Gen­eral elec­tion ‘could let in Cor­byn’

Matt Han­cock warns Tories that go­ing to the polls be­fore de­liv­er­ing Brexit would result in ‘dis­as­ter’

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Camilla Tominey and Gor­don Rayner

THERESA MAY’S suc­ces­sor must not call an early gen­eral elec­tion as it risks hand­ing Jeremy Cor­byn the keys to No 10 and “killing Brexit al­to­gether”, Matt Han­cock has warned.

With the Brexit Party ahead in the polls for Thurs­day’s Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions and Labour pro­jected to win most seats in a gen­eral elec­tion, the Health Sec­re­tary urged MPS to “de­liver Brexit and move for­ward”.

MPS have one more chance to vote for Mrs May’s Brexit deal next month, but with Labour for­mally ending cross­party talks yes­ter­day it has lit­tle chance of success. Mrs May has agreed to step down re­gard­less of the result but Mr Han­cock, him­self ex­pected to cam­paign for the lead­er­ship, cau­tioned against the idea of her suc­ces­sor call­ing an elec­tion to seek a new Brexit man­date. He told The Daily Tele­graph: “A gen­eral elec­tion be­fore we’ve de­liv­ered Brexit would be a dis­as­ter. Peo­ple don’t want it. I’m with Brenda from Bris­tol. We need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for de­liv­er­ing on the ref­er­en­dum result.

“Who knows what the outcome of a gen­eral elec­tion would be un­der these cir­cum­stances? A gen­eral elec­tion be­fore that not only risks Jeremy Cor­byn, but it risks killing Brexit al­to­gether. We’ve got to de­liver Brexit in this par­lia­ment, then we can move for­ward.”

He was speak­ing af­ter pri­vate polling, car­ried out by his of­fice, found two thirds of Tory vot­ers wanted the party to rule out an early gen­eral elec­tion. A ma­jor­ity of both Leavers and Re­main­ers op­posed hold­ing one be­fore 2022.

With a lead­er­ship elec­tion weeks away, grass­roots Tories are de­mand­ing a change in party rules to en­sure Boris John­son, their favoured can­di­date, makes it on to the fi­nal bal­lot pa­per.

With Mr John­son sup­ported by 39 per cent of ac­tivists, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Yougov poll, and Do­minic Raab the near­est ri­val on just 13 per cent, they warned MPS they would not ac­cept a “stitch-up” among Tory mod­er­ates plan­ning a “stop Boris” cam­paign.

Ruth David­son, the leader of the Scot­tish Conservati­ves, writes in to­day’s Tele­graph that the next party leader must be “strik­ing enough to make the pub­lic look again at a party they think they al­ready know” and who is able to “reach be­yond the di­vi­sions of the ref­er­en­dum and bring the coun­try back to­gether”.

Down­ing Street ap­peared to have been caught out by Jeremy Cor­byn’s an­nounce­ment yes­ter­day that the cross-party Brexit talks had “gone as far as they can”. Spokes­men were un­able

to say whether MPS would be given so­called in­dica­tive votes on al­ter­na­tive Brexit out­comes next week de­spite it be­ing Mrs May’s of­fi­cial Plan B if the talks broke down.

Many MPS say the only way to break the dead­lock is to call a gen­eral elec­tion once a new leader is in place, but Mr Han­cock, 40, said: “Chang­ing the leader doesn’t change the arith­metic.

“I want to leave with a deal. We’ve got to de­liver Brexit in this par­lia­ment and with the par­lia­men­tary num­bers where they are. The Prime Min­is­ter is try­ing to get as many MPS from right across the Com­mons. Once we’re into the de­bate about the fu­ture po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion, once we’ve left the Euro­pean Union, we’ll then have de­liv­ered on the result of the ref­er­en­dum and it will change the na­ture of the po­lit­i­cal de­bate around it.”

Asked if it would be ac­cept­able to re­main in a cus­toms union, Mr Han­cock said: “Leav­ing the EU is Brexit. I want to leave the sin­gle mar­ket and I want to leave the cus­toms union. The cus­toms union is not as good as the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal. But the Brexit ques­tion in the ref­er­en­dum was, ‘Do we leave the Euro­pean Union?’ And we should.”

He ad­mit­ted Mr Cor­byn was dif­fi­cult to bargain with. “He’s a Marx­ist. I dis­agree with him on a whole swathe of is­sues,” he said. “His lat­est eco­nomic pol­icy of a univer­sal ba­sic income is a ter­ri­ble idea – it’s the ul­ti­mate some­thing-for-noth­ing and will cost peo­ple more in taxes while giv­ing money to peo­ple who don’t need it. But on Brexit, he is com­mit­ted, he says, to de­liv­er­ing Brexit. I would rather that he voted for Theresa May’s deal.”

Mr Han­cock re­jected Sir Keir Starmer’s sug­ges­tion that any deal is un­likely to pass with­out a “con­fir­ma­tory poll”.

“They’re all just a re-run, right? And we’re a demo­cratic coun­try and when we’re in a democ­racy, when we make a de­ci­sion, that’s the de­ci­sion that you fol­low,” he said.

He did not rule him­self out as a lead­er­ship con­tender, say­ing it was “for other peo­ple to judge”. But his col­league, David Lid­ing­ton, the Cab­i­net Of­fice Min­is­ter, ap­peared to bow out of the race. Re­fer­ring to Game of Thrones, he said: “The Iron Throne is not too tempt­ing – you see all the down­sides.”

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