Labour will not support Boris Johnson’s snap election plan - because he could use it to ram through a no-deal Brexit, senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn have revealed.
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd became the first shadow cabinet minister to confirm that Corbyn will not ‘fall for’ the PM’s ‘trick’ on timing of any polling day.
Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti confirmed the position on BBC Breakfast, saying Labour wanted an election ‘at the appropriate moment’ but Corbyn was focused on stopping no-deal first.
Ahead of a crunch vote in the Commons on Tuesday that could see rebels take control of the parliamentary timetable, Lloyd’s words are a major boost to the anti-no-deal group of cross-party MPs.
In a rally in Salford, the Labour leader made clear he wanted an election, declaring “I’m ready for it, you’re ready for it, we’re ready for it”.
But speaking to BBC2’s Newsnight, Lloyd made clear that Corbyn was not going to do anything, including voting for an election this week, that would risk the UK quitting the EU without an agreement.
“We are not daft enough to see a tactic dictated by PM Johnson which is designed to land us with a no-deal Brexit and to fall for that,” Lloyd said.
“Will we fall for Boris Johnson’s trick, no we won’t. Boris Johnson is a man who has got form for reneging on his promises.”
As if to underline the message was from the leadership, shadow chancellor John McDonnell also said Labour wanted a snap election but not on Johnson’s terms.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds Commons majority is needed to trigger any poll earlier than the five-year period set out in legislation.
One plan is for Labour to abstain on any vote for a snap election, depriving the PM of the numbers needed to sanction one.
It would not be seen opposing an election in principle and could try to attach the condition that polling day can only take place if an EU extension has been granted,
Labour’s hardening stance came as senior government sources confirmed that the PM had on Monday discussed with the cabinet the option of calling an election for October 14.
A snap election motion would be tabled if MPs succeeded in getting a Commons takeover, they said.
But critics fear Johnson will change the date of any election to after exit date on October 31. Several shadow ministers made the point at their meeting in Salford on Monday and the party’s whips were inundated with MPs making a similar point.
Asked by HuffPost if he would vote for a general election if PM tabled a motion this week, Labour veteran Hilary Benn replied: “I won’t vote for anything that facilitates a no-deal Brexit on October 31.”
Tony Blair had declared on Monday that Corbyn would improve his standing if he avoided the ‘elephant trap’ of an election that was called by Johnson.
Lloyd added: “We will not have Boris Johnson dictating the terms of an election, which crashes this country out with a new deal Brexit, we will in fact work through the parliamentary process to make sure that this law is passed.
“Obviously once we can guarantee that we we pass October 31st and don’t have a no-deal Brexit, of course we want an election. Of course we want a fight around health, of course want a fight around education, we’re not frightened of an election.
“We’re not prepared to let the tactics of Boris Johnson destroy the strategy for this whole country have a decent future in the future that is inconsistent with that crash out no-deal Brexit.”
“He doesn’t want to fight and we don’t want to fight an election which allows Boris Johnson to crash us out with a no deal, of course we want an election following on from that. Bring it on.”
Chakrabarti told the BBC on Tuesday morning: “This is just a matter of sequencing. Of course we always want a general election…but there is an order of priority and today and tomorrow the primary priority working across parties is to legislate against a disastrous no-deal.”