In Full: Jo Swinson’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Jo seems to have offended the Corbynista who are doing their thing and attacking her on all forms of social media.

But look at the letter she wrote to Jeremy Corbyn tonightL

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for your letter of 14th August 2019 in relation to stopping a damaging “No Deal” Brexit.

We are determined to do whatever it takes not only to stop “No Deal” but also to stop Brexit.

Since becoming Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have travelled across the United Kingdom speaking to people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to discuss their concerns and worries. It is clear that a “No Deal” Brexit is a bad for our environment, bad for our NHS, bad for rural Britain, and bad for our family of nations.

So, in this moment of national emergency, I stand ready to work with anyone to stop Boris Johnson and his hard-line Brexit government in pursuing “No Deal”. My party has already been working with the Labour Party and other opposition parties to do this for many months now. That will continue under my leadership.

As I said before the start of the summer Recess, the Liberal Democrats will support a motion of no confidence in the government if it is brought before the House of Commons. If the motion is successful and a new Prime Minister is sought, our constitution operates on the principle that that person must command majority support of the House of Commons.

Based on on-the-record statements that have already been made, at least seven MPs on the opposition benches have indicated they would not give you confidence in these circumstances.  Regardless of how my party were to vote in those circumstances, in order for you to command the confidence of the House, at least eight Conservative MPs would need to support you in taking office. For this and other reasons, I do not believe your plan is viable. I would be interested to know whether eight or more Conservative MPs have indicated to you that they will support you in these circumstances.

However, there are clearly other senior members of the House who could potentially command a majority in the House. Today I suggested that Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman, the Father and Mother of the House, could lead an emergency government.

They are the most experienced Members of the House, widely respected on both sides, and neither are seeking to lead a government in the long-term. I would be interested to hear your suggestions. I can understand that you would have a preference for a Labour alternative. Indeed, if she can command the support of the House of Commons Harriet Harman would be Labour’s first female Prime Minister.

Obviously, we hope legislative measures in the House of Commons will be successful in securing an extension to Article 50 to ensure that the UK does not fall out of the European Union with No Deal and no long-term security or stability.

Finally, a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal is vital. I hope that you can reassure me, and everyone campaigning for a People’s Vote to give the British people the final say on Brexit, that you are doing all you can to can to persuade the 25 or more Labour MPs who have previously voted against it to now back it in a Commons vote. I hope that we can now count on the full support of all Labour Members of Parliament.

I am ambitious for the Liberal Democrats, as you are for the Labour Party, but we are facing a national crisis and we may need an emergency government to resolve it. This isn’t the time for personal agendas and political games. We cannot allow party politics to stand in the way of Members from all sides of the House of Commons working together in the national interest. What matters right now is a plan that works and will stop a “No Deal” Brexit.

With this in mind, I would be happy and keen to meet in the coming days to discuss how our parties can work together to stop “No Deal” and who else might be able to lead an emergency government.

I look forward to hearing from you.

My door remains, as ever, open.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP

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  • Backtracking already – good!

  • Swinson needs to stop being so shouty. We were told that electing her LibDem leader would lead to gains the polls but so far it seems more that the reverse is occurring.

    It’s very obvious that she’s focused on electoral considerations with propping up Corbyn being a bad look in terms of winning ex-Tory votes at what now seems to be an inevitable autumn election.

    However, she’s also done the shouty thing with the Scot Nats. Some of what she has said has been disgusting and has put me off voting LibDem. She’s tried to delegimitise the right to peaceful protest such as complaining about the pro-UK bias of the BBC during the Scottish referendum campaign. She comes across as someone blinded by her own righteousness and intolerant and unwilling to acknowledge the viewpoints of others.

    The LibDems have made a big mistake in following the tune of the media classes in electing her leader.

  • Perfect. Exactly what is needed. Well said Jo.

  • Charles Anglin 16th Aug '19 - 12:12am

    Labour’s offer to lead an emergency government to stop a No Deal Brexit is a bold and clever strategic move.

    However, we should be under no illusions – it is motivated more by Labour’s self-interest rather than the national one. The idea that Corbyn – the life-long Brexiteer who has failed to show anything approaching political leadership on this issue over the last 3 years – has suddenly been transformed into the champion of the remain cause is an absurd one.

    Nonetheless, the Labour offer places the LibDems in an extremely difficult position – and Jo Swinson’s caution is well justified.

    A No Deal Brexit would be disastrous for Britain, but a Corbyn Government could be just as disastrous for the Liberal Democrats. It would risk sanitizing the Labour Leader in much the same way that Herbert Asquith’s support for Ramsay MacDonald sanitized the Labour Party after the 1923. The result of that experiment was catastrophic for the Liberals, seeing them haemorrhage votes from both left & right at the 1924 election they fell from 158 seats to just 40!

    This is high-stakes politics and although the situation is not the same today as in the 20’s – the risks are still very real.

    However, all that being said it is still right for us to put country before party and to genuinely consider Labour’s offer – and Jo’s letter seems to me to capture exactly the right position – both in tone and content.

    Corbyn must first show that he can command the support of a broad-based Commons majority. This is far from a foregone conclusion – indeed the prospects of that appear vanishingly small as he doesn’t even have the support of all of own MPs let alone sufficient Tory rebels.

    Then he must agree a short and specific program of government focused solely on an agenda designed to stop a No Deal Brexit.

  • Charles Anglin 16th Aug '19 - 12:13am


    I would however go one step further – this is no time for the politics of personal ambition – Corbyn must also pledge that if he is unable to form an alternative government he would then support another more consensual figure as Caretaker Leader. That would still leave him able to fight the next election as Labour Leader, but would mean he did so on the same terms as other opposition leaders. A refusal to make such a pledge would expose his gambit for the self-interested power-play I believe it to be.

    It’s extraordinary timing that so soon after being elected Leader that Jo Swinson is being faced with such a critical strategic choice. It’s not hyperbole to say that the decisions she makes over the next few weeks could shape the future of the LibDems and indeed of Britain for decades to come.

    However, on the basis of her performance so far – I trust her judgement!

  • OK – Two cheers for some necessary backtracking. But we’re not there yet. I’m not sure that publicly guestimating how many Tories and how many Labour rebels there might be is particularly helpful. Corbyn might readily snap back that, with the Lib Dems playing party games, most of the Tories he has spoken to are wary of suppporting either himself or anyone else to front up a doomed bid to form an emergency government.

    To those who think Corbyn is all about a fiendish plot to do down the Lib Dems I’d say – Look at the SNP. There is bitter enmity between Scottish Labour and the SNP. Now along comes Corbyn, potentially threatening to rescue Scotland from No Deal Brexit and to sideline the SNP. Sturgeon must have qualms about that. Yet she has had the maturity to recognise the greater good, to accept help from an enemy when that is what is needed. Would that Lib Dems could achieve similar maturity.

    Swinson’s letter does not readily offer Corbyn a constructive response. Corbyn can fess up that he doesn’t have the support (if he is a total wimp, that is): he can brag that he does have the support (if that is true, in which case he just wins game set and match): or he can bluster angrily. It isn’t very helpful if we leave him not much option but to bluster angrily.

    A better approach would be that suggested by Charles Anglin above, that Corbyn should be asked to pledge support for (e.g.) Harman in the event that he himself cannot garner enough support. That would leave Corbyn looking bad if he did not accept the offer.

