Boris faces Re­mainer plot to stop no-deal

Gove ally among MPS try­ing to out­law hard exit as poll says John­son could win ma­jor­ity

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Gor­don Rayner and Anna Mikhailova

RE­MAIN-BACK­ING MPS will to­day at­tempt to thwart Boris John­son’s plans for a no-deal Brexit on the day he for­mally launches his cam­paign to be­come prime min­is­ter.

The for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary will pledge to take Bri­tain out of the EU on Oct 31 with or with­out a deal, as he tells MPS the Tory party will “kick the bucket” if there is any fur­ther de­lay.

But within hours of Mr John­son’s cam­paign launch, Re­main-sup­port­ing MPS led by a key ally of Michael Gove will try to kill off no deal once and for all in a plot that would make it il­le­gal.

It comes as a new poll sug­gests Mr John­son could win a land­slide vic­tory in a gen­eral elec­tion if he tri­umphs in the Tory lead­er­ship race. A Com­res poll for The Daily Tele­graph in­di­cates Mr John­son could win a ma­jor­ity of up to 140 seats as the only lead­er­ship can­di­date ca­pa­ble of beat­ing both Jeremy Cor­byn and Nigel Farage.

It shows that if Mr John­son be­comes the next prime min­is­ter, the Tories’ vote share would in­crease from 23 per cent – four points be­hind Labour – to 37 per cent among those who ex­pressed a def­i­nite pref­er­ence for one party, which would be 15 points ahead of Labour and enough to de­liver an out­right ma­jor­ity, with the Brexit Party and the Lib­eral Democrats neu­tralised. None of the other lead­er­ship con­tenders is able to de­liver enough votes for a clear ma­jor­ity based on the Com­res poll.

Sir Oliver Letwin, who is back­ing Mr Gove in the Tory lead­er­ship race, will to­day join forces with Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Greens in the at­tempt to pre­vent no deal. The move will bring back mem­o­ries of the 2016 lead­er­ship race, when Mr Gove sab­o­taged Mr John­son’s hopes on the day he was due to launch his cam­paign by an­nounc­ing he was stand­ing against him, rather than sup­port­ing him.

MPS will this af­ter­noon vote on a mo­tion, tabled yes­ter­day by Labour and co-signed by Mr Letwin, to give MPS con­trol of par­lia­men­tary busi­ness on June 25, which would en­able them to ta­ble leg­is­la­tion block­ing no deal. Although Par­lia­ment has voted against no deal in the past, the pre­vi­ous vote was not legally bind­ing.

No 10 last night re­fused to say whether Tory MPS would be whipped to vote against the cross-party plan. If Theresa May al­lowed a free vote she would face ac­cu­sa­tions of try­ing to un­der­mine Brex­i­teer can­di­dates vy­ing for her job. Although, as the Gov­ern­ment has a work­ing ma­jor­ity of just five, to­day’s mo­tion is ex­pected to pass re­gard­less of whip­ping ar­range­ments.

Mr Gove was quick to dis­tance him­self from the cross-party plans. He said: “While I would pre­fer to leave the EU with a bet­ter deal, we must not rule out no deal. If ul­ti­mately it came to a choice be­tween no deal and no Brexit, I would choose no deal. Labour’s plans to seize con­trol of the busi­ness of the Com­mons must be re­sisted.”

Mr John­son will to­day say that a fur­ther de­lay be­yond the cur­rent Ar­ti­cle 50 dead­line of Hal­lowe’en would mean “de­feat” for the Tories at the next elec­tion. His pre­ferred so­lu­tion is to ne­go­ti­ate a new Brexit deal with the EU, but the cen­tral plank of his cam­paign is that Bri­tain will leave the EU by Oct 31 with or with­out a deal.

BORIS JOHN­SON is the only Tory lead­er­ship can­di­date ca­pa­ble of beat­ing both Jeremy Cor­byn and the Brexit Party, ac­cord­ing to new polling, which sug­gests he would win an em­phatic 140-seat ma­jor­ity for the Con­ser­va­tives at the next gen­eral elec­tion if he was elected prime min­is­ter.

The find­ings come as Mr John­son launches his lead­er­ship cam­paign to­day with the mes­sage that “de­lay means Cor­byn”, warn­ing Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues the party will “kick the bucket” if Brexit isn’t de­liv­ered by Oc­to­ber 31.

In a fur­ther boost for Mr John­son’s cam­paign, The Daily Tele­graph has learnt that three MPS who had publicly pledged sup­port for his arch-ri­val Michael Gove will switch to Mr John­son.

They will be joined by Thérèse Cof­fey, a min­is­ter who serves un­der Mr Gove in the De­part­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs.

The Com­res sur­vey for The Daily Tele­graph of more than 2,000 vot­ers put Mr John­son way ahead of ri­vals, with 27 per cent agree­ing he has what it takes to be a good Prime Min­is­ter com­pared with sec­ond placed Jeremy Hunt on 14 per cent.

Mr John­son’s clos­est ri­val in the con­test re­ceived a boost last night when Greg Clark, busi­ness sec­re­tary, gave his back­ing to Mr Hunt, who has warned that a no-deal exit would be “po­lit­i­cal sui­cide” for the Tories.

