. It is fair to say that this agenda had been taken with a very considerable pinch of salt on all sides. “If he came though it would be fabulous” but “he’s promising the moon on a stick”; “He will say anything we want to hear. Where’s it coming from, the money? Who knows. All we hear is that the pot is running dry. Is he banking on not paying the £39 billion divorce bill, is he playing that card?” “I worry because the Tory government has cut a lot of things, so is this a new Conservative policy? I’m a bit confused about the policy of his party.”

On Brexit, the policy was completely clear, for good or ill: “He wants to get it done;” “I don’t like him, but I like that he’s pretty stern and wants to do what the country voted for.” Johnson’s determination to leave on October 31 come what may was well known, but most thought he would much rather do so with a deal than without, if only to show he could succeed where Theresa May had not: “I’m sure Boris would rather have the security of some sort of trade deal, and also for his own ego and press. He wants to be able to say where Theresa May failed, he’s on the front pages shaking Macron’s hand. He wants to be the hero, the one who came in and fixed it all.”

Most participants on all sides were sceptical that a no-deal Brexit would be as bad as the worst predictions had suggested – “I can’t believe Europe won’t want our spending power” – and a good deal of scaremongering was in the air (although for no discernible purpose: “you can scaremonger us all you like, we’re not the ones making the decisions”). Ultimately, nobody knew what would happen and “so much nonsense has been spoken that the truth gets lost. It’s very difficult to know what to believe and what sources to trust.”

For many Leavers, the bigger fear was that despite the PM’s do-or-die attitude, Brexit still would not happen by the Halloween deadline: “My concern is, will he go through with it? I’m a bit sceptical. They say they will do this and then something else will change;” “I like the idea of us pulling out on 31 October, but the chances of it happening are minute.” This had ominous implications for the Conservatives: “If we don’t leave by 31 October, I’ll have no confidence on anything else. They haven’t done what they promised us;” “He’s made such a song and dance about this deadline, he’s hanging himself out to dry.”

Asked who was responsible for the Parliamentary impasse, neither Remainers nor Leavers distinguished between the parties or factions: “It’s all of them. The politicians should have dealt with it in a more professional and grown-up way.” After all, “Parliament came to the country. MPs were voted into Parliament and they should work together to get us out”. “All the parties are so split. Even half the Cabinet don’t agree with what he says;” “Both sides lied in the referendum. It’s led to the public not knowing who they can trust.” Touchingly, some thought they should still be able to expect better from their elected representatives: “They might all be lying cheating thieving bastards, but they should set an example.”

Even among Remain voters, there were mixed views about the prospect, since realised, of a law to take a No Deal Brexit off the table. Undesirable though No Deal might be, people wondered what the point of another extension would turn out to be: “We’re only going go drag everything out with zero result. Nothing’s changed since March, nothing’s changed since June. End it!” “I don’t have any faith that saying 31 January will mean we leave on 31 January.”

Despite their exasperation with Parliament, one thing that united all our participants was that none of them wanted to see an early general election. Going to the country again would be a waste of time, money and energy when what was needed was for the current Parliament to do its job: “the country’s already voted! We’ve made our decision, we’ve made our choice.”

Most also doubted that an election would change the situation, or at least not for the better: “The two main parties will lose, the smaller parties will gain, and chaos will rule;” “We’ll have lots of strange parties doing strange deals. I would rather get it done with.” Labour-voting remainers tended to come to the same conclusion from a different angle: “I would love another election to remove Boris from power, but I don’t want it used in a way to barter against Brexit.”

More poignantly, it was also clear that many – mostly among those who had voted Leave, but certainly not exclusively – had become so demoralised as to wonder whether voting was worth bothering with. “What’s the point? We’ve done the big thing, the referendum, and it was totally ignored;” “People had a chance to vote, and it’s as though that didn’t count for anything. Public opinion is going down the drain. It is a mockery – three years later, we’re still debating if it’s happening or not. It’s embarrassing, really;” “I’m not sure anyone’s going to vote because faith has gone. When they give you the right to vote and you don’t get listened to…”

Though they had a firm grasp of the bigger picture, most had better things to do than follow the relentless stream of breathlessly breaking news. Jo Johnson was a case in point. Had anyone heard of him? “It rings a bell. Is he a singer?” “You might be thinking of Jack.” “Is he Boris’s brother?” Was that a guess? “It was actually.” Those who had noticed the brotherly resignation tended to see it as a dignified and even compassionate move (“and there’s not much of that about”) to avoid a public dispute between the pair, in striking contrast to the Milibands. Still, “Christmas is going to be awkward.”

