Tuesday 15 October 2019

Leaders clash over who should be interim PM


Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Sam Blewett

A clear rift has opened up among British opposition leaders trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, with Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson disagreeing over who should lead a unity government.

The Labour leader insisted that he, as leader of the opposition, should take over if Boris Johnson is toppled by a vote of no confidence.

But Liberal Democrat leader Ms Swinson, also speaking after cross-party talks yesterday, flatly rejected the possibility that her MPs could back Mr Corbyn as an interim prime minister.

Ms Swinson said party whips would meet to discuss candidates to take over from the prime minister if he is ousted, but said the Labour leader cannot command support in the Commons.

"He simply does not have the numbers," Ms Swinson said, referencing the 21 MPs exiled from the Conservative Party and the five within the Independent Group for Change (IGC).

"I have been crystal clear but I will do so again - Jeremy Corbyn is not going into Number 10 on the basis of Liberal Democrats' votes."

The Labour leader first outlined his plans in August for a no-confidence vote followed by a temporary government under his leadership to secure an extension to Article 50 and then a general election.

He remains resolute that he should be leader rather than other mooted candidates, such as veteran MP Ken Clarke or Margaret Beckett.

Mr Corbyn said yesterday: "The position is quite simply this: when a government collapses then the leader of the opposition is invited to form an administration."

The leaders - who met in Mr Corbyn's office with the SNP's Ian Blackford, Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts and the IGC's Anna Soubry - agreed not to hold a vote of no confidence this week.

Ms Swinson said any such move while the prime minister is at the Tory conference in Manchester would "play into Boris Johnson's hands".

Mr Corbyn said manoeuvres to force Mr Johnson to comply with the Benn Act, which orders him to ask Brussels for a delay if no deal is backed by MPs by October 19, remain on the table.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out breaking the law, but there are suspicions he may try to circumvent the legislation to force no deal.

Irish Independent

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