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