There was some sympathy for the Conservative MPs removed from the Parliamentary party for voting against the whip on Tuesday (not least because “they’re doing to Boris what he did to the previous PM”): “It’s not very ethical – what an awful position to be in, losing your job or compromising your morals;” “They should be allowed to say what they want and not be outed.”

If anything, though, the balance of opinion was that the rebels knew what they were letting themselves in for given the Prime Minister’s resolve: “He’s trying to get things done. They were warned;” “I don’t think he had a choice, because very early in his time as Prime Minister he couldn’t be seen as being soft on them. I don’t like him but we need someone strong.”

In this respect, there was a chasm between Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, whose position on Brexit remained opaque to say the least: “This week it’s stay in and last week it was come out;” “Haven’t a clue;” “He’s so indecisive he keeps changing his mind;” “He’s been tactical for too long. Everyone at one point was mad for him, but now he’s lost all that.” Even among our 2017 Labour-voting participants, there was very little support: “He was elected on a wave and that wave is no longer there;” “I’m a Labour person, but Corbyn does scare me a bit. I don’t think he’s got what it takes to run the country.”

For uncommitted Remainers, if it came to a choice between a No Deal Brexit and a Corbyn-led government there would be no contest: “A Corbyn government would be worse. I would actually be scared;” “My fear is the rise of the trade unions from the 1970s, which we know he’s a darling of;” “His views are so extreme. I still remember him standing on the stage with Sinn Fein after they blew up the pub in Birmingham, and I can’t get past that;” “I can’t think of one statesmanlike quality he has that a leader should have.”

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, had installed a new leader since some of our Cornish participants had voted for the party in 2017. Could they identify the individual? “I think they’re male.” No. “Has she got short hair?” No. It’s Jo Swinson. Blank faces. “Well, she hasn’t made much of an impact if she’s new. I’ve never bloody heard of her.”

Another thing our St Ives Lib Dem voters had in common was that they had also voted Leave in 2016. Didn’t this seem like a contradiction, voting for a party that wanted to stop Brexit, which they supported? “I’d never thought of it like that. We’re a funny breed down here. If there’s someone good in the constituency that you’ve heard of… If David Penhaligon was still alive, he’d probably still be an MP today.”

Moreover, as Theresa May learned to her cost, elections are never about only one issue, however much politicians might want them to be: “It boils down to all the things that affect the public – families, the future, kids growing up…” Still, “I’m not sure that any of that will matter this time. Brexit is such a big monster, everything else pales into insignificance. It’s all anyone talks about.”

The LibDem position on Brexit was at least clear: “They want to remain. At least they have been honest. But it’s not a very good start, is it – ‘however you vote, we want to stay in’.” Most said they would probably switch away from the party in an early election: “The only way the Liberals are going to get into power is if there’s a hung parliament, and that’s not really working.”

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John McDonnell says there are no deals with SNP over a second independence referendum

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has ruled out election deals with the SNP about Scottish independence.

Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr McDonnell did not comment on potential alliances if a general election is called imminently.

Asked about his comments at the Edinburgh Festival that Labour would not block a second Scottish independence referendum, he insisted “there are no deals whatsoever” with the SNP.

The comments had caused controversy as they were at odds with the stated position of the Scottish Labour Party.

‘Not doing a deal’

John McDonell says there are no deals in place over a news Scottish referendum vote (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Mr McDonnell said that it was still his opinion but added: “That’s not a deal, that’s my personal view that I’ve expressed.

“That’s not doing a deal, that’s my position, but we’re not doing deals with anyone.

“When we go into the next general election, I believe we will have a majority, but if we are in a minority, we will be a minority government, we won’t do coalitions, we will expect [other parties] to support the party.

“If we’re in a minority position, we’ll form a government and the other opposition parties can vote for the policies we’re advocating and if they don’t, we’ll go back to the people.”

Westminster vs Holyrood

John McDonnell: 'I think Scotland should stay united within the United Kingdom' (Photo: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
John McDonnell: ‘I think Scotland should stay united within the United Kingdom’ (Photo: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Under the Scotland Act, Holyrood could only hold an independence vote if it is given the power to do so by the UK Government.

Mr McDonnell said: “I said then (in Edinburgh), I don’t think it’s up to the UK Parliament to block a referendum. I don’t think there should be another referendum, I think Scotland should stay united within the United Kingdom.

