Al­ter­na­tive elec­tion plan

● Se­nior Tories dis­mis­sive of Lib Dem and SNP idea – but PM may be re­cep­tive

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY PA­TRICK DALY AND GE­ORGE RYAN

ALiberal Demo­crat and SNP bid to give Boris John­son his pre-Christ­mas elec­tion has been branded a “stunt” and a “gim­mick” by se­nior Tories.

How­ever, Num­ber 10 hinted it could back the op­po­si­tion par­ties’ pro­posal for a Bill, re­quir­ing only a sim­ple Com­mons ma­jor­ity, that pro­poses an elec­tion on De­cem­ber 9 should Labour de­cline to back the prime min­is­ter’s push for a gen­eral elec­tion to­day.

Cul­ture Secretary Nicky Mor­gan, in a Sun­day morn­ing in­ter­view, dis­missed the of­fer as a “stunt” and said it would not change the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to lay a mo­tion to­day ask­ing MPs for a chance to go to the pub­lic on De­cem­ber 12.

The PM’s elec­tion bid, un­der the Fixed-Term Par­lia­ments Act, would re­quire a two-thirds ma­jor­ity.

Con­ser­va­tive Party chair­man James Clev­erly echoed Mrs Mor­gan’s sen­ti­ments, call­ing the Lib Dem-SNP of­fer a “gim­mick”.

Mrs Mor­gan said: “If the SNP and Lib Dems want an elec­tion then they have a chance to vote for one as quickly as to­mor­row when the gov­ern­ment’s mo­tion is voted on.

“We will see if they are in our lobby or not,” the Cabi­net min­is­ter told Sky News’ So­phy Ridge On Sun­day pro­gramme.

Mr Clev­erly, in an in­ter­view on the BBC’s An­drew Marr pro­gramme, added: “We’re not go­ing to lis­ten to two par­ties who ex­plic­itly said they want to stop Brexit from hap­pen­ing.”

How­ever, a No 10 source said if the gov­ern­ment’s re­quest for an elec­tion was lost, “we will look at all op­tions to get Brexit done, in­clud­ing ideas sim­i­lar to that pro­posed by other op­po­si­tion par­ties”.

A Down­ing Street in­sider said there was now a “gleam of light” in the strug­gle to break the Par­lia­ment log­jam.

The Mon­day mo­tion put down by the PM would need two-thirds of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans – 434 out of 650 – to back the move, while the

“We’re not go­ing to lis­ten to par­ties who... want to stop Brexit”

Lib Dem-SNP pro­posal of a tight­ly­drafted Bill to­mor­row would need only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity.

With the back­ing of 19 Lib Dem and 35 SNP MPs, Mr John­son could se­cure an elec­tion with­out re­quir­ing Labour’s sup­port – but the polling date would not be his to choose.

Jo Swin­son, leader of the Lib Dems, said the jointly-sup­ported Bill would give le­gal cer­tainty to the elec­tion date of Mon­day De­cem­ber 9 and en­sure a no-deal Brexit is ruled out in the short term.

Fel­low Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna said a “new Par­lia­ment” was needed if a se­cond ref­er­en­dum was to gain Com­mons sup­port.

Pro-EU politi­cian Ms Swin­son said the PM could not be trusted on an elec­tion date, de­spite propos­ing De­cem­ber 12 for a trip to the polls.

“This is a man who is pre­pared to say any­thing,” Ms Swin­son told the BBC. “He doesn’t do what he says. The ad­van­tage of this Bill is that it en­shrines the date in law.”

She said the “time pres­sure” in­volved in se­cur­ing an elec­tion be­fore a de­layed Ar­ti­cle 50 dead­line meant the party would not pur­sue amend­ments to the Bill, such as votes for 16-year-olds.

The PM has re­quested a three­month ex­ten­sion from Brussels, as per the terms of the Benn Act.

“I would love to see votes for 16... but I recog­nise that the time pres­sure we are un­der right now doesn’t give us that lux­ury – Jan­uary 31 isn’t that far away,” she said.

The Lib Dems said their Bill would not al­low a gen­eral elec­tion un­less Brexit was de­layed un­til at least Jan­uary 31 in or­der to push back the threat of leav­ing the Euro­pean Union with­out an agree­ment – a move they hope will en­tice Jeremy Cor­byn’s Labour Party to back it.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Ab­bott said Labour would “dis­cuss” what was be­ing pro­posed with op­po­si­tion col­leagues.

Mr Cor­byn had pre­vi­ously said he wanted to wait for the EU’s de­ci­sion over the length of the Ar­ti­cle 50 ex­ten­sion be­fore de­cid­ing whether to whip MPs in sup­port of Mr John­son’s bid for a win­ter elec­tion.

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