Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to oust Boris Johnson and become caretaker prime minister is on life support this morning after opposition leaders poured cold water on the idea of giving the Labour chief the keys to Downing Street.
Mr Corbyn wrote to senior MPs last night urging them to support a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s government and then back him to form a ‘time-limited’ government to delay Brexit.
But the plan immediately unravelled as furious senior Labour frontbenchers tore into the Lib Dems after leader Jo Swinson distanced the party and its 14 MPs – votes Mr Corbyn needs – from helping the hard Left opposition leader take power.
She dismissed Mr Corbyn’s offer, saying there was ‘no way’ the Labour leader could unite MPs.
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery tweeted: ‘Why would anyone be surprised at the Lib Dems refusing to meet Jeremy Corbyn to avoid a NO DEAL BREXIT?
‘All other parties are willing. They were so so so cosy being in bed with the Tories dishing out right wing policies damaging our people & communities.’
But the SNP’s Westminster boss, Ian Blackford, insisted his party’s priority was to stop No Deal, not install Mr Corbyn in No10.
Meanwhile, Anna Soubry, the leader of the Independent Group for Change, formerly known as Change UK, said she could not make Mr Corbyn PM ‘for all manner of reasons’.
Tory Brexiteers said the letter showed Mr Corbyn was ‘desperate’ and the overall reaction to the plan means it is almost certainly doomed to failure.
Four Remainer current and former Tories, Nick Boles, Dame Caroline Spelman, Dominic Grieve and Sir Oliver Letwin, said they were willing to meet Mr Corbyn to discuss stopping a No Deal Brexit, but they did not discuss supporting a no confidence vote.
While it is possible that Mr Corbyn could win a majority in the House of Commons at a vote of no confidence, the chances of him carrying that majority over into a vote on him becoming PM appear vanishingly small.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was accused of plotting a ‘desperate’ coup against Boris Johnson’s government. The PM is seen on the right in a Facebook Live yesterday
A letter from Jeremy Corbyn outlining how he intends to oppose a No Deal Brexit
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson (pictured today in London) has dismissed Mr Corbyn’s letter, saying it was not a ‘serious attempt’ at preventing a No Deal Brexit
Mr Corbyn’s letter to opposition leaders came after an extraordinary row broke out between Mr Johnson and Philip Hammond after the former chancellor accused the PM of torpedoing any chance of a new deal with the EU.
‘Make Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman caretaker PM instead of Jeremy Corbyn’ suggests Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson today suggested hardcore Remainers Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman be installed as the prime minister of an ’emergency government’ to resolve the Brexit crisis.
The Lib Dem leader rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to become a caretaker PM, instead recommending either the Father or Mother of the House of Commons – titles given to the longest serving sitting male and female MPs – to lead an emergency government.
In her first major speech as party leader, Ms Swinson said the Commons needed to win a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson and within 14 days install a new PM who has ‘the confidence of the House and will stop a no-deal Brexit’.
Referencing Mr Corbyn’s suggestion, she said: ‘There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and Independents to stop Boris Johnson. It is not even certain that he would secure all the votes of Labour MPs.
‘This isn’t about personalities, this is about having a plan that actually works. What we need in a leader of an emergency government is a long-serving Member of Parliament who is respected on both sides of the House.
‘Someone like Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman – the Father and Mother of the House – they are hugely experienced and, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, or indeed myself, they are not seeking to lead a government in the long term.’
Mr Johnson hit back and accused Remainer MPs of ‘collaborating’ with Brussels to try to stop the UK leaving the bloc on October 31.
In the letter, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Following a successful vote of no confidence in the government, I would then, as Leader of the Opposition, seek the confidence of the House for a strictly time-limited temporary government with the aim of calling a general election, and securing the necessary extension of Article 50 to do so.
‘In that general election, Labour will be committed to a public vote on the terms of leaving the European Union, including an option to Remain.’
