Labour split as Jeremy Corbyn decides whether to back election

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Boris Johnson ordered Jeremy Corbyn to ‘man up’ today as the Brexit process was effectively put on hold while the Labour leader makes up his mind whether to back a snap election.

The PM laid down the gauntlet last night by demanding Mr Corbyn approves a poll on December 12, saying it is the only way to resolve the Brexit ‘nightmare’.

Mr Johnson needs the Labour leader to come on board as two-thirds of MPs must vote for an early election. 

Meanwhile, the EU is also waiting on Mr Corbyn. Ambassadors today said leaders have agreed an extension – but revealed they will not say how long it will be until Monday as they wait to see if the UK is going to the ballot box. 

Despite the mounting pressure, Mr Corbyn again dodged giving straight answers on how he will respond in an appearance on ITV’s This Morning – as he faces a massive revolt from his own MPs who fear being destroyed by voters.

Britain and the EU wait for Corbyn to make up his mind

Today should have been the day when Britain finally learned its fate from the EU, with leaders due to announce how long Brexit will be delayed by this afternoon. 

But that timeline has now been scuppered. European ambassadors today announced they have agreed a Brexit delay – but won’t tell the UK how long it is until next week – seemingly because leaders are waiting to know if the UK is heading to the polls in a general election or not. 

In order to win a vote to secure an election Mr Johnson needs the backing of two thirds of MPs – so he would need any motion to be backed by the Opposition party. 

It means that decision lies with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his hugely divided party. 

Today his position looked less clear than ever as he dithered over the issue on the This Morning sofa. 

Mr Corbyn said the December 12 date was ‘odd’ and said Mr Johnson must rule out No Deal altogether. 

Mr Corbyn insisted that Mr Johnson would have to come to Parliament and rule out the UK ever leaving the EU with No Deal. That is a higher bar than the party’s previous condition that there must not be a threat of crashing out during an election campaign.

The veteran left-winger also criticised the December 12 date as ‘odd for many reasons’, arguing it was ‘so near Christmas’ and ‘after universities finish their terms’. 

He hinted that Labour might support an earlier date, although he refused to give any firm commitments. 

The latest dithering drew mockery from Mr Johnson, who told reporters on a visit to a hospital in Milton Keynes that Labour is ‘split from top to bottom’.

‘Nobody will believe that the Labour Party is really going to allow Brexit to happen unless there is a deadline of an election,’ he said. 

Mr Johnson said Mr Corbyn still had the option of backing his Brexit deal – the legislation for which was ‘paused’ after MPs blocked the 72-hour timetable for getting it through.

‘What I’m saying is that it’s up to the Opposition, it’s up to Jeremy Corbyn, to decide whether he wants to get this deal done or not,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘We will give some extra time to get this thing done if, and only if the Labour Party will agree to an election on December 12. 

‘And as far as I can see, at the moment, the Labour Party is split from top to bottom, and they can’t work out whether or not they’re in favour of an election, which is the thing they’re supposed to be campaigning for for the last three-and-a-half years.’ 

He added: ‘Man up, let’s have an election.’ 

Mr Johnson refused to say it is now inevitable that the UK will not leave the EU at Halloween. ‘Of course 31st October is still possible,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, it depends on what the EU says.’  

The spat came as furious Labour MPs accused Mr Corbyn’s closest aides of a ‘delusional’ bid to make the snap election happen before Christmas.

One claimed Mr Corbyn increasingly resembled a ‘little old man’ who was being told what to say by a hard-Left clique of advisers.

Mr Corbyn is facing a huge revolt from his own MPs and shadow cabinet if he does try to help Mr Johnson get the election over the line.

Interviewed on ITV's This Morning (pictured), Jeremy Corbyn again dodged giving straight answers on how he will respond to the election call - as he faces a massive revolt from his own MPs who fear being destroyed by voters

Interviewed on ITV's This Morning (pictured), Jeremy Corbyn again dodged giving straight answers on how he will respond to the election call - as he faces a massive revolt from his own MPs who fear being destroyed by voters

Interviewed on ITV’s This Morning (pictured), Jeremy Corbyn again dodged giving straight answers on how he will respond to the election call – as he faces a massive revolt from his own MPs who fear being destroyed by voters

Mr Johnson was shown the children's ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire today

Mr Johnson was shown the children's ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire today

Mr Johnson was shown the children’s ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire today

Speaking to Richard and Judy, Mr Corbyn criticised the December 12 date as 'odd for many reasons', arguing it was 'so near Christmas' and 'after universities finish their terms'

Speaking to Richard and Judy, Mr Corbyn criticised the December 12 date as 'odd for many reasons', arguing it was 'so near Christmas' and 'after universities finish their terms'

Speaking to Richard and Judy, Mr Corbyn criticised the December 12 date as ‘odd for many reasons’, arguing it was ‘so near Christmas’ and ‘after universities finish their terms’

How do the Labour factions line up over PM’s snap election call?