    So two cheers, and some wising-up still needed!

  • Harriet Harman would have a lot of experience, also of a caretaker-role. I can’t see any rational reason, why Labour should oppose her leading a temporary government for such a limited time and task. Of course, personal ambitions might prevent that happening.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '19 - 1:22am

    Rob Cannon must be giving descriptions of another person, nobody called Jo Swinson fits the one he gives! He says shouty, I say eloquent, he calls her a mistake, I am glad I voted for her!

    Charles Anglin is correct. Her letter is excellent, as was her entire contribution regarding this .

    Her interview with Krishnan Guru – Murthy, no soft touch him, was outstanding in being natural, reflective, strong.

    We made the choice of leader for these and future times, I look forward to being involved with.

  • Colin Paine 16th Aug '19 - 7:30am

    Liberals should want to avoid Corbyn in Downing Street just as much as Tories. Do we trust the Labour left to respect a “temporary” arrangement? We are right to keep our distance from this.

  • Christopher Curtis 16th Aug '19 - 8:01am

    I think the letter itself is exactly right: open to talk, acknowledging the huge difficulties Corbyn has in being acceptable to lots of people and underlining the essential purpose of all this: to resolve this almighty mess by going to the people. I think it’s exactly the response needed to Corbyn (more likely his core team) staking out their not very credible claim to be the opposition to the Tories.
    It’s a crying shame that we had many, many hours of reporting about Jo’s unwillingness to even talk to Corbyn and her instant dismissal of his “offer”. It distracted from what is finally happening: determined, practical and committed planning across parties to bring the Brexit-ultras down and stop them ruining our country. That’s where we need to be focused, shaping a better future can only happen when we stop the Tories imposing their coup “at all costs”.

  • Ian Hurdley 16th Aug '19 - 8:05am

    I think the letter sets out our best strategy at the moment, but we must tread warily. The surge in our membership and support lies in our total commitment to remaining inside the EU, boosted by Labour’s ongoing prevarication on the subject. Jo’s proposal of a temporary administration led by either Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman is a good one, but it may not happen; although growing, we are still are very small party in the Commons. Corbyn may well have sufficient support in his party to lay claim to lead an interim administration. Should that be the case, it would be foolish to reject outright Lib Dem support. We could easily see our growing support thrown into reverse if we were perceived to have ‘done a Clegg’. This has probably not been overlooked by Corbyn.
    Instead, we should insist that our support for any alliance should depend on a clear, unambiguous timeline being agreed beforehand, including crucially on what date would the interim PM step down?

  • I think the letter is good and has cooled the situation somewhat. However Swinson makes a good point, it’s very unlikely that Corbyn can find the numbers he needs. Listen to the TIGs for example, they are vehemently against this approach. What’s Corbyns answer to that?

    We should make clear as Swinson has done that we don’t think he can cook and the numbers and that if he can’t find the numbers he needs then he could be responsible for a no deal Brexit. He must in short confirm his willingness to back someone else if he has to.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Aug '19 - 8:31am

    Many Lib Dem supporters, especially in the South, are Lib Dem-Tory waverers who cannot countenance a Corbyn-led administration. They are one reason we lost Richmond Park in 2017, as they switched back to the Tories to avoid letting Corbyn into No.10, and it didn’t matter how much we repeated that we were not prepared to prop up Corbyn any more than we would Theresa May.
    “Doing a Clegg” would mean propping up a Tory administration, rather than refusing to prop up a Labour one. Doing a ‘reverse-Clegg’, by propping up a Labour administration headed by Corbyn or one of his coterie, would be as damaging to our revival as an obverse-Clegg.

  • Sorry, Jo, “too little too late”….

    The angry response, from senior Labour Mps, to to her calculated insult to Jeremy Corbyn has already soured a united front against a no-deal Brexit.

    By contrast the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon played a blinder; her, “Everyone knows I’m no fan of Jeremy Corbyn but…..”. was reminiscent of Churchill’s “…. I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”
    She added “Jo Swinson of the Liberals has said: ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t back the Jeremy Corbyn option.’ That’s daft, frankly, for somebody who professes to be so against Brexit.”

    The real winner from Jo Swinson’s remark was Boris Johnson.

  • Personally I think it’s convenient how Lib Dems paint Corbyn as some pantomime Gillian Anne his voting record in parliament suggests otherwise.

    Conversely look at the way Jo Swinson has voted, Labour should be very wary of her.

    And talking of people that can’t be trusted, I wonder how Liberals would feel were this situation reversed and were reversed and we were talking about Nick Clegg. I’m sorry to drag up difficult issues from the past but many of us liberals left the party over what he did to it. Corbyn has never been in power, so has little to answer for in comparison.

  • Putting a Brexiteer (JC) in charge of stopping Brexit seems as sensible as putting a Remainer (TM) in charge of delivering it. Since we alone don’t have the numbers in parliament we might have to hold our noses and work together for the greater good. However, I remember thinking the same thing before we went into the coalition government…

  • david NOLAN 16th Aug '19 - 8:55am

    Well done Jo for your very measured letter to Corbyn and excellent suggestion of 2 unity candidates for a temporary leadership of parliament. Most of Labours MP’s have no confidence in corbyn. If he cant command their support then why should we fall in behind him? From previous comments made on this forum, there are some contributors here who are no friends of the Lib Dems and are siren voices. Keep up the excellent start to your leadership.

  • Neither Jo’s original response when actually looked at or her letter can accurately be characterised as hostile, or shouty. As for Rob Cannon’s comments what on earth is he talking about?. The only poll movement in favour of the Conservatives has come from Brexit Party supporters, when generally a new PM gets a favourable response from all quarters in their first weeks. Jo has hardly been a failure in the way he suggests

  • Nick Collins 16th Aug '19 - 9:02am

    I wish she would drop those inane references to her ever-open door. It sounds unhinged.

  • Nick Collins 16th Aug '19 - 9:10am

    As someone commented at the end of the BBC’s “today” programme this morning, opponents of no-deal risk drifting into that outcome because of their inability to agree who will lead the alternative.

    For a “government of national unity” to succeed, the first requirement is for its supporters to unite.

  • Adrian Sanders 16th Aug '19 - 9:20am

    What Jo said yesterday about Corbyn not being able to command a majority is probably a good estimation of the likely support he would win in the Commons. The problem is she should not have been the person to say it. It has made us look like we place the importance of keeping Corbyn out of number 10 above the position we have been carving out since 2016 as the Party that most wants to stop Brexit. Personally I’m horrified by both, but the former would be temporary while the latter has implications for life. We should have briefed the press on the maths while focusing on the need for a people’s vote before a general election and how that is something we would be keen to discuss with Corbyn, or anyone else putting themselves forward to head a caretaker Government. That line might have pushed the story onto who can command a majority without us being seen to be the one pulling the rug from under a potential leaders feet.

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Aug '19 - 9:34am

    The letter is much better from Jo. I realise it is hard not to give a soundbite but sometimes considering your response for a few hours is a good idea. If we are faced with a choice in the end between a no deal Brexit and supporting a Corbyn led temporary government, we have to oppose a no deal Brexit, whether or not Corbyn has the votes for it. Anything else would be political suicide on a 2010 scale.

    Re the SNP, you have to always remember that the ideal strategic outcome for them is a No Deal Brexit and a Boris Johson majority government. But of course that outcome can never be stated. It is pretty clear that Labour have also promised to facilitate Indyref 2 at Westminster if they get in power.