Mr Corbyn said he hoped his plan would ‘halt the serious threat of No Deal, end the uncertainty and disarray, and allow the public to decide the best way ahead for our country’.
But the fact that his blueprint includes making him prime minister means it will be almost impossible for many opposition MPs to support, with a large number angry at Mr Corbyn’s seemingly confusing Brexit position.
Ms Swinson, who is now in charge of a group of 14 Lib Dem MPs after the defection of Sarah Wollaston last night, said today that Tory Ken Clarke or Labour’s Harriet Harman, the two longest serving MPs, would be better choices to lead a caretaker Government.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons for this task – I would expect there are people in his own party and indeed the necessary Conservative backbenchers who would be unwilling to support him,’ she said.
‘It is a nonsense. This letter is just more red lines that are about him and his position and is not a serious attempt to find the right solution and build a consensus to stop a No Deal Brexit.’
Mr Blackford said the SNP was prepared to support a vote of no confidence but suggested his priority was finding a way for backbench MPs to legislate against a No Deal split and not putting Mr Corbyn in Number 10.
Lib Dem MPs include former Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna (pictured with Ms Swinson and Sarah Wollaston), who would find it hard to vote for Corbyn even if the party decided to back him
He told The Sun: ‘Of course I’m happy to work with Jeremy Corbyn and others, but the immediate priority is to remove the risk of a self-harming No Deal.
‘I believe we can construct a majority that can allow us to seize control of the agenda in Parliament and bring forward legislation to stop us falling out of the EU at the end of October.’
Ms Soubry told the BBC: ‘I would not support a government of national unity that is led by Jeremy Corbyn for all manner of reasons.
‘One, because I don’t think it’s genuine, secondly because it is not going to deliver a people’s vote which is the only way through the chaos, and, of course, he doesn’t command support or respect in his own political party, never mind across the Parliamentary divide.’
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts suggested Labour’s current position on Brexit needed to change to get more MPs on board.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: ‘I welcome the fact that at last Jeremy Corbyn is reaching out, that he is making a serious attempt in recognition that we have to work together to stop a No Deal.
‘No Deal would be such a disaster. It isn’t a matter of party interest, it isn’t a matter of personality interest, we now have to put what is best for our communities and our countries in the United Kingdom first.
‘In that respect, I would call on Labour now, seriously, let go. Stop clinging to what you said in the past. We need to work together seriously. In that respect we need to put a referendum first.’
Clear signs that Britain is heading for political turmoil this autumn:
- Commons Speaker John Bercow spoke out again, saying he was ‘absolutely certain’ that Parliament would not be suspended in order to force through a No Deal Brexit.
- Mr Johnson refused to rule out an election soon after Britain’s Brexit day in his first ‘People’s PMQs’ held live on Facebook.
- Ministers accused Mr Hammond of hampering Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations by holding back money for No Deal preparations, so she could never realistically walk away from the table.
- Mr Hammond refused to deny claims that he suggested offering Labour a second Brexit referendum in return for their support to pass Mrs May’s deal with the EU.
- It was claimed Labour MPs opposed to a second referendum were considering a ‘radical and dramatic intervention’ to make clear they were prepared to vote for a Brexit deal.
- US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would block a UK trade deal if Brexit undermined the Northern Ireland peace process.
- Downing Street announced that a £25 million high-speed train will ferry medicine to the UK from France in the event of No Deal.
Mr Corbyn’s letter was addressed to the Mr Blackford, Ms Liz Saville Roberts and Miss Swinson, as well as Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Tory MPs Mr Grieve, Sir Oliver and Dame Caroline.
In their reply this morning the Tories said they were willing to discuss stopping a No Deal Brexit and ‘the different way this might be achieved’.
But Dame Caroline later clarified that she would not support a Corbyn Government in any circumstances.
The magic number for a majority in the House of Commons is 320 because while there are 650 MPs, the speaker and his three deputies do not vote while Sinn Fein’s seven MPs do not take their seats.
