16 August 2019 | UK NEWS
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has publicly decried the stance adopted by the new Liberal Democrat Leader, Jo Swinson, after she continued to insist that Mr Corbyn was not the right man to lead the proposed ’emergency government’ proposed by the ‘Unite to Remain’ alliance of the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru.
Speaking to Press Association reporters, Mr Corbyn said: “It’s not up to Jo Swinson to choose candidates; it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be.” He added: “Surely she must recognise she is a leader of one of the opposition parties who are apparently opposed to this Government, and apparently prepared to support a motion of no confidence.”
Ms Swinson had previously dismissed Mr Corbyn’s plan to bring down Boris Johnson’s Government with a Vote of No Confidence before installing himself as Prime Minister to lead a ‘caretaker government’ – presumably in a minority – whose function would be to block No Deal by requesting a further extension of Article 50 from the EU. Mr Corbyn has said that any such government should be “strictly time-limited”, and that his final action as interim Prime Minister would be to call a General Election in which Labour would campaign on a manifesto supporting a second referendum on EU membership, including an option to Remain.
Ms Swinson apparently took the view that Mr Corbyn would be too divisive a candidate to unite both rebel Conservatives and independent MPs, suggesting veteran Parliamentary figures such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman as alternatives. However, the Labour leadership appears to be unwilling to countenance any form of ’emergency government’ that is not led by the present Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Corbyn has said that the smaller parties should respect the “normal precedent” that the Leader of the Opposition should attempt to form a government if the incumbent administration falls in a confidence vote. He also suggested that opposition politicians should consider supporting his proposals, instead of “making a noise in the media”.
It comes amid a proposal by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas this week to compose an all-women Cabinet to prevent No Deal, suggesting a list of 10 women MPs on the grounds that “women tend to be less tribal and tend to find it easier to establish trust more quickly”, adding that an all-women Cabinet could “bring a different perspective”. She has quickly come under fire for this proposal, which was roundly condemned both for perceived sexism and for its failure to include any BAME members. Ms Lucas has since publicly apologised on the latter front.
Wading into the row, SNP Leader and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, urged the Lib Dems to “rethink”. Ms Sturgeon told the BBC: “Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion is not the only possible option – but given the circumstances, nothing should be ruled out at this stage. It’s no secret, I’m not the greatest fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we won’t rule out any option if it helps avert what is a looming catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit.”
Nevertheless, it is understood that the other opposition party leaders continue to be willing to meet Mr Corbyn to discuss how they could all work together to prevent a No Deal scenario under Boris Johnson. It would appear that all opposition parties are presently arranged against the incumbent administration – which now has a working majority in the House of only 1 – apart from the DUP.
Perhaps in response to this – although that is speculation – the Prime Minister is understood to have instructed the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, to sign the Commencement Order for the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Although it had already been approved by a Parliamentary vote, the Act still requires a Government Minister to sign such an order in order to bring it into force, which Theresa May’s administration had continually put off amid uncertainty over Britain’s departure date from the EU.
The move has been described as “absolutely totemic” by ERG MP Steve Baker, as reported in The Times. It gives the clearest signal yet that the new Prime Minister’s fledgling administration is serious about the departure date of 31st October, upon which Mr Johnson campaigned during his leadership bid over the past couple of months.
All of these moves are being viewed in Westminster as preparations for the inevitable confrontation that looks set to emerge once Parliament returns from recess in the first week of September. It is typical for the month of August to be described as the political ‘silly season’, with the slow news coverage caused by people going away on their summer holidays inevitably supplemented by wild theories and hastily thrown-together plans – it is not unusual.
This has affected us here at Wolves also, but we will be resuming normal coverage as soon as the summer is over. The coming clash is likely to be among the most interesting periods of political upheaval in modern times. The stage is set, and the players are almost in position – but the curtain will not rise for another two weeks.