Seumas Milne

Seumas Milne

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer

Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies – including strategy chief Seumas Milne (left) – are thought to favour a snap election. But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (right) has been pushing for a referendum to come first 

Labour is in the middle of a massive civil war over whether to back a snap election – and the splits go right to the top of the party.

Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies – including strategy chief Seumas Milne and former chief of staff Karie Murphy – are among those thought to be keen on the country going to the polls.

A hard-Left core in the shadow cabinet – derided as ‘dumplings’ by moderate Labour backbenchers – are also in favour.

Among their ranks are shadow justice Richard Burgon, shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett and party chairman Ian Lavery.

But other senior figures are staunchly resisting the pressure to help the PM trigger an election.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have been pushing for Labour to back a second referendum being held before an election.

Deputy leader Tom Watson has been noisily driving for a referendum for months, although his influence has been marginalised by the leader’s acolytes. 

The bulk of the Parliamentary party is also strongly against a quick election. Many MPs fear being put to the sword by the Tories and Lib Dems, while others want a referendum to cancel Brexit. 

After the premier’s appeal last night, the whips’ office sent out instructions for all MPs to abstain in the crunch vote on Monday.

That would essentially kill off Mr Johnson’s hopes of going to the country, as he needs two-thirds of the Commons to agree.

The orders were apparently agreed at a meeting involving chief whip Nick Brown, Mr Corbyn and other senior shadow ministers.  

Boris Johnson’s proposed timetable to a December election

Friday October 25: The EU had been expected to reveal the length of Brexit delay it will offer the UK. However, this is now set to be put off until next week.

Next week: The Government will table a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) requesting a general election. No date has to be given but he has suggested December 12.

Monday October 28 – November 6: MPs and peers get ‘all possible time’ to debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that he halted after being defeated in a vote on Saturday, with the idea being that a deal is signed, sealed and delivered by that day.

November 7: Parliament is dissolved for a five-week general election campaign. Mr Johnson will be hoping that he goes into that campaign with a settled Brexit deal with which to woo weary voters.

December 12: A general election is held. 

However, Mr Corbyn’s aides then insisted the orders had only been ‘provisional’, and no final decision had been taken. 

The veteran left-winger is now desperately playing for time amid warnings that agreeing to the snap poll would tear the party to shreds – with more than half his MPs threatening to revolt.

Speaking to Richard and Judy on This Morning, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I’ve said all along – take no deal off the table, and we’ll have the election. 

‘No deal. Think what it does. Ford in Bridgend, gone. Nissan in Sunderland, ready to go if they lose their trade access. Airbus in north Wales. 

‘And so on all across the country.’ 

He added: ‘He has got to understand that the protection of jobs and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and peace process in Northern Ireland are very, very important. ‘His proposals don’t do any of that.’ 

Mr Corbyn seemed to rule out getting on board with an election on Mr Johnson’s favoured schedule, ‘The 12th of December date is really odd for many reasons,’ he said. 

‘It’s so near Christmas, it’s after universities have ended their terms, etc.’ 

Asked if he would prefer an election next year, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Maybe before that, before December 12.’ 

In fresh evidence of chaos this morning, the leader’s close ally Diane Abbott branded a pre-Christmas election ‘ludicrous’, and suggested No Deal must be made illegal before Labour allows the PM to go to the country.

But Chancellor Sajid Javid accused the Opposition of ‘constant changing of the goalposts in what they want and don’t want’, saying the ‘zombie’ Parliament cannot continue. 

One senior Labour MP told MailOnline Mr Corbyn’s close aides were trying to ‘bounce’ the party into backing the election.

‘It is not going to happen… the whips were steaming about it,’ they said.

Mr Johnson also visited Middleton Primary School in Milton Keynes today as the Brexit crisis raged on

Mr Johnson also visited Middleton Primary School in Milton Keynes today as the Brexit crisis raged on

Mr Johnson also visited Middleton Primary School in Milton Keynes today as the Brexit crisis raged on

‘He is not in control now. He is like a little old man captured by the group around him. He went out and made that statement, he didn’t seem to understand what he was saying.’

The MP added: ‘We have got Seumas Milne on our side and that b***ard Dominic Cummings on the government side. That is the problem.’ 

Mr Corbyn has adopted a holding position that no decision will be taken until the EU announces how long a delay it will grant to the October 31 Brexit date.

However, the pressure has ratcheted up after the EU confirmed it will not make its decision until it knows whether MPs will back an election – meaning there is a three-way deadlock between Mr Johnson, Mr Corbyn, and Brussels.

After EU negotiator Michel Barnier held a meeting with ambassadors in Brussels today, the commission confirmed that the bloc have agreed there will be an extension, but not how long it is.  

French president Emmanuel Macron is holding up consensus on a three-month delay, with suggestions he wants a shorter period to increase the pressure on MPs. 

The Elysee is worried that if an election does not take place and Mr Johnson cannot get his deal through the Commons, the three-month extension will be wasted.

A source close to Mr Macron told Reuters today that a long extension was ‘not a given’.