“It would not be a priority for us, we’ve got enough to deal with, with climate change, austerity, etc

“Certainly it wouldn’t be in the early years of a Labour government and there would have to be a proper mandate in Scotland – the Scottish people would have to decide themselves.”

‘Determine our own future’

Reacting to Mr McDonnell’s comments, the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsty Blackman MP said: “No Westminster government, of any party, has the right to stand in the way of the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future.

Read more:

Ruth Davidson’s resignation leaves Tories adrift in Scotland

“John McDonnell is right to recognise it would be completely undemocratic for a Labour Westminster Government to try to block a fresh independence referendum, which the Scottish people and Parliament have voted to hold.

“The SNP will put Scotland’s opposition to Brexit and our right to choose our own future as an independent nation at the heart of the coming election.

“A win for the SNP will reinforce Scotland’s right to choose and see any remaining opposition at Westminster wash away.”

Additional reporting from Press Association.

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Emily Thornberry says she would still vote to Remain even if Labour secured a Brexit deal

Emily Thornberry has said that if faced with the prospect of voting to stay in the EU and voting for a Brexit deal negotiated by Labour, she would still choose to Remain.

The shadow foreign secretary was asked on Question Time on Thursday night what Labour would do if elected into power. She said the party would negotiate a better deal with the EU, before putting it to a public vote.

But Ms Thornberry added that in that situation, she would still personally campaign to Remain ahead of another referendum, despite being part of the Labour cabinet responsible for agreeing such a deal.

Campaign against your own deal

She was asked by presenter Fiona Bruce: “You would go back to Europe, try to get a better deal then have a referendum where Remain is an option.

“Would you then campaign against your own deal?”

Emily Thornberry said that she would vote against any future Labor deal (Photo: Getty)

Ms Thornberry responded: “Personally I will campaign to remain. I will negotiate to the best of my ability a deal that will look after jobs and the economy.

“But the best way to look after jobs and the economy is to remain in the EU.”

Labour has previously agreed its Brexit policy is to put a new deal to the public in the form of another referendum, but MPs are torn as to whether support the deal or Remain.

Election decision

The party is now debating, with other opposition MPs, whether to support a Government motion next week calling for an early election.

Jeremy Corbyn is discussing whether to support an election with other opposition leaders (Photo: Getty Images)

Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly called for an election but has said he will not now support one until no-deal Brexit has been completely ruled out.

He is due to hold a conference call with other opposition leaders on Friday morning to discuss the best way to prevent a no-deal Brexit and their approach to Boris Johnson’s latest bid to trigger a general election.

But, signalling that Labour will oppose the motion, Ms Thornberry told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that Mr Johnson is “as slippery as can be” and cannot be trusted not to use an election to distract the public while he pursues a no deal.

PM ‘can’t be trusted’

“If we vote to have a general election then, no matter what it is that Boris Johnson promises, it is up to him to advise the Queen when the general election should be,” she said.

“Given that he has shown himself to be a manifest liar and somebody who has said that he would ‘die in a ditch’ rather than stop no-deal […] our first priority has to be that we must stop no-deal and we must make sure that is going to happen.

Boris Johnson makes a speech during a visit to West Yorkshire (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/Pool/Reuters)

“We have a Prime Minister who is so unlike any other prime minister that we have had. In the past, if you passed a law you could be pretty sure the prime minister will abide by that law.

“But we heard from the Prime Minister’s own mouth that he will die in a ditch – obviously I hope he doesn’t, but I actually hope he would obey the law.”

The law she was referring to was a new bill, due to get royal assent in the next few days, which requires the prime minister to seek a three month Brexit extension if he cannot reach a deal with the EU by mid-October – essentially ruling out a no deal.

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Boris Johnson’would rather be dead in a ditch’ than miss Halloween Brexit deadline

Boris Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask Brussels to delay Brexit beyond 31 October.

The Prime Minister delivered the extraordinary intervention in a speech in Wakefield which was designed to appeal to the country beyond Westminster for an early General Election.

It followed a difficult morning when his brother, Jo Johnson, announced his resignation as Universities Minister and as an MP, saying he had been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest”.

In a speech that was beset by problems and in which he appeared at times to lose focus, Mr Johnson repeated his claim that he didn’t want an election but that one was necessary to break the parliamentary deadlock.

‘Yes I can’

Brother Jo Johnson has quit the government (Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Mr Johnson will try to trigger a snap election for a second time next Monday after his first attempt was blocked by MPs on Wednesday evening.

