Boris faces Remainer plot to stop no-deal
Gove ally among MPS trying to outlaw hard exit as poll says Johnson could win majority
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.”