    Regarding Indyref 2, I understand the desire of our Party to appear as Unionist as the Tories in Scotland, but if the Scottish Parliament requests another referendum in the obviously changed circumstances of Brexit, voting against it at Westminster would be completely illiberal and against our constitution, so i really hope we would not do that…

  • @Christian “We should make clear as Swinson has done that we don’t think he can cook and the numbers and that if he can’t find the numbers he needs then he could be responsible for a no deal Brexit. He must in short confirm his willingness to back someone else if he has to.”

    This, absolutely.

    The last thing we need is Corbyn as PM – once in power he will cling on. I really fear for our democracy if he’s in No 10. Marxists have a habit of not listening to the ballot box when installed. The likes of David Allen and Adrian Sanders are being naive to think otherwise, as Colin Paine suggests.

  • Mark Blackburn 16th Aug '19 - 9:56am

    Surely we have to think about this not as tribal Lib Dems but how the electorate perceives it. If having (rightly) banged on about the main priority being stopping Brexit we are seen as the ones who put a spanner in the works, whatever doubts we might have about those works, we are unlikely to be forgiven. The press of course will fan the flames, but that’s just a modern fact, we can’t usefully complain about that. Amazing after the pain of Coalition we’ve been given another chance – let’s not blow it again. And this isn’t about who’s worse, Corbyn or Johnson. At the moment Bozo and Cummings hold all the cards – if the Corbyn plan proceeds he will be playing a very weak hand and we will still be in the game.

  • John Bicknell 16th Aug '19 - 10:03am

    The tone of Jo Swinson’s letter is more mature than the somewhat strident approach of her speech in the morning. She is right to be wary of Corbyn, and of the Lib Dems being painted as ‘the party that wanted to put Corbyn into No.10’, but this morning’s newspapers give the impression of her as belligerent and isolated, with other Remainers taking a more subtle and conciliatory approach.

  • Johnson has Dominic Cummings.
    Corbyn has Seamus Milne.
    Out of interest, who do the LibDems have in that role?

  • John Barrett 16th Aug '19 - 10:36am

    David Allen – “Look at the SNP. There is bitter enmity between Scottish Labour and the SNP. Now along comes Corbyn, potentially threatening to rescue Scotland from No Deal Brexit and to sideline the SNP. Sturgeon must have qualms about that. Yet she has had the maturity to recognise the greater good,”

    Not so. Nicola Sturgeon is not being side-lined by Jeremy Corbyn, but is using him to deliver a second referendum on independence, which is her top priority. Those who think her motives are for the greater good do not understand the SNP.

    Jo is correct in doing everything she can to avoid the disaster of Jeremy Corbyn entering Number 10. Even in the short term, this would be the worst of all options for the country and the Lib-Dems. Many people fear a Corbyn led Government more than a no-deal Brexit and facilitating this would also have a disastrous effect on the future of the Lib Dems, similar to the effect of the coalition, as many people would again feel that they could not trust our party.

    If this option is about the greater good Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon should have no problem in supporting alternative caretaker PMs.

    If neither of them do, it shows that it is not about the greater good of the country, but it is their own ambition that they want to put first.

  • Richard MacKinnon 16th Aug '19 - 10:38am

    From where i am it looks to me as if Jo Swinson is more interested in the look of the team when the score is 0-3 and its 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon.
    In Scotland she is seen, rightly as an out and out hypocrite. She has continually opposed a second Scottish independence referendum but demands a second UK/EU referendum. Scottish voters see that as a blatant insult to their intelligence.
    Now as the new leader of the Libdems with 14 MPs we have this farcical letter to Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader (247MPs) telling him his plan is good but that personally ‘I cant work with you’.
    Jo Swinson is a bad joke.

  • What a muddle. A bit like the Duke of York marching troops to the top of the hill, then marching them down again.

    What is also instructive is the tendency to use the hostile ‘Corbyn’ and the more intimate cuddly ‘Boris’ when describing the leaders of the big parties. A straight lift from the Tory rag newspapers.

    I think a bit of Asquithian ‘Wait and See’ is appropriate.

  • Adrian Sanders has it right. We could just have waited for the Caroline Spelmans to explain why loyal Tories wouldn’t vote for a Corbyn government, and then appealed to Labour to find a better way to get those rebel Tories on side. Instead, we pre-empted the Tory rebels, objected to Corbyn even before they did, and bolstered the proposition that “Corbyn is worse than No Deal Brexit”. There are sixteen million – plus Remainers out there, and they are looking for good political leadership. We need to give it to them.

    The latest letter isn’t that much better. Nominally it is offering Corbyn something of a compromise, but it is then quite unhelpfully seeking to dictate the terms, by naming Harriet Harman as the PM the Lib Dems want to see. That could well be the kiss of death for Harman. Inevitably, Labour MPs will be annoyed at our attempt to tell them how to run their party. A more open-ended approach, just asking Labour to discuss an elder-statesperson PM, would have been seeking a positive response. Swinson’s letter looks, sadly, as if it is angling for a negative response. The Remainers out there will notice. They will be worried that party games are being put ahead of the national interest.

  • One thing that should not be forgotten is that the danger is not over if UK only gets an emergency government, which asks extension from the EU.

    Jeremy Corbyn as a prime minister with the support of Liberal Democrats is the best tactical position that Boris Johnson can wish for to win the following general election. Actually, he probably is counting on it. And if he wins the general election, it is bye bye EU, deal or no deal, extension or no extension.

  • Malcolm Wright 16th Aug '19 - 11:13am

    Jo Swinson only pointed out to Corbyn whose support he is very unlikely to command.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 11:19am

    @John Bicknell, “this morning’s newspapers give the impression of her [Jo Swinson] as belligerent and isolated”.

    Of course the party’s opponents, including those in the media, will portray it any way they think is to their advantage. This is nothing new, and to be expected.

    But can anyone who is being critical of Jo Swinson give an example – a direct quote – of anything she has said that they think is misjudged? Everything I have seen is measured, pragmatic and reasonable (though I do also agree with Charles Anglin’s comments above).

    From the start she has said if there is to be a temporary replacement government it needs to be run by someone who can command a majority in the Commons – and that’s just a statement of fact – and she judges that Jeremy Corbyn cannot win majority support, so it needs to be someone else.

    Personally I wouldn’t have a problem with it being Jeremy Corbyn. The numbers just aren’t there.

    Whoever it is, surely Labour gets everything they want from the temporary arrangement: Brexit is postponed and a general election is called, giving them the chance to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister. Why would they refuse?

    So I’d like Jeremy Corbyn to say that if he fails to secure majority support, Labour will vote for a compromise candidate to get a Brexit extension and avoid the disaster of no deal – that they would support *whoever* can command a majority to do so. It really shouldn’t be about party advantage or personalities.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Aug '19 - 11:23am

    The mistaken approach of Jo’s speech has indeed been rectified by her letter, I agree with the general opinion expressed above. If Mr Corbyn were actually seen to potentially command a majority to lead a Government of National Unity, however, we should support it. It is easy to see how the mistake of the ready rejection came about, in the pressure for instant opinion in this fraught situation, because our national stance has been for years that we would not contemplate coalition with a Corbyn-led government. In the national emergency, a GNU with a specific objective for a specified time is a different proposition.