The Prime Minister’s speech in West Yorkshire took place in front of police officers to advertise his pledge for 20,000 new recruits. But it was hampered by a delay of more than an hour, moments when he appeared to forget his lines, and a female police officer almost fainting behind him.

Asked whether he could promise the public that he would not go back to Brussels to request a delay to Brexit, as instructed by the bill that was passed by the Commons this week, Mr Johnson said: “Yes, I can. I would rather be dead in a ditch.” But he then failed to answer directly whether he would resign before requesting a delay.

Mr Johnson appeared troubled by questions over the shock resignation of his brother Jo, saying that he was a “fantastic guy” and a “brilliant minister” but that he “does not agree with me about the European Union because it’s an issue that obviously divides families and divides everybody”.

Worst week

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the target of Mr Johnson’s attacks (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images)

In a sign that his worst week so far as Prime Minister – in which he was defeated three times in the Commons and has faced criticism for expelling 21 Tory rebels – was starting to take its toll, Mr Johnson gave an apparent cri de coeur when he said: “I hate banging on about Brexit, I don’t want an election at all, I hate bringing up this subject very much.”

But he added: “Do you want this Government to take us out on 31 October or do you want Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to go to that crucial summit in Brussels on 17 October, effectively hand over control to the EU and keep us in beyond 31 October ?

“I think it’s a no-brainer and I’m sorry to bring this painful subject up this afternoon but that’s the reality of what we face and for me there can only be one way forward for our country.”

Earlier Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, announced the Government is tabling a motion for an early election under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

If the bill is passed next week, Britain will go to the polls on 15 October as previously planned by the Prime Minister. But with Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats likely to vote against it, the election looks set to be delayed.

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What time is the Brexit vote? When the results of the no-deal bill will be announced today, and what happens next

Boris Johnson is gearing up for another Commons battle after failing to crush a backbench rebellion by MPs trying to stop a no-deal Brexit. 

The Prime Minister attempted to thwart the plan from MPs to take over the Commons order paper today, but lost in a symbolic vote on Tuesday night. 

Twenty-one Tory rebels voted against Mr Johnson during the emergency motion and, in an unprecedented reaction from the Government, they were immediately sacked from the party.

Mr Johnson’s loss has left MPs to now put forward their own legislation, which could force the Prime Minister to seek a three-month Brexit extension from the EU if he has not secured a deal by the 31 October deadline.

What’s on the agenda today?

In yet another busy day in the Commons, here is what to watch out for:

Spending review

Normally this would be a huge story, especially given that it is the first official budget announcement of the relatively new Government.

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is preparing his first Spending Review (Photo: Reuters)

Chancellor Sajid Javid is expected to announce an additional £2bn of Brexit funding as well as extra money for a number of departments – much of which has already been announced by the Government.

This is expected to include:

£210m to offer training opportunities to frontline NHS staff

£1.8bn to improve patient care

£400m in education for 16 to 19-year-olds

A rise in salaries for new teachers to £30,000 by 2022-23

£5m for a new office to oversee the Government’s drive to deliver for veterans

£90m injection in the UK’s diplomatic connections across the globe

A boost to the defence budget

£60m extension to the “Great” campaign, which is aimed at increasing exports

An extra £46m to boost the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

£13m to support preparations for the UK’s G7 presidency in 2021

Backbench Brexit bill

The European Union (Withdrawal) (no 6) Bill is due to be presented to Parliament by Labour former minister Hilary Benn.

If passed, it will require the Government to either reach a deal with the EU or gain Parliament’s approval for a no-deal Brexit.

If the Government does not do either of these by 19 October, the legislation will then require the Prime Minister to request another extension until the end of January.

Boris Johnson addresses the Commons (Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Snap election

The other key issue on the order paper today is whether or not the country is heading towards a snap election in mid-October.

Mr Johnson said he intended to treat the vote on Tuesday night as a confidence vote and, if he lost, he would attempt to call an election to secure his mandate for keeping no-deal Brexit on the negotiating table.

True to his word, a motion for calling an early general election will be debated and voted on late on Wednesday night.

How will today pan out?

Midday: Mr Johnson will take to the despatch box for the first Prime Minister’s Questions after the summer recess – and his first since becoming Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn and other opposition leaders will grill Mr Johnson.

12.45pm: The Chancellor is due to deliver his first spending review. There were suggestions that, following Tuesday’s drama, it could have been delivered in written form instead of the usual oral statement but the minister is now expected to address the Commons after PMQs is wrapped up.