Labour currently has 247 MPs – a long way short of the 320 needed – and there is no guarantee all of Mr Corbyn’s backbenchers would support him becoming PM given some of them oppose his leadership while others are adamant Brexit must not be delayed again.
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘There is a clear choice: either Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister who will overrule the referendum and wreck the economy, or Boris Johnson as Prime Minister who will respect the referendum and deliver more money for the NHS and more police on our streets.
‘This Government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected, Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.’
Tory Brexiteers attacked Mr Corbyn over the letter and called him ‘desperate’.
Tory former leader Iain Duncan-Smith said: ‘Corbyn realises he isn’t going to win the vote of confidence because no other party trusts him. He is desperate to win the vote and this is him in a panic.’
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn is desperate. He stood on a manifesto promise at the last general election to leave the EU and honour the result of the referendum.
‘He will do anything to grab power to inflict his Marxist extremism on the country – even ditching his promises to voters.
‘Nobody would ever forgive any Conservative MP who acted to bring about a Marxist prime minister. This is a Marxist attempted coup.’
Tory MP Ben Bradley said: ‘The idea that there’s a Commons majority for a Corbyn government is pretty laughable.’
Colleague Nigel Evans added: ‘Stopping Corbyn should be the No 1 ambition of every Conservative MP – him as PM would be an economic earthquake which would have Venezuela-style consequences for a generation or more.’
Mr Corbyn’s letter came as a Tory Brexit truce was shattered by a row between Mr Johnson and Mr Hammond.
Mr Hammond authored an explosive letter to Mr Johnson, signed by 20 of his Tory Europhile colleagues, in which he suggested the PM had ‘set the bar so high that there is no realistic’ chance of a new divorce agreement being struck with the EU.
Then in a column for The Times he took aim at Mr Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings who he accused of ‘pulling the strings’ to steer Britain towards a No Deal split from the bloc.
John Bercow, speaker for the House of Commons is adamant that there will be no suspension of parliament to ensure a No Deal Brexit
But the government and Tory Eurosceptics hit back hard as Mr Johnson used his first ever People’s PMQs event on Facebook at lunchtime to accuse Remainer MPs of ‘collaborating’ with the EU to stop Brexit.
Replying to a question from ‘Luther in Cheshire’, Mr Johnson said: ‘Luther you have asked the crucial question and there is a terrible kind of collaboration going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends.’
Meanwhile, Remainer hopes of stopping a No Deal Brexit were boosted after John Bercow vowed to ‘fight with every breath in my body’ to stop the PM from suspending parliament to force through a disorderly split from the bloc.
He also insisted that MPs can stop a No Deal Brexit from happening on October 31 as Mr Hammond seized on Mr Bercow’s remarks as he said he was ‘very confident’ a mechanism could be found to block No Deal.
Last night it was claimed Labour MPs opposed to a second referendum were ready to back a compromise Brexit deal based on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement that MPs previously voted against.
Stephen Kinnock, who co-ordinates about 30 MPs in a group called Respect the Result, said he believed that passing the current divorce deal was the most certain way of stopping the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.
Boris Johnson fires broadside at Remainer rebel MPs accusing them of ‘collaborating’ with the EU to block Brexit – in his first ‘people’s PMQs’ event live on Facebook
David Wilcox, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline
Boris Johnson sensationally accused Remainer MPs of ‘collaborating’ with the EU to stop Brexit as he held his first ‘People’s PMQs’ on Facebook yesterday.
The Prime Minister took aim at politicians trying to thwart attempts to leave on October 31 with or without a deal with Brussels as he appeared live from Downing Street on the social media site.
His strongly-worded intervention came as Tory Eurosceptics launched a furious backlash against Philip Hammond after the former chancellor co-ordinated a Remainer attack on the PM, accusing him of torpedoing any chance of a new Brexit deal.