    Charles Anglin’s reminder of the situation of 1923-24, when the Liberal backing for another party leader led to a disastrous fall in the number of Liberal MPs, is a salutary reminder of our most recent Coalition experience, and why we have determined not to enter a coalition with the Labour party. I think this will still be our position even if Mr Corbyn were to step down. Then it would not be a position of a temporary blip, a small drop in general favour for our party as has possibly occurred over these two days, but of a major dismissal of us by centrist and right-wing voters. Confidence and supply would seem to be our only option, if a General Election comes and the Labour Party achieves only a tiny majority. But meantime of course we must promote all alliances to stop Brexit.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 11:30am

    @David Allen, Jo Swinson is “quite unhelpfully seeking to dictate the terms, by naming Harriet Harman as the PM the Lib Dems want to see. […] Inevitably, Labour MPs will be annoyed at our attempt to tell them how to run their party”.

    I disagree: Harriet Harman and Ken Clarke were *suggested* as compromise candidates, in answer to the inevitable (and fair) question of if not Jeremy Corbyn, then who? I don’t think it’s telling Labour how to run their party to say who you judge could possibly command a majority.

    The alternative would have been not to answer the question of if not Jeremy Corbyn, then who?

    By giving two *options* Jo Swinson made clear she wasn’t attempting to dictate.

  • @Andrew McCaig
    “Regarding Indyref 2, I understand the desire of our Party to appear as Unionist as the Tories in Scotland, but if the Scottish Parliament requests another referendum in the obviously changed circumstances of Brexit, voting against it at Westminster would be completely illiberal and against our constitution, so i really hope we would not do that…”

    The Scottish Government has made such a request following a vote in favour in the Scottish Parliament and the Lib Dems have said that the request for a Section 30 order should be rejected.

  • Yes, Swinson started with two options, Clarke or Harman. She then recommended Harman. An unnecessarily bossy thing to do. Especially when you are under fire for being bossy, and are seeking to retreat from being bossy.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Aug '19 - 12:03pm

    @David Allen
    “She then recommended Harman.”

    Perhaps on the grounds that she is a Labour MP and hence possibly more likely to get Labour on board the ‘not Corbyn’ project than Ken Clarke?

  • John Bicknell 16th Aug '19 - 12:08pm

    Brian Robinson: we may struggle to gain positive headlines in the national press, but there’s no reason why we should hand them a stick to beat us with. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand (who also may feel he gets a raw deal from the press) must be purring with delight at headlines suggesting that ‘Remainers unite behind Corbyn’. My unease, and that of most contributors on this site, was not the substance of Jo Swinson’s analysis, but her tone. I think she misjudged the reactions of other Remain groups, and has been forced into a slightly embarrassing U-turn.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 12:10pm

    @David Allen, I’m guessing you’re referring to where she said: “I can understand that you would have a preference for a Labour alternative. Indeed, if she can command the support of the House of Commons Harriet Harman would be Labour’s first female Prime Minister.”

    If so, she hasn’t named “Harriet Harman as the PM the Lib Dems want to see”.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 12:13pm

    @John Bicknell, can you give an example of something where the tone was wrong? Or of what the u-turn was?

    I’m genuinely not seeing it, so I’d be grateful for clarification.

  • Yes Nonconformistradical, she gave a rational explanation for making a bossy recommendation. But – she wasn’t forced to make a bossy recommendation!

    Let’s hope that this was no more than a minor misjudgment and that it can be surmounted. But let’s also recognise that by bossing and lecturing Corbyn, paradoxically we risk making his life easier. The easy thing for him to do is just VONC Johnson, hope that Johnson will do his No Deal Brexit and carry the can for it, and fight an election in its chaotic aftermath. The difficult thing for Corbyn to do will be to whip a recalcitrant party into doing something his Lib Dem opponents are calling for. If we call for it in an aggressive, bossy kind of way, we just make it easier for Corbyn to get away with telling us we can p*ss off!

  • Brian Robinson 12.10: I think you’re largely splitting hairs. But I should probably have said that Swinson “implied”, rather than “named”, Harman as being the PM the Lib Dems want to see.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 12:22pm

    @David Allen, I feel very nervous in saying this, and perhaps as a man it isn’t my place to do so, but I think it’s important: by repeatedly using the word “bossy” here, I think you’re coming very close to negative gender stereotyping. Could you find another way to express what you want to say, please?

  • @David Allen it’s widely accepted that “bossy” is a word only ever used to demean women who don’t know their place. Can you refrain from using it please?

  • Good to see Katharine Pindar having the courtesy to describe the Leader of the Opposition as Mr. Corbyn. To use only the surname is to swallow the Daily Mail and Tory tabloid campaign….. something of which the Mail has a bit of history.

    There is also mention of the 1924 election…. affected by the Zinoviev letter …. a fraudulent document published by the British Daily Mail newspaper four days before the general election in 1924 and now accepted by historians to have been a forgery probably drafted by MI6.

    The letter purported to be a directive from Grigory Zinoviev, the head of the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow, to the Communist Party of Great Britain, ordering it to engage in seditious activities. It said the resumption of diplomatic relations (by a Labour government) would hasten the radicalisation of the British working class. This would have constituted a significant interference in British politics, and as a result it was deeply offensive to British voters, turning them against the Labour Party. The letter seemed authentic at the time, but historians now agree it was a forgery.

    The letter aided the Conservative Party, by hastening the collapse of the Liberal Party vote following middle class flight and produced a Conservative landslide…………. followed by fifteen years of stagnation, poverty and appeasement.

  • John Bicknell 16th Aug '19 - 12:30pm

    Brian Robinson: Jo Swinson in her speech described Corbyn’s offer as ‘nonsense’, and suggested that she would not be prepared to discuss the matter with him. In her letter, written a few hours later, she stated that she was prepared to meet with him, and the tone of that letter was far more conciliatory. That’s what has led to reports of her backtracking, and of making a U-turn.

  • Brian Robinson 16th Aug '19 - 12:34pm

    @John Bicknell, thank you. I don’t recall the word “nonsense” – that is indeed a confrontational, and unhelpful, word.

  • Agree with David Allen that Jo Swinson is coming across as strident and bossy on-air to
    the (almost certainly more than) sixteen million remainers, many of whom voted Labour two years ago.
    I doubt, we’re he still our leader, that Vince Cable would have dismissed the idea of a Corbyn holding operation as “a nonsense”, although he might not have ruled himself out as the remain elder statesman in a caretaker government – possibly alongside Keir Starmer.
    I feel sure Dominic Grieve would be able to muster enough anti-no deal Conservatives to support such an alternative. It is in our interests not to be portrayed as a seemingly Tory-lite party ahead of an inevitable autumn general election.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug '19 - 12:55pm

    Why mention Harriet Harman at all?

    There are those on here who have rightly criticised Labour for supporting the governments welfare cuts in 2015. However, it was Harriet Harman who was interim leader of the party at that time. It was this sort of politics that probably gave a boost to the campaign of the reluctant leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn.

    Corbyn: ‘ If it proposed that Labour MPs are being asked to vote for the government’s plans to cut benefits to families, I am not prepared to vote for policies that push more children into poverty. Families are suffering enough. We shouldn’t play the government’s political games when the welfare of children is at stake’.

    Speaking to Labour member remainer friends, admittedly not a great number, they hold their heads in their hands at how unhelpful this suggestion about Harriet Harman has been as far as rallying Labour support around the initiative is concerned.