The review will set out the Conservative Government’s 2020 to 2021 budgets for Whitehall departments.

2.45 pm: There will be time for a private members’ bill – presented by Hull MP Emma Hardy – on compulsory purchase orders.

3.00 pm: The rebel alliance of backbenchers will take over control of the Commons order paper and table their anti no-deal Brexit legislation.

The chamber will debate the bill, which has been designed with the aim of forcing the Government to seek another Brexit extension until the end of January if it cannot secure a deal or win approval for a no deal.

5.00 pm: MPs will vote on second reading of the bill.

5.15 pm: If the vote passes the bill will go on to the committee stage when any amendments may be discussed.

7.00 pm: There will be further votes expected on any possible amendments tabled – the number of which is not yet known.

The bill will then go on to its third reading. This stage could take up to a couple of hours depending on the number of amendments.

Once the bill has passed its third reading, it will go to the House of Lords for the next phase.

9.00 to 9.30 pm: Around this time Mr Johnson will table motion for snap election which will be debated on for 90 minutes before MPs vote.

10.30 to 11.00 pm: MPs will vote on whether to hold an early general election in mid-October.

Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, at least two-thirds of MPs will need to vote in favour of an election for it to pass.

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Keir Starmer says Labour won’t support a general election yet: here are the reasons why

The Labour Party has said it will not “dance to the tune” of the Prime Minister by voting for a snap general election because its priority is to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the opposition would reject Boris Johnson’s efforts to trigger an early election after the Government lost a crunch Brexit vote on Tuesday night.

The Prime Minister’s motion would require the support of two-thirds of MPs under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. But if the Labour leadership instructs its MPs to vote against it, Mr Johnson stands little chance of succeeding.

‘Not going to fall for trap’

“We’re not going to vote with him,” Sir Keir told BBC News on Wednesday morning. “We’re not going to dance to his tune. We’ve just got sufficient control of Parliament to get this bill through before Friday. 

“We are not going to fall into the trap of handing control back to Johnson… so that we can’t complete on that task.”

The Commons has wrestled control from the Prime Minister
The Commons has wrestled control from the Prime Minister (Photo: UK Parliament/Roger Harris)

On Tuesday night, a cross-party group of MPs succeeded in seizing control of the parliamentary agenda and can now push through legislation to block Britain leaving the EU without an agreement on 31 October.

The legislation, led by the Labour MP and Brexit Select Committee chairman Hilary Benn and Tory former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, would require a delay to Brexit unless there was a deal or Parliament explicitly backed leaving the EU without one by 19 October. MPs are set to debate the bill on Wednesday.

‘On verge of preventing a no deal’

When asked why Labour, which for months has been pushing for a general election, was going to ignore this chance from Mr Johnson, Sir Keir said: “We’ve said we want a general election and we want to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Read more:

Brexit vote result: Government defeated 328-301 as rebels win right to bring bill blocking no-deal Brexit

Boris Johnson says he will seek snap election – but Labour want no-deal Brexit ruled out first

“We are on the verge of stopping a no-deal Brexit. If we can get this bill through, we have succeeded in an insurance policy by Friday. Johnson is setting a trap which says, ‘Vote for it today and then I can knock you off course and then you fail in your task.’ We’re not going to fall for that.”

Sir Keir, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said Labour could return to pursuing a general election at any time by lodging a vote of no confidence in the Government, which is one method of calling an election other than at five-year intervals.  

“That’s a judgement call for the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, and he’ll make that judgement call when he thinks it’s the right time and we can win it.

“But as he said last night, it’s a very simple proposition, we intend to keep our focus on the task in hand. We’re not going to be diverted by Johnson who is just playing another game, setting another trap. We’re going to complete on this task,” he added. 

Why is Labour keen to delay an election?

Labour’s current stance may seem confusing given the party has long insisted an election would be the only way to solve the Brexit impasse.

But as Dr Simon Usherwood, a reader in politics at the University of Surrey, points out: “This has now got caught up with the efforts to avoid a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Keir Starmer, a former lawyer, has a working relationship with Dominic Grieve (Photo: PA)

“Because of the short amount of time until then, and because of a lack of trust in the Government’s intentions, Labour seems to have finally made the decision that their priority has to be the passage of the Benn Bill today.”

Dr Usherwood confirms that without Labour’s support, there will not be enough votes in the Commons to trigger a snap election. “So the party is hoping it can use that to help speed the passage of the bill, and then move to a quick election.

