Mcdonnell: I’ll send Corbyn to Palace to stop no-deal Brexit
Shadow chancellor accused of dragging Queen into politics by saying Labour may demand power
JOHN MCDONNELL last night threatened to drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis by claiming Labour would “take over” if Boris Johnson refused to quit were he to lose a confidence vote.
The shadow chancellor suggested he would send Jeremy Corbyn to Buckingham Palace “in a cab” to tell the 93-year-old monarch the party was ready to assume power, in the latest sign that MPS seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit are planning to embroil Her Majesty in politics as they run out of parliamentary options.
Mr Mcdonnell was also accused of forming an “unholy alliance” with nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland after he claimed that he would not stand in the way of a referendum in either country to split up the UK.
He told an audience at the Edinburgh Fringe that if the Prime Minister refused to step down in the event of losing a confidence vote, Labour would demand that the Queen appoint Mr Corbyn instead.
“I don’t want to drag the Queen into this but I would be sending Jeremy Corbyn in a cab to Buckingham Palace to say we’re taking over,” he said.
David Starkey, the historian, said Mr Mcdonnell’s threat would amount to a “coup”, adding: “I’m afraid Mr Corbyn would be arrested. The disguise has come off John Mcdonnell – he’s a revolutionary communist.” His sentiments were echoed by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, who said of Labour’s attitude to the Queen: “They don’t believe in her or the constitution. They will effectively arrive toting their guns. It’s basically a coup and then the break-up of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Mcdonnell’s comments came as Michael Gove said the Government was doing “everything possible” to ensure Britain left the EU on Oct 31, deal or no deal. On a visit to Dover, Kent, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is in charge of no-deal preparations, said: “At the moment, the EU appear to be putting up the barriers, saying that they don’t want to talk.
“I’m sure they will change their mind, I hope they will change their mind, but we are ready to leave on Oct 31, deal or no deal.”
Hopes were raised yesterday that Berlin might open the door to talks with Mr Johnson, as figures showed a decline in Germany’s factory output, increasing fears of a recession.
However, EU diplomatic sources said that while Germany was keen to talk, there would not be any movement unless Mr Johnson dropped abolition of the Irish backstop as a precondition of negotiations.
Mr Johnson is likely to face a confidence vote when the Commons reconvenes next month.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, if a government loses a confidence vote, there are 14 days in which an alternative administration must win a fresh vote, or else a general election must be called. But the timing of an election could be decided by Mr Johnson, who could wait until after Oct 31 before going to the polls to thwart any attempt to stop Brexit.
Downing Street sources point to James Callaghan, the only post-war prime minister to lose a confidence vote. He stayed in No 10 for more than a month until he lost the 1979 general election. Constitutional experts are braced
for a chaotic period towards the end of September when various MPS are preparing to demand the Queen intervenes to appoint another prime minister who can command the confidence of the Commons.
Although there are precedents for various scenarios, the existence of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and the impending Brexit deadline may mean the Queen faces calls to intervene.
Mr Starkey said the “rushed” legislation had “turned Parliament into a mere playpen”, adding: “The Queen has deliberately decided not to exercise her royal prerogative of discretion. She has made a conscious decision not to involve herself in politics. There is only one person from whom the Queen can take constitutionally binding advice and that is the Prime Minister.”
David Howarth, professor of law and public policy at the University of Cambridge and a former Liberal Democrat MP, said it was “unlikely” the Queen would intervene, while Robert Lacey, a royal historian, said: “The Queen has a horror of being dragged into politics.”
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has been at the forefront of efforts by rebel Tory MPS to urge the Queen to “dispense with Mr Johnson’s services” in favour of a government of national unity, saying: “The Queen is not a decorative extra.” He made the suggestion after Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief strategist, suggested the Prime Minister could delay an election until after Oct 31.
In an unprecedented move, Mr Cummings yesterday hit out at Mr Grieve, who earlier this week branded him “arrogant and ignorant”, telling reporters: “We’ll see what he’s right about.” Returning fire last night, Mr Grieve told The Daily Telegraph that as a special adviser Mr Cummings had “no business making such utterances”. He said: “I’m not quite sure who is running the Government, him or Boris Johnson.” His comments were echoed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, who said interventions by “unelected officials” risked “weakening the authority of the Government”.
Earlier in the day, Sir Malcolm warned in a letter to The Times that Mr Johnson “would create the gravest constitutional crisis since the actions of Charles I led to the Civil War” if he refused to resign.
Mr Mcdonnell reiterated his statement on Tuesday that a second Scottish independence referendum was up to the “Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament” after being told by Richard Leonard, the party’s Scottish leader, that revisiting the issue was “unwanted” and “unnecessary”.
Saying blocking a second poll would play into Nicola Sturgeon’s hands, Mr Mcdonnell said: “We will campaign against a referendum but we are not using parliamentary devices to block it.”
Asked if he backed an Irish unification referendum, he said that should be determined “by the local people ... and that’s what we’ve got to respect”. Last night, Mr Gove said Labour was “willing to destroy the union in its attempt to overturn the referendum”, and DUP MP Nigel Dodds accused Mr Mcdonnell of jeopardising the peace process.
John Mcdonnell, the shadow chancellor, speaks at the Edinburgh Fringe, where he suggested Labour would pressure the Queen if Boris Johnson lost a confidence vote
Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the Prime Minister, arriving at Downing Street yesterday