  • *Referring to Vince Cable, “we’re he still” should read were he still.* Apologies

  • Paul Barker 16th Aug '19 - 1:04pm

    Stephen Bush, who is as close to Labour as he is to The LibDems, has been arguing all along that Corbyns Plan was intended mostly as an attack on on Swinson & not at all as any sort of attempt to actually prevent Brexit. No-Deal Brexit would suit the current Labour strategy perfectly, as long as they can avoid getting the blame for it.
    Swinsons proposal will probably not work but that is infinitely better than Corbyns Plan which cannot work. Dominick Grieve, possibly the most Centrist & Remainer of The Tory Rebels, has already rejected Corbyns proposal. If Grieve won’t buy it then it’s dead.

    As for Jo sounding “strident & bossy”, that’s because she is a Woman. Women with opinions are always “Strident & bossy” unless they agree with You. That was always the way The Labour/Tory Media would attack her. Didn’t we know that when we Elected Her ?This is just “Everyday Sexism” in operation.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug '19 - 1:06pm

    Jo is playing a blinder on this and getting us on the news into the bargain. There are a number of reasons why Mr Corbyn in not the right person to be an interim PM (apart from the unlikelihood that he could command a majority in the Commons. even without us).
    (1) He is not to be trusted. We all know he wants to leave the EU and so do his closest unelected advisors who are the people who seem to be running him.
    (2) He is not in favour of a new referendum but only wants a General Election. In the unlikely event that he won a majority at that election he would go back to trying to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement to get a “Labour Brexit”.
    (3) It’s nothing to do with his politics, but he is frankly not up to the job.
    (4) It is common sense that the PM in an Interim Government should be an Interim PM. Anyone else – anyone else – would use the position for their own purposes in order to try to become the Permanent PM.
    I think Jo’s position has been firm and consistent throughout. I think it is time that some people here stopped worrying about what people in the Labour Party say, many of whom hate us more than they hate the Tories!

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug '19 - 1:10pm

    I suppose that by saying it has to be “me, me, me” Mr Corbyn is not being bossy!

  • David Allen 16th Aug '19 - 1:14pm

    Brian Robinson – well, I voted for Jo, ironically in part because she came across as a more effectively collaborative politician than her (male) opponent. I do accept that women (and to a lesser extent men) tend to face the problem of being patronised and dismissed when they speak gently, and of being resented and vilified when they speak stridently. However – are you saying that the politically correct behaviour should be to go to the opposite extreme, and treat women as being immune from any criticism over the tone of their public discourse?

    I don’t think that would be right, either. Indeed, I think that would in itself be a subtle form of sexist patronising behaviour!

    It’s not easy, but the question I would always ask myself is “Would you have said just the same thing if it was a man whose behaviour you were seeking to criticise, rather than a woman?” The answer ought to be (and is) “Yes, if it had been Ed Davey writing just the same letters, I’d have made just the same comments!”

  • @Tony Greaves “I think Jo’s position has been firm and consistent throughout. I think it is time that some people here stopped worrying about what people in the Labour Party say, many of whom hate us more than they hate the Tories!”

    Once again I am surprisingly 100% in agreement with Lord Greaves. It’s almost as if some of the posters on this thread are actively seeking to get Corbyn as PM.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '19 - 1:33pm

    Tony Greaves,

    Yes, Mr Corbyn is being bossy. But he is in the driver’s seat. He leads by far the largest opposition party. If he does not wholeheartedly support a course of action, and can also whip almost all of his recalcitrant party into concurrence, it will not happen. His party expect him to assert dominance and not get pushed around by the Lib Dems.

    Much of what you say about his deficiencies is fair comment. It may well be that if we are to stop No Deal Brexit, Labour will need to come around to the view that they should support an alternative PM, and/or that they should accept a lot of multi-party constraints on what a putative temporary government can be supported to do. But if Labour are going to come around to such a view, they will have to be oh-so-gently encouraged to do so, otherwise they won’t budge.

    That’s why Jo “playing a blinder on this and getting us on the news” is not what is going to work, not if it is stopping NDB you want to achieve. And not, in fact, if you just want to win Lib Dem votes, either. We won’t win votes if all we can achieve is a row with Labour.

  • For years the Lib Dems have talked about there being (or should be) an alternative to the two-party system. By colluding with the notion that we only have to choose between “Boris” or “Jeremy” at this perilous point is just colluding with the notion of only two parties count. Given that she has only been in the job a very short time, Jo Swinson is right, in my view, to point out that there are alternatives. I also agree that someone who has no further political ambitions, such as KC and HH, would be the best way forward if we are talking genuinely about “interim”. If Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM even for a few weeks, his subsequent election slogan will be “Why vote Lib Dem who backed me, when you can have me!” I am also uneasy about supporting someone who is slack (if not worse) on anti-Semitism.

  • Sue Sutherland 16th Aug '19 - 2:24pm

    I think Tony Greaves is right and I commend Brian Robinson for pointing out the sexism in using the word bossy and I would add the word strident to this. These are often used to denigrate a strong woman. Jo has done her homework and knows that the numbers just don’t stack up for Corbyn becoming PM of an interim government. I also think he has shown absolutely no integrity over Brexit so why would we trust him to provide the result we want? I wouldn’t be surprised if he worked to get a no deal Brexit whilst purporting to be against it, because leading Labour Party figures are all saying different things about Brexit all of the time.
    What surprises me is that when our leader is attacked so many commentators join in. When Corbyn is attacked loads of Labour members rally around saying what a sweet old man he is and he wouldn’t hurt a fly and of course he isn’t thinking about a revolution. I seem to remember Stalin portrayed himself as a genial old man too.
    I know our party wishes to speak truth to power but sometimes it’s worth waiting to see how things pan out before making a judgement .

  • “Many people fear a Corbyn led Government more than a no-deal Brexit ”

    If they do then it’s based on a continuation of the misinformation that downplays the impact of No Deal, and we should not be giving credence to that. There is nothing worse than No Deal.

    We are all falling into the Tory ‘bogeyman’ trap here. We are not talking about a Corbyn government- we are talking about a time limited mechanism to seek an extension and dissolve parliament for a GE before Brexit. The leader is irrelevant, they are just a tool of parliament because we need someone to go to the Queen to take charge, and someone to go to the EU to get the extension. It’s that or No Deal.

    Making this about personalities, and talking about a ‘government’ as if there is any need for policy decisions or manifestos, just plays into Johnson’s hands. Instead of arguing about who leads it we should be agreeing what the plan will be and what the safeguards to that are. Set the plan, and then decide if there is anyone better placed than JC to deliver it.

    If all Remainers cant get behind an ‘Avoid No Deal’ Plan, regardless of the figurehead, then we have already lost. We have spent 3 years bickering over Brexit along party political lines. We don’t even have 3 months left now. We simply cant afford to continue to do the same.

  • The pro-Brexit Labour rebels and independents sadly seem just as likely to reject a temp govt led by Clarke or Harman tbh.

    Jo made a tactical error by seeking to make Corbyn the central issue yesterday, he isn’t – no-deal is. Saying he can’t succeed before trying sounded more like someone trying to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    If Tory MPs want to foolishly make blowing a raspberry at Corbyn their option over preventing no-deal, then that’s their problem, the Lib Dems need to be bigger than that.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '19 - 3:06pm

    Lord Greaves

    There are those who persist in division in our party, very few though, on issues and stances and labels, left, right, social, economic liberal.