“This would allow them to say that they have taken action to avoid a no deal, and to offer a new approach to the public at a point when voters might be tried of the Tories’ infighting.”

But this approach would not necessarily result in success for Labour. “The main danger in this is that Labour doesn’t have an obvious solution to Brexit, having repeatedly rejected the deal negotiated under Theresa May, and having no policy to remain in the EU: success in a general election therefore won’t really change the basic problem: none of the options looks good,” adds Dr Usherwood.

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Mark Harper: Yeah but no but yeah but. When it comes to making up their minds about an election, Labour is Vicky Pollard.

Mark Harper is a former Chief Whip, and is MP for the Forest of Dean.

We find ourselves in the middle of one of the most momentous weeks in our political lifetimes. A constitutional tug of war like no other – between Government and Opposition, between Parliament and the people.

Clarity in modern politics is important, and it is clear what we want to do. We want to deliver Brexit as soon as we can – deal or no deal, no ifs or buts. Then we will be able to get on and govern to deliver on the people’s priorities such as levelling up education funding, boosting the NHS and tackling crime.

However, on the face of it, it is not immediately clear what our opponents in the Commons, led by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party actually want. Let’s see if we can find out.

Deliver Brexit?

Let’s start with a (supposedly) easy one. Do they want to deliver Brexit?

It is obvious that the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalists don’t want to abide by the 2016 referendum result, but what about Labour?

Well, their 2017 general election manifesto was clear that Labour “accepts the referendum result”. Great, but have they made efforts to respect that promise? No.

When they had the opportunity to vote for a deal, they didn’t. Even when the previous Prime Minister and her Cabinet, mistakenly in my view, reached out to Labour to try and meet their demands, they still did nothing.

While some, like Gareth Snell, Sarah Champion and Lisa Nandy, have expressed regret at not voting for a deal to deliver Brexit when they had the chance, behind closed doors, senior members of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet are unrepentant and clearly have no intention of delivering Brexit at all.

Dawn Butler, with a straight face, said that “if anyone doesn’t hate Brexit, even if you voted for it, there’s something wrong with you”. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer thinks that “whatever the outcome…deal or no deal, there’s got to be a referendum” with Emily Thornberry saying that Labour should “campaign, unequivocally, for Remain”.

It’s clear, then, that Labour really does not want to deliver Brexit.

Stop No Deal?

Labour’s position on preventing us leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement, something they regard as “the worst possible deal”, is at least clear. However, if they really think this, why didn’t they vote for a deal when they had the chance?

Instead, their stance of ruling out no deal not only fatally weakens the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand and increases the risk of longer delays to Brexit, but it also increases damaging levels of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is business’s worst enemy – just ask Aston Martin’s CEO, Andy Palmer, who says he would “rather leave with No Deal than drag negotiations on”. It’s clear that Labour want to force more damaging on uncertainty business, leaving them unable to plan for the long term.

General election?

When it comes to whether Labour want a general election, the answer we have got has depended on which hour you ask the question.

While Corbyn has said that he is “absolutely ready to fight” a general election, he was then almost immediately contradicted by a member of his Shadow Cabinet.

In wanting an election but not wanting one that they fear they will lose, Labour are once again doing a very uncanny impression of Vicky Pollard.

Stop Brexit?

After all of the above, we are left with one final question – do our opponents actually want to stop Brexit altogether?

We don’t need to look very far to discover the real answer. Section 3(2) of the Bill on today’s Order Paper, if passed, compels the Prime Minister to accept whatever extension he is offered by the EU – be it 3 months, 6 months or 10 years, with whatever conditions are attached by the EU, unless Parliament opts for a no deal Brexit.

I’m afraid the mask has slipped and the plans of our opponents in Parliament are clear. They wish to open the door to indefinite delay – leading to the halt of Brexit altogether.

Conclusion – “constitutional outrage” and stop Brexit

The real aim of our Parliamentary opponents is, as it turns out, hiding in plain sight. Their decision to wrestle the Order Paper out of the control of the Government – for the second time this year – thanks to the gross misuse of the conventions of the Commons is not only a “constitutional outrage”, but it is simply the first step of their plans to stop Brexit.

Brexit has the largest democratic mandate in British political history – it cannot, and must not, be ignored, but that is exactly what Labour and our other opponents in Parliament want to do.

It is clear that only the Conservatives will respect the result of that mandate, end the uncertainty and then set out a sound platform on which to govern and deliver the people’s priorities. If we soon have to prove that to the country at the ballot box, then prove it we shall.