‘France wants a justified and proportionate extension. However, we have nothing of the sort so far,’ they said. 

‘We must show the British that it is up to them to clarify the situation and that an extension is not a given.’. 

Mr Macron’s European affairs minister, Amélie de Montchalin, said last night: ‘We need facts in order to make a decision… We will not deal in political fiction.’

The bewildering manoeuvres came after the PM made a bold bid to force a resolution by offering Parliament more time to scrutinise his Brexit deal, in return for the House of Commons approving a December 12 election date. 

He needs Labour votes because two-thirds of the Commons – 434 MPs – has to agree to an early election. 

Mr Johnson has already failed twice to secure sufficient support, as Mr Corbyn argued that the threat of an accidental No Deal was too serious. 

But there are major doubts over whether Mr Corbyn can bring enough MPs with him even if he does back an election. 

In theory, Labour’s 245 MPs should be more than enough to reach the two-thirds threshold, when combined with 288 Tories, 35 SNP and 19 Lib Dems.

But shadow cabinet ministers are doubtful that 100 of the Commons colleagues will endorse going to the country. A recent meeting of the Parliamentary party was said to be ‘unanimous’ in saying that a second referendum must come before an election.

EU council president Donald Tusk is trying to coordinate a joint position among European leaders on how long Brexit should be delayed

EU council president Donald Tusk is trying to coordinate a joint position among European leaders on how long Brexit should be delayed

Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier

EU council president Donald Tusk is trying to coordinate a joint position among European leaders on how long Brexit should be delayed . But Michel Barnier (right) announced today that while they had agreed an extension, there was no decision on length

The PM has warned that the government will effectively go on strike if opposition parties deny the call for a national ballot.

The Budget, slated for November 6, has been cancelled as in theory Parliament would be dissolved for the campaign by then. 

‘Nothing will come before Parliament but the bare minimum,’ a No10 source said.

‘We will pursue a general election every day from then onwards and do everything we can to get it.’

The source said this would include the scrapping of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is required to ratify the deal Mr Johnson has thrashed out with the EU.

Mr Johnson was compelled to ask for a delay to his ‘do or die’ Brexit date of October 31 by the Benn Act, after he failed to get approval for his 72-hour timetable for passing the legislation to implement the deal.

Emmanuel Macron (pictured on La Reunion island today) has been pushing for a shorter delay than the three months Mr Johnson was forced to ask for on Parliament's behalf

Emmanuel Macron (pictured on La Reunion island today) has been pushing for a shorter delay than the three months Mr Johnson was forced to ask for on Parliament's behalf

Emmanuel Macron (pictured on La Reunion island today) has been pushing for a shorter delay than the three months Mr Johnson was forced to ask for on Parliament’s behalf

Mr Johnson said it would be ‘morally incredible’ if opposition MPs refused to go along with his plan now.

Under his new plan, Parliament would get until November 6 to debate and vote on his deal.

Will Christmas poll be a Turkey? 

Cold weather, nativity plays and booked-up church halls are among the many challenges facing a Christmas election.

Boris Johnson’s plan to go to the polls on December 12 could hinder campaigning and voter turnout due to limited daylight hours and clashes with office parties.

And the snap poll will be a cause for concern for the superstitious among us – as the result will be announced on unlucky Friday 13.

The Tories may also be more likely to suffer from a December election, since the cold disproportionately affects older voter turnout, a key demographic for the party.

The December poll could also cause confusion and delays as officials will be forced to use two different electoral registers to manage voting.

The electoral roll is updated annually on December 1, but polling cards would need to be sent out in November – meaning polling card numbers might not correspond to the new list.

The last Christmas election was called by Stanley Baldwin in 1923, resulting in a hung parliament and eventual defeat for the Tories. 

Then Parliament would be dissolved, paving the way for the first December election since 1923.

Mr Corbyn said last night: ‘Take No Deal off the table and we absolutely support a general election.’ 

Shadow home secretary Ms Abbott said the Labour Party needs an ‘explicit commitment’ that a no-deal scenario is ruled out.

She told the Today programme: ‘The Labour Party is definitely up for an election, but there are two things we need to know.

‘One is what sort of extension the EU is going to give and as you say we won’t know until Monday.’

Ms Abbott said they also want to hear from the Prime Minister that he will take no deal off the table.

‘But be in no doubt, party members, and the party as a whole, is ready for and keen for an election,’ she said.

Ms Abbott said the ‘explicit commitment’ ruling out no deal may mean further legislation in Parliament.

She also said offers from Mr Johnson are ‘not worth the paper they’re written on’.

Ms Abbott added: ‘The December day is a ludicrous day. We’ve not had a general election at Christmas for over a century, and there’s good reasons for that.’  

The SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, all roundly refused to give their backing to the Mr Johnson’s plan.

Dominic Grieve, one of the 21 MPs exiled from the Tories by the PM, also said he would not back the election plan, describing to BBC’s Newsnight as a form of ‘blackmail’. 

 

 

 

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