    I know that we here are Liberals and Liberal Democrats.

    Unlike you , in my youth and as a very young man, was in the Labour party.

    A generation younger than you, I respect you even when you and yes, me, disagree and strongly.

    We are colleagues in a party which now has a really terrific chance to make progress.

    You seem to realise as do I and few here.

    Our excellent leader Jo Swinson is excellent on this and much besides.

    Some say shouty and bossy, I say eloquent and strong!

    Well done your Lordship and our leadership!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul Barker 16th Aug '19 - 3:12pm

    Apologies in advance if you see several posts by me in succession, with Automatic Moderation in force it makes it very hard to guess who’s posting when. That is not a criticism of the hard-worked Team of volunteers running LDV, I can see that tempers are suffering in the heat.
    The way I see it, Labour have come up with a “Clever” plan to embarrass Jo Swinson that has backfired. The constant problem for Third Parties in Britain is that everything is “Set” to a 2 Party Fight. The Media are continually surprised everytime Third or Fourth Parties do better than Labour to The Tories. They soon forget what just happened & are just as surprised when it happens again. Voters too tend to forget that Third Parties exist as soon as they drop out of the Headlines.
    Jo has managed to turn a Non-Story into a Storm running across Traditional & New Media & Labour supporters are helping Her do it.
    Voters are reminded that The Libdems still exist & are quickly learning who Jo Swinson is. Its a Win-Win for us but we have to develop thicker skins.
    Yes, Labour supporters Fear & Hate Us; Let them. The more Labour take us seriously the more Voters will listen to us & that is the first step. But, we have to get over this constant wanting to be liked.

  • Shaun Whitfield 16th Aug '19 - 3:23pm

    @Tony Greaves: “…we all know [Corbyn] wants to leave the EU”. Corbyn’s Twitter feed shows him leaving the polling booth on the day of the referendum saying he’d just voted remain. Are you suggesting he was lying? Also it’s a bit rich for an unelected lord to refer to an unelected adviser in a pejorative way.

  • Sandra Hammett 16th Aug '19 - 3:32pm

    I’m no fan of Jeremy Corbyn, he has failed to run his party and his party has failed to run him. HOWEVER he is the most obvious person to be a caretaker PM ie a functionary there to follow the orders of the majority of the house. Suggesting anybody else would require some form of election wasting time we don’t have.
    Unfortunately we should back him to get a rein on Brexit. Greater things are at stake, put party politics aside, don’t let the current PM get his way because we were busy squabbling.

  • Be very suspicious of those claiming Jo is ‘playing a blinder’ here.

    Remember, other parties, including the Brexit party and Tories spend big on social media. Then you’ve got other assorted anti-Labour types with their own agendas, who seek to keep Corbyn out at any cost.

    No deal, and Scottish independence seems like it’d be all but inevitable,especially if there is a serious economic downturn and strife. Would Jo & co have really have ‘played a blinder’ if that scenario were to come to pass?

  • Everyone is missing the point here. A GE will not deliver an exit from Brexit. It will most likely deliver a HoC that will push through No Deal.

    The only mechanism that will stop Brexit is a new referendum or a revocation of A50, neither of which Corbyn will do.

    Hence why we should never countenance a Corbyn government.

    It’s instructive to read the comments on this article, unthreaded, in order of popularity. Jo is playing this exactly as it should be.

  • @Sandra Hammett

    Europhile Ken Clarke would please few and worse, really antagonise the ERG, TBP and the Brexit backing Tory press, he’s opposed everything Brexit – he’d be like a red rag to a bull to Brexiters – far too divisive.

    As for Harriet Harman. She isn’t a Corbyn supporter, she’s a critic. The idea she could be PM for five weeks, then possibly launch her own leadership bid? Using her pro-remain credentials; her leadership experience and name recognition factor as a platform to woo the membership, in order to oust Corbyn would be unacceptable.

    Besides, what would Corbyn do while she was acting PM, sit twiddling his thumbs on the naughty step?

    Jo needs to be realistic.

  • As a member of the Labour Party I am waiting for Harriet Harman to unreservedly reject the notion that she would be prepared to lead an emergency government instead of our party’s democratically elected Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Patrick 16th Aug ’19 – 1:00am……………………Harriet Harman would have a lot of experience, also of a caretaker-role. I can’t see any rational reason, why Labour should oppose her leading a temporary government for such a limited time and task. Of course, personal ambitions might prevent that happening……………

    “I can’t see any rational reason, why Labour should oppose her leading a temporary government”?????
    How would this party feel if Jo Swinson had offered to lead such a government and Labour stated that she was unacceptable and they would only accept Christine Jardine (for example)

    Lord Greaves is wrong on all points Corbyn heads (note: by election) a party of 247 MPs why anyone else.
    BTW… this unelectable/unacceptable leader removed the Tory majority, whilst this party got 12 MPs.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '19 - 4:49pm

    Far too many people are treating this as an either-or question – Either you support Swinson or you support Corbyn. It’s much more complex than that, and we won’t achieve anything unless we recognise some facts.

    Corbyn is a ditherer, an old-fashioned socialist, a slow thinker, and a key player, whose consent is totally indispensable if we are to avoid No Deal Brexit. He holds the cards.

    Lecturing Corbyn, telling him which Labour politician he should give way to, and telling him to adopt a Lib Dem strategy rather than his own preferred strategy, is not going to help get him on side. Nor is it going to help get the rest of the Labour Party on side. The Greens, the SNP, Plaid, and the Tory rebels, can all work that out. Why can’t the Lib Dems?

    Talking tough to Corbyn doesn’t actually make life harder for Corbyn, it makes life easier. Corbyn can now forget about the threat from Harriet Harman, because his colleagues would all agree that it would be just too humilating to do precisely what the Lib Dems have told Labour to do.

    In a sense, Corbyn’s plan is perfectly viable, because he would need to keep his promise to run a very short-term government, and simply agree an Article 50 extension, followed by an election. We could trust him to do that, because if he didn’t, we would collapse his interim government at the drop of a hat.

    Pragmatically however, Corbyn’s plan does look like a non-runner, simply because too many people either don’t understand that logic, or can’t stand being tainted by voting for Corbyn.

    So, Labour do need to come around – if they will – to the idea of an alternative PM. They will ONLY do that on their own terms. Telling them what to do will be counter-productive.

    Labour will decide who it is. Labour will decide whether it will then be a referendum or an election. Nobody else will exert leverage on Labour, except perhaps a maybe-Tory-rebel who can “sell” their vote.

    The Lib Dems will just have to sit patient and watch. If that’s too humiliating for us to stomach, and we persist in fighting Labour, then our actions will help towards a No Deal Brexit.

  • I echo those posters who agree that Jo Swinson’s proposal of Harriet Harman was a nonsense (to use Jo Swinson’s own words). Unfortunately, yet again, we see the pernicious political impact of the tokenistic feminism that infects British politics and has given us Priti Patel, etc.

    The obvious choice is Keir Starmer. He is Labour – he is liked across the Labour Party. He was formerly director of public prosecutions so has held (and performed well) one of the leading public roles (a lot better incidentally that his successor who was another example of tokenistic feminism).

    Jo Swinson has failed at her first test, and failed badly.