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Labour figures say the party will block Boris Johnson triggering general election in order to prevent no-deal Brexit

Senior Labour figures have suggested the party will block Boris Johnson‘s attempts to trigger a general election if he loses a key Brexit vote on Tuesday night.

They suggested Jeremy Corbyn would stop Boris Johnson calling an election because avoiding a no-deal Brexit is the bigger priority.

This is despite the party repeatedly urging Mr Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May to call an election in recent years.

Mr Johnson said that if he loses a vote in the Commons on Tuesday night, that could set the ball rolling on attempts to force him to seek an extension to Brexit, and it could trigger a general election. Number 10 has also said it will deselect any Tory MPs that vote for the bill.

But Mr Johnson will have to gather the votes of two-thirds of MPs to bring an election under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, something shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd said the Labour party will not help him do.

‘We will stop a no-deal Brexit’

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tony Lloyd and Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

He was asked on the BBC Newsnight programme on Monday if given a chance to fight an election Labour: “Would say no, thanks. We do not want an election at this moment, and that would be a vote against.”

He responded: “Yes, that’s absolutely right. that’s exactly what I was saying. We will stop a no-deal Brexit being something Prime Minister Johnson will be able to deliver.”

He was questioned on whether this would be the position of Mr Corbyn, who had called for a general election in a speech in Salford on Monday.

Mr Lloyd said: “Be clear what I’m saying, he doesn’t want to fight and we don’t want to fight an election, which allows Boris Johnson to crash us out with a no-deal. Of course, we want an election following on from that. Bring it on.”

‘I think we are all ready for a general election’

Mary Creagh (Pic: Getty Images)

His comments were echoed on the programme by Labour MP Mary Creagh who said: “I think we are all ready for a general election. I think we’re all ready to see the back of the Conservatives and their austerity agenda.

“But, as Tony rightly says, we’re not going to agree to one when there is the threat of a no-deal Brexit hanging over the country.

“So what will what I interpret it to mean, and what the conversations that I’ve had in Parliament today mean, is that we would not support the vote, the two-thirds majority that Boris Johnson needs, the 434 MPs that he needs to vote for a general election to dissolve parliament, under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, he will not get that majority.”

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn calls for general election but only if no-deal Brexit can be blocked

She said Mr Johnson’s strategy has been to try to use a general election to bring about a no-deal Brexit, and Labour would not allow it to happen in such a way.

She said: “We have watched this Prime Minister over the summer do nothing with France, do nothing with Germany do nothing with Brussels. We’ve watched him running down the clock.

“We have watched him and his revolutionary advisers, basically planning their shock and awe election campaign. We have watched them suspending Parliament in breach of all convention for five weeks, gagging the people’s representatives, in order to try and bounce the country into their extreme, reckless and dangerous no deal.

“So the idea that we’re just going to nod along in Parliament, let him have it.  He retains the ability to set the day. He said today (the election will be) the 14th the October we’ve been briefed the 17th, we’ve been briefed the first of November.

“If he moves that date to the first of November, we will not be complicit in crashing our country out without a deal.”

Sequencing

Shami Chakrabarti and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Getty)

Labour shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said the issue was a “matter of sequencing” and the party is still committed to fighting an election.

She told the BBC on Tuesday: “This is just a matter of sequencing. Of course, we always want a general election because you don’t end austerity and food bank Britain without a general election, but there is an order of priority.”

“And today and tomorrow, the primary priority working across parties is to legislate against a disastrous no-deal because it would be disastrous for the poor and working people, most of all.”

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Unite leader Len McCluskey says union will support Labour MPs who vote for a Brexit deal

Len McCluskey has indicated that Unite will work to protect any Labour MPs who vote for a new Brexit deal if they face deselection by party members for doing so.

The general secretary of the trade union, and a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, even offered to defend MPs to the right of the current party’s socialist ideology.

Parliamentarians, Mr McCluskey said, should not be pilloried for backing Brexit and he would make is protest known to members if they wanted to deselect them on this basis.

Mr McCluskey, who continues to be skeptical of Labour’s support for a second referendum, went on to admit he believes that Theresa May and Mr Corbyn could have agreed on a deal. Now, however, he accepts that there are enough rebel Labour MPs who would break the whip and allow a new deal to pass in the Commons.

