General election ‘could let in Corbyn’
Matt Hancock warns Tories that going to the polls before delivering Brexit would result in ‘disaster’
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.”