  • @Rob Cannon

    The single Green MP ,Caroline Lucas, may have been acceptable(?). But she went and ruined any hope of that by mooting having her own all-female cabinet As if this is any time for such gender balance statements & political grandstanding.

    I still don’t fully understand why Jo Swinson believes the awkward squad of ‘independents’ , many of whom are pro-Brexit, miraculously come onside for Clarke or Harman either?

    Swinson should have joined the SNP, Plaid ,C.Lucas etc , who along with Labour can collectively pile pressure on potential Tory rebels like Grieve and Greening et al.

    Due to Jo raising futile objections to Corbyn, the chances of stopping no-deal have been damaged.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Aug '19 - 5:43pm

    @Rob Cannon
    “The obvious choice is Keir Starmer. He is Labour – he is liked across the Labour Party.”

    But depending on the future direction of the Labour Party he might have possibilities for leading it on a long-term basis. So his motives might conceivably not be focussed totally on the job in hand.

    The point about Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman is that such there is no potential conflict between either of them acting as an interim Prime Minister on a shrt-term basis and their long-term futures in politics. Both have a load of government experience. Jeremy Corbyn has no such experience. Right now we need really politically experienced people in charge.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '19 - 5:46pm

    Let’s keep feminism out of this, shall we? There is no evidence that Swinson chose Harman (or Ken Clarke!) out of a misplaced feminist impulse. Nor that Swinson’s political judgment has anything to do with her gender. Nor that Swinson’s actions should be judged either more harshly or more favourably on account of her gender.

  • I cannot believe most of what is being said here. It appears Swinson has well and truly rattled Labours cage. Not a bad thing I suggest. Labour are trying to portray her as being difficult, but they would do wouldn’t they, because she is making it difficult for them, nobody else. Really Labour are giving Swinson publicity, which I would have thought would be counterproductive for them..
    Things are working themselves out and there WILL be a person to head a short term unity government, leading probably to another referendum, which can be organised quickly utilising equivalent to emergency powers. Ignore the media c overage, it is what is happening behind the scenes that is important.

  • Ian Hurdley 16th Aug '19 - 6:08pm

    Someone once said that politics is the art of the possible. In reality the Lib Dems cannot dictate to another party who its leader should or should not be. So, Jeremy Corbyn tables a motion to no confidence; his MPs will support him and some Tory remainers may also support him. Indications are that Plaid and the SNP will also hold their noses and add their support.
    For the Lib Dems to vote against the motion out of hostility towards Corbyn when we have become known as the main party opposing Brexit in any form, destroys our credibility and our future.

  • @Paul Barker “Yes, Labour supporters Fear & Hate Us; Let them. The more Labour take us seriously the more Voters will listen to us & that is the first step. But, we have to get over this constant wanting to be liked.”

    Indeed Paul, and in many cases (as illustrated by some on this thread), it’s wanting to be liked by Labour (perhaps those with Labour MPs as friends fear being ostracised).

    We need to be unshakeable in our self belief, and stop apologising and hand-wringing.

    @Rob Cannon – you’ve failed to recognise why Harman was proposed. A PM for a short term GNU needs to be someone who is not in contention for the long term which Starmer as a current shadow cabinet member would be. It needs to be someone who is unthreatening to anyone in terms of their persona ambition. Harman clearly has no long term ambition. So not “tokenism” (how sexist).

  • @ian Hurdley

    As a BBC news reporter stated today: people in Downing Street like Dominic Cummings, must be rubbing their hands with glee as opposition forces squabble over who leads the effort against Johnson’s no-deal.

    It was silly for Swinson to even get into such a naval gazing exercise as the fire risks burning the whole place down. Akin to squabbling over the type of hosepipe to be used to douse the flames.

    September is racing into view and MPs may only get one shot at this.

  • Ivan Stevens 16th Aug '19 - 6:46pm

    Just read her letter to Corbyn (who I myself have strong reservations about). On the surface its all about the arithmetic of support in the HofC for him. And proposing someone different, Harriet Harman etc. to lead a caretaker govt. But the feeling comes across that she simply does not like Corbyn. We all know we have sometimes to work with people we don’t like. Fact of life if you want to get things done – in this case stop Brexit, or at least No-Deal, happening. Frankly she worries me, has done since she was campaigning – I was quite shocked she was elected leader, and at the majority. Her instant reaction to Corbyn’s proposal reinforced that concern. I’d like to see the Lib-Dems do well, as the only party really committed to Remain. But under her leadership?

  • In 1979 Jim Callaghans government lost a vote of No Confidence. There was an immediate dissolution and GE. There was no suggestion of a caretaker government. Why do we need one now? All parties would go into campaign with a clear position on Brexit (which would mean the people can make a clear choice ) except the Lab Party. Perhaps thats why Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting something else?

  • I think Jo is right, how can we trust Jeremy Corbyn. He hasn’t been banging the drum for EU or the cancellation of Article 50. I have been fighting on the battlefields of the Internet to out out the lib dem view. Also I handly posted that letter from Corbyn where he makes no mention of the cancellation of Article 50..after 48 of this country and two regions voted no…

  • Richard, we need one now because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act. If we win a VONC we have just 14 days (in reality less as BJ will table a VOC in himself on the last available day) to cobble together an alternative administration. If we fail, and he doesn’t win his final VOC, all he has to do is set a GE date after 31 Oct and a No Deal is all but assured.

    Hoisted by our own petard.

  • @Richard C

    Because of how Johnson intends to proceed after a possible no-confidence defeat in early September (as outlined by Cummings). Part of the plan involves using the 14 days between the 1st and 2nd no-confidence votes to burn more time, then assuming a 2nd defeat , he would call an election for after the 31 Oct . All made possible thanks to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

    Time constraints are the major advantage Johnson has. Hence the frustration with Swinson and others who won’t simply get into fighting formation.

  • Just remind me which party was most insistent on introducing the undemocratic Fixed Term Parliament Act as a concession for propping up the appalling Cameron Government, thus facilitating the EU Referendum?

  • I suspect Johnson will simply call a general election when he inevitably loses the no confidence vote, name a date and bank on winning it. His campaign will mainly consist of depicting the his opponents as anti-democratic plotters. After that it’s anyone’s guess, as it can’t really resolve anything.

  • Got to say Jo Swinson’s decision to reject Corbyn as caretaker PM is now looking like the right decision though I disagreed at the time. There simply isn’t the support needed for Corbyn to take charge. Harman or Clarke seem like better options

  • Mike MacSween 16th Aug '19 - 9:48pm

    I think it could have been a misjudgement of tone and timing on Jo Swinson’s part. Which has allowed the Corbyn social media activists, and mainstream media, to present this as “Lib Dems refuse to work with Corbyn to stop No Deal”.

    Pointing out that though it needs Corbyn to call the VONC (as Jo begged him to do before the summer recess), doesn’t imply that he has to be the Caretaker PM. And as has been said, there may be enough Tory rebels to succeed in a VONC, but maybe not for GNU.

    She could have found a better way to say “look Jeremy, I want to work with you on this, but I don’t think you can get a majority in the House for you as PM”.

    Alternatively, she could have said – “sure, whatever you want Jeremy”, and just waited for the various Tory rebels to object to JC as PM, at which point somebody would have piped up and said – “well, what about Ken or Harriet then?”. At which point Jeremy would look like the “wrecker” if he refused.