Trigger ballot threat

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Labour Party, stands next to Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Labour Party, stands next to Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite (Photo: Getty)

“They weren’t going to break the whip for no reason,” he told magazine Prospect on why more Labour MPs declined to vote for Mrs May’s deal. Those few didn’t think the deal stood any chance of passing anyway.

Now, MPs are facing “trigger ballots” in the autumn, during which members have an opportunity to vote for a full reselection in their constituencies. This could mean standing current MPs against alternative candidates.

Several MPs, including Sarah Champion, Stephen Kinnock and Gareth Snell, said they now regretted not voting for Theresa May’s deal.

Mr McCluskey said that Unite would have defended their decisions to do so if they had, and faced deselection as a result.

“I would have made my views known to our members within that constituency,” he said.

“I would have been prepared to publicly say: ‘Well hang on, if this is why you’re attacking this MP, then in my opinion you’re wrong.’”

A Johnson deal

He went on to say that he did not believe Boris Johnson would secure a deal ahead of the 31 October 2019. However, were the Prime Minister to present one to the Commons, he thinks more MPs could back it than Mrs May’s.

“If that happened, I think you’re right, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he continued.

Mr McCluskey has urged Labour to be prepared to support a Brexit deal, on the basis that it seemed to be impossible to stop otherwise.

He also said he believed there was no clear, democratic path for a second referendum.

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WATCH: Gardiner – Liberal Democrats ‘petulant’ for not making Corbyn caretaker Prime Minister

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Iain Dale: Were the Prime Minister to pull the plug on HS2, would he call time on Heathrow expansion too?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

I have very mixed feelings about HS2. I am usually all in favour of visionary transport infrastructure projects. I rather liked the idea of the Boris Island Airport, and still regret that he didn’t make it part of his leadership campaign. I also think high speed rail is a good thing.

However, I still don’t think the business case for HS2 has really ever been properly made.  Capacity is clearly an issue on parts of the West Coast main line, but it seems to be the Manchester trains which suffer, rather than the Birmingham ones.

The Prime Minister is clearly minded to cancel the whole project, and hopes that the review announced this week will give him political cover. Quite how he will explain the waste of upwards of £7.2 billion I don’t know, but presumably the saving of a further £80 billion will be used to show how other parts of our transport system could be improved.

Of course, if HS2 is cancelled, one would quite reasonably wonder whether the third runway at Heathrow might be next on the list for a prime ministerial cull.

– – – – – – – – – – –

A new Kantar poll puts the Conservatives on 42 per cent, with Labour trailing on 28 per cent and the Brexit Party on only five per cent. The Liberal Democrats were constant on 15 per cent.

So, a 14 per cent lead for Johnson. Is this a “Boris bounce”? None of the other polls have shown a lead anything like this big, so everyone should treat with a huge degree of scepticism. But since it is widely believed that there will be a general election by the end of November, this is not a bad place to start from.

But as ever, a Conservative election success surely relies on us leaving the EU on October 31st. If we don’t, quite a few of those per centage points will be shaved off by Nigel Farage.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of Farage, he has made clear that, if the Prime Minister signs up to any form of deal with the EU, the Brexit Party will stand candidates against every Conservative candidate up and down the country. The only way to avoid that would be for us to leave on 31 October with no deal.

That outcome seems ever more likely as each day and each exchange of letters with Donald Tusk takes place. But as with Farage, I have a feeling in my water that the prospect of a last-minute deal hasn’t entirely disappeared. Yet.

The purists may hate it, but in the end, we have surely to remain of the view that a good deal is better than no deal. The trouble is that few can see what would actually constitute a good deal from the UK viewpoint. We can all see what a bad deal looks like, of course. But how we get from that to a good deal is anyone’s guess. –

– – – – – – – – –

 

The ‘N’ key to my laptop has come ustuck. Makes me thik a ew computer may be i order. I could stick it o agai , I suppose. But where’s the fu i that?

– – – – – – – – – –

This is my first and only week’s holiday of the year. I’m spending it in Norfolk doing nothing at all – apart from writing this, and two other columns.

And watching box sets. I’ve finished Designated Survivor on Netflix and have now started the Korean version. I’m quite used to watching programmes with subtitles, but normally I can pick up a few words of the language. Not Korean. It’s almost impossible to follow.

I’m also reading Andrew Roberts’ brilliant thousand page biography of Winston Churchill. I always find these doorstops of books incredibly intimidating, mainly because I normally only read before I go to sleep, and therefore only manage three pages a night. So I’m pleased I’m already on page 200. Right, time for another chapter…

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