Poll­sters also tested how vot­ers would re­spond if each of the main con­tenders were to lead the Con­ser­va­tive Party – and used re­gres­sion-based method­ol­ogy to pre­dict how that hy­po­thet­i­cal voter in­ten­tion would trans­late into seats for the ma­jor par­ties.

Sci­en­tific anal­y­sis of Com­res’s find­ings by Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus sug­gests Mr John­son is the only prospec­tive prime min­is­ter who would not only de­liver vic­tory for the Tories, but a ma­jor­ity of 140 – four less than Mar­garet Thatcher’s his­toric land­slide in 1983.

Martin Bax­ter of Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus said that Mr John­son would only need the sup­port of a third of the coun­try to tri­umph in 2022.

Vot­ing in­ten­tion cur­rently stands at 27 per cent for Labour, 23 per cent for the Con­ser­va­tives, 22 per cent for the Brexit Party and 17 per cent for the Lib­eral Democrats, ac­cord­ing to Com­res.

Us­ing these fig­ures, Elec­toral Calcu

lus pre­dicts that Labour would be the big­gest party in Par­lia­ment but would still be short of a ma­jor­ity by 26 seats, with the Tories on 199 seats, the Brexit Party on 50 and Lib Dems on 32.

Asked how they would vote if Mr John­son was Prime Min­is­ter com­pared with his main ri­vals, 37 per cent said they would vote for the Con­ser­va­tives, 22 per cent said they would vote for Labour, 20 per cent said they would vote for the Lib Dems and 14 per cent said they would vote for the Brexit Party.

Us­ing these fig­ures and tak­ing out those who “didn’t know” and “wouldn’t vote”, Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus projects that the Con­ser­va­tives would win 395 seats, com­pared with 151 for Labour, 26 for the Lib­eral Democrats and no seats for the Brexit Party – sug­gest­ing that the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary would have the abil­ity to ban­ish Nigel Farage’s party from West­min­ster for good.

The only other can­di­date pre­dicted by Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus to win more Tory seats than Labour is Do­minic Raab, but he would still be 57 seats short, with 269 ver­sus 237 for Labour, 42 for the Lib Dems and 24 for the Brexit Party.

Mr Bax­ter added: “Cur­rently the Labour Party is close to a ma­jor­ity, as Leave vot­ers are split be­tween Con­ser­va­tives and the Brexit Party, and no Re­main party has over­taken Labour.

“The poll in­di­cates that Boris John­son could win back large num­bers of vot­ers from the Brexit Party and could win a sub­stan­tial ma­jor­ity over a di­vided op­po­si­tion. Para­dox­i­cally, choos­ing Rory Ste­wart could push even more dis­af­fected Con­ser­va­tives to vote for the Brexit Party and might pro­pel Nigel Farage to­wards No 10.”

Labour MPS who would lose their seats un­der the John­son pro­jec­tion would in­clude Tom Wat­son, its deputy leader; Jon Trick­ett, the shadow cab­i­net

‘Boris could win back large num­bers of vot­ers from the Brexit Party and could win a sub­stan­tial ma­jor­ity’

of­fice min­is­ter, and Gloria de Piero, the shadow jus­tice min­is­ter.

The Com­res poll also found a dra­matic vari­a­tion in the pro­por­tion of Tory vot­ers who would re­turn to the fold if Mr John­son was leader, with the party re­tain­ing al­most seven in 10 of their 2017 vot­ers, com­pared with fewer than half who would re­turn un­der Mr Gove, Sa­jid Javid or Mr Ste­wart.

If Mr John­son was leader, 68 per cent of Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers would vote for the party again, with only 14 per cent say­ing they would vote for the Brexit Party. More than two in five adults agree that Bri­tain should leave the EU on Oct 31 with­out a deal if nec­es­sary (42 per cent), com­pared with 38 per cent who dis­agree. Asked if Brexit should be delayed be­yond Hal­lowe’en, 41 per cent said no, and 37 per cent said yes.

In his cam­paign launch speech to­day, Mr John­son will in­sist that the Tories can only win a gen­eral elec­tion if Bri­tain leaves the EU by Oct 31, oth­er­wise Mr Cor­byn will be gifted the keys to No 10.

He will say: “Now is the time to unite this coun­try and unite this so­ci­ety, and we can­not be­gin that task un­til we have de­liv­ered on the pri­mary re­quest of the peo­ple; the one big thing they have asked us to do. After three years and two missed dead­lines, we must leave the EU on Oct 31.

“We sim­ply will not get a re­sult if we give the slight­est hint that we want to go on kick­ing the can down the road with yet more de­lay.

“De­lay means de­feat. De­lay means Cor­byn. Kick the can and we kick the bucket.”

An­drew Hawkins, Com­res chair­man, said: “The Con­ser­va­tive Party has to de­cide whether it wants to be the elec­tion powerhouse it once was by elect­ing Boris John­son as leader, or whether it wants to con­tinue along its cur­rent tra­jec­tory to­wards de­feat.”

SOURCE: COM­RES / ELEC­TORAL CAL­CU­LUS

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