Mr Hammond authored an explosive letter to Mr Johnson, signed by a ‘Rebel Alliance’ of 20 of the former Cabinet minister’s Tory Europhile colleagues, in which he suggested the PM had ‘set the bar so high that there is no realistic’ chance of a new divorce agreement being struck with Brussels.
Meanwhile, in a column for The Times he took aim at Mr Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings who he accused of ‘pulling the strings’ to steer Britain towards a No Deal split from the EU.
In reply to a question about Brexit and parliamentary opposition from ‘Luther in Cheshire’, Mr Johnson said: ‘Luther you have asked the crucial question and there is a terrible kind of collaboration going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends.
The Prime Minister appeared live from Downing Street on the social media site in a session designed to semi-replicate the Prime Minister’s Questions session usually held on Wednesdays in the House of Commons
Boris Johnson again fails to rule out November election in tame Facebook grilling
Boris Johnson again failed to categorically rule out a post-Brexit general election as he took a selection of questions on Facebook Live yesterday.
All eight questions were pre-selected by Downing Street and those chosen were all about key areas of Mr Johnson’s campaign ahead of Brexit in October.
He was asked by ‘Sam from Newport’ about ‘what lengths am I going to, to prevent Parliament from blocking Brexit and does it include an election after October 31?.
He replied that he believes the British public have ‘had a lot’ of elections and electoral events in recent years.
‘I think what they want us to do is get on and deliver Brexit on October 31. I never tire of telling you that’s what we’re going to do,’ he added.
The other questions were:
- Scottish farmer Mickey asked what he would do to protect the Union
Mr Johnson cited his role as ‘minister of the Union’, under which he would ‘stress the benefits that flow to us all from the Union’. He also cited jobs in Scotland ‘built on ‘investment from the whole of the UK’.
- Amy in Weaverham, Cheshire, asked: What are you going to do to restore the British people’s faith in politics and politicians after the last three years of chaos, division and broken promises?’
He replied: ‘We are coming out of the European Union on october 31. That’s what the British people voted for and they feel very frustrated.’
- Shal, who lives in the countryside, asked how he would help rural people who feel ‘isolated from politics of London and Westminster’?
Mr Johnson cited Brexit, saying it was ‘at least partly to do with people in towns and regions of the UK feeling they weren’t being heard’. He also mentioned plans for regional devolution and his pledge to roll out fibre broadband.
- Kyle in Stourbridge asked what he was doing about mental health provision
The PM said that ‘so many of the problems of youth crime, youth violence and crime of all kinds are associated with mental health problems’ and said state agencies had to work together on ‘wraparound care’.
- Sarah from London asked about combatting knife crime
Mr Johnson said it was a ‘scourge’ and ‘a terrible thing’. He repeated his leadership campaign pater from earlier this summer by referencing his time as mayor of London from 2008- 2016. He talked about an approach that married helping kids with activities and jobs but also being ‘tough on law and order’, plus ‘a lot of stop and search’.
- Oliver asked who his political hero was
Mr Johnson said Winston Churchill and then added 5th century BC Greek statesman Peracles of Athens, who ‘believed in great infrastructure projects .. the many not the few … but above all will go down as one of the most powerful articulators of the idea of democracy.’
‘Our European friends are not moving in their opposition to, their willingness to compromise.
‘They are not compromising at all on the Withdrawal Agreement, even though it has been thrown out three times, they’re still sticking with every letter, every comma of the Withdrawal Agreement including the backstop, because they still think that Brexit can be blocked in Parliament.
‘The awful thing is the longer that goes on the more likely it is of course that we well be forced to leave with a No Deal Brexit.’
His remarks came after the European Commission insisted Britain needs to explain its ideas on the way forward if talks are to progress.
Vanessa Mock, a European Commission spokeswoman, said ‘our doors are open’ to discuss matters with the UK although any ‘concrete proposals’ should be ‘compatible’ with the Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Johnson addressed questions on Brexit, mental health, knife crime and the Union during the session, watched by more than 7,000 people at the peak of the broadcast.
The broadcast lasted for some 13 minutes and 30 seconds, although this included a 60-second countdown and a video before Mr Johnson answered questions for around 12 minutes.
The Facebook Live received more than 4,000 comments, 661 shares and 51,000 views.
It also received 1,700 likes, 825 ‘love’ reactions and 129 ‘angry’ reactions.
The Prime Minister appeared sat at a desk, with a red London bus behind him and a tablet computer propped up in front of him.
Mr Johnson opened by saying: ‘Good afternoon, I am speaking to you live from my desk in Downing Street for the first-ever ‘People’s PMQs’.
‘At the moment, I’m afraid MPs are all off on holiday but I can take questions unpasteurised, unmediated, from you via this machine.’
At this moment, he pointed to a tablet on his desk before reading out a question which appeared to be queued up for him.
The live broadcast was designed to semi-replicate the Prime Minister’s Questions session usually held on Wednesdays in the House of Commons.
He said the platform allowed him to take questions ‘unpasteurised and unmediated from you, via this machine’.
Mr Johnson said he remains ‘confident we will get there’ and leave the EU on October 31, noting: ‘In the end both our friends in other European capitals, and I think MPs, will see it’s vital to get on and to do it.’
Naomi Smith, chief executive of Remainer organisation Best for Britain, said: ‘It’s extraordinary that the new Prime Minister has decided to lash out at our closest trading partners like this.
‘This administration and the last one have failed time and again to negotiate properly, suggesting only fantasy proposals.
‘The country is tired of this bluster which will only serve to destroy relationships with our nearest neighbours.’
Ministers and eurosceptic MPs had earlier hit back hard at Mr Hammond, accusing him of the ‘crime’ of failing to adequately prepare the UK for the option of a No Deal split.
All aboard! High-speed train will be used to ferry medicine to the UK from France in £25million No Deal Brexit plan
Eleanor Hayward, Health Reporter for the Daily Mail
The Government has announced a £25million contract for an ‘express freight service’ to deliver drugs from Europe within 24 hours.
It will deliver small parcels of medicine every day, and larger quantities of medicine every two to four days.
A high-speed train would be used to deliver small parcels of medicine every day to the UK from France in the event of a No Deal Brexit (file picture)
Health Minister Chris Skidmore said: ‘I want to ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October, all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure frontline services are fully prepared. That’s why we are stepping up preparations and strengthening our already extremely resilient contingency plans.
‘This express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU,’ he added. The year-long contract will begin on October 31, the day Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.
Health Minister Chris Skidmore, pictured, said: ‘The express freight service sends a clear message to the public that our plans should ensure supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU’
The Government is spending £434million to ensure the continuity of vital medicines and medical products, including through stockpiling.
Any interested providers have until August 21 to submit proposals – and the successful bidder will be announced in September.
The Government has been urging pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of essential medicines in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
Critics of No Deal say this reliance on the EU to import drugs and medical equipment could ramp up costs and cause issues in the supply chain.
Mark Dayan, policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘These drastic plans to get urgent medical supplies into the UK for a year after a No Deal Brexit show the scale of disruption the Government is preparing for.’
He added: ‘In the circumstances, this new service is a good idea. But the delays and extra paperwork that Brexit without an agreement will cause will still be there when the plane lands or the train rolls in.
‘There will be complicated new processes for customs and gaining permission to use these services. Companies and suppliers will have to reroute all their supply lines overnight.’
Any interested providers have until August 21 to submit proposals – and the successful bidder will be announced in September (file picture)
Mr Dayan added that ‘any teething problems’ will have a ‘sharp impact on care, as vital supplies that can’t last more than a few days become useless’.
It also emerged that EU citizens in Britain will have to prove they are living here ‘lawfully’ after Brexit to access free NHS care under No Deal.
In a directive to hospital managers, the Department of Health said trusts must prepare to charge EU citizens who had previously been eligible for free treatment ‘immediately after exit day’.