    Of course that is quite possibly what will happen. Jo seems to be softening a bit. If she’s brave she’ll do a sharp apologetic U-turn. Or perhaps just wait and let people forget, which they will, soon. And anyway, it’s only us that pay such close attention, most people (voters, that is) really don’t care that much.

    I’m not suggesting either of these things is the right way, or will be successful. The world is full of armchair pundits. Though I do get a slight feeling that Jo Swinson would perhaps benefit from a little gentle advice from someone of less tender summers. Vince Cable, I suppose. “Raising the profile” can quickly turn into “putting your foot in it”.

  • Swinson rules our supporting Corbyn into No 10 and thousands of unhappy Tories feel safe enough to switch their allegiance. Result: surge for the Lib Dems in the polling. Unhappy Labourites realise that she is not going to support Johnson either. Result: further movement from the Corbyn Socialist party. Further result: everybody happy. Brexit stopped and we get back to a sound economy and a fair society.

  • John Marriott 16th Aug '19 - 10:03pm

    Before we get excited about a temporary Government of National Unity (GoNU) a vote of No Confidence has got to be won (or a vote of Confidence lost?). IF the Johnson government loses out, he has then got to resign? What if he fails to do so? Do we really want the Queen dragged into this mess? We may not be able to avoid it!

    Let’s assume that he does stand down. The opposition parties and a few Remain Tories (in fact more than a few) then have got fourteen days to put an alternative government together; but you all know that. It seems a no brainer that you have got to find someone, who could get the support of a majority of MPs, but especially Tory remainers. So that must rule out Jeremy Corbyn, who might give his reputation a massive boost if he were to fall on his sword, at least for the duration of the GoNU. People such as Margaret Beckett, Yvette Cooper, Harriet Harman and Ken Clarke come to mind as potential Leaders. There may even be a few younger members, who could command support, such as Keir Starmer or Stephen Kinnock. If you think that most of the Leader options appear to be Labour parliamentarians, what about a ‘big beast’ like Lord Heseltine, whose pro EU credentials are second to none (at least for a Tory). Perhaps trying to run a government from the House of Lords might be stretching credulity a bit too far.

    The next two months could be some of the most axiomatic in our country’s long history. They could prove to be more existential than, for example, the Battle of Britain or the Blitz. Mind you, there is a big difference between 1940 and 2019. Most of the Brits in 1940 hadn’t actually voted for WW2!

  • Mike MacSween 16th Aug '19 - 10:09pm

    I can’t say whether Jo was right or wrong. Sometimes you take a decision, then events make it the right one. At the moment Ken Clarke is making various noises to the effect of – “yes, I’d be willing to be a PM of a GNU, but there’s a way to go before we get to that point”. And of course he’s pitching it perfectly, as he always does.

    So if Harriet Harman makes a few similar noises, then the way that Jo’s initial rejection of the idea of Corbyn as PM, as a sort of stubborn refusal will quickly be forgotten. And she will begin to look more like a prescient enabler of a successful GNU. At which point any attempt by Corbyn/Momentum to reject Clarke/Harriet/Whoever makes THEM appear as the refusniks.

  • What on earth makes you even think that a remainer could gain enough support to form a unity Government.
    Ken Clarke has already declared that any administration that he lead would have to include he suggested any Brexit deal settled with the EU by his administration would include ‘staying in the customs union, staying in regulatory alignment’.
    Out of 311 Tory MP’s
    90 are from the ERG
    51 are part of Brexit Delivery Group
    with a further 11 euroseceptic MP’s who do not belong to any group but their voting records and public statements suggest they believe in leaving the EU

    There is no way that Corbyn would allow it’s MP’s to vote for another Tory led administration after he has just successfully won a vote of no confidence against the present one. Labour MP’s would be 3 lined whipped.

    Equally so, the numbers are not there for Harmen. (A) Corbyn will not approve of it and as official leader of the opposition, I cannot blame him and I am certainly no fan of Corbyn and again there is no way that enough Tory Mp’s would get behind voting for a labour lead administration, it would be political suicide for them…

    It is looking more and more likely that if this vote of no confidence does occur and is successful, more likely than not the election will be held AFTER 31st October and I expect Boris to be returned with a slightly smaller majority, he will be able to galvanise the voters by calling out undemocratic Labour and LD’s who have obstructed parliament and the will of the people and caused this election

  • Thank you Jo, a no-deal Brexit has just become a near certainty!

    A united front against Johnson might have caused disquiet at No.10 but the LibDem response within hours of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘reaching out’ has scuppered any such deal; Cummings/Johnson will sleep easy tonight.
    Naming Harriet Harman has made Labour’s support for any deal impossible (how would this party react to such a demand).

    Jo Swinson has turned her “anything to stop Brexit” into “well, maybe not anything”

    A united response against Brexit has been the sole reason for this party’s resurgence; it’ll not get another.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug '19 - 11:14pm

    There is quite a degree here of what I would call rather ignorant commentary but of course not all the people commentating here are Liberal Democrats. Just one point – it is being angrily said by people in the Labour Party that it is not up to Jo or the rest of us to say who should be leader of the Labour Party. Of course not. And no doubt the Leader of the Labour Party has the right to be PM in a Labour Government. But we are not talking here of a Labour government – we are talking of an Interim Government formed of people from across Parliament to carry out some specific functions. It would be quite wrong for the PM of such a government to be a person who has ambitions to be the head of a party Government after a General Election. If you cannot see that, it seems to me that you do not understand what is being proposed.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug '19 - 11:19pm

    Just one other thing. It is very clear that our MPs will vote for a Motion of No Confidence in Mr Johnson and his Government. The problem is that most rebel Conservatives will not do so if it is coupled by the Labour Party (however informally) with a proposition that Mr Corbyn should form a Government. So it will not pass. That is the basic issue with which the Labour Party has to come to terms. And it is their problem, not ours.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug '19 - 11:41pm

    No Lord Greaves, if the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party fails, that is the time to look at what you people find a more palatable option.

  • “There is quite a degree here of what I would call rather ignorant commentary but of course not all the people commentating here are Liberal Democrats.”

    “There is quite a degree here of what I would call rather ignorant commentary, but of course not all the people commentating here are true-blue loyal Conservatives / lifelong socialist comrades whose loyalty to Labour is steadfast and unquestioning (delete according to taste).”

    The second “quote” is a spoof by myself, the first is unfortunately taken verbatim from the thread above. Meanwhile, let me quote my daughter’s non-political partner on this topic. My daughter’s partner thinks we should just get rid of our politicians, every single one of them, and start afresh with brand new people. I do see the point.

    There is one great unifying principle which cuts across all our small-minded political tribalism, brings disparate people together, and gets things done. It is the Tory principle that rich people should help other rich people get rich and stay rich. That is the key principle which forges effective political unity, which trumps (and Trumps) the endless theoretical disagreements which divide the Tories’ opponents, and which can carry us on through to No Deal Brexit, economic chaos, and a paradise for neoliberal spivs and charlatans.

    Come on Lib Dems, raise your game, learn effective collaboration (which means knowing both when to be tough and when to give ground), prove you can do what Britain needs you to do, prove that the Guardian’s pessimism is wrong –

  • Mack,

    Why do you think it is undemocratic to remove the power of a Prime Minister to call a general election whenever they want and replace it with a fixed term Parliament, giving the MPs the power to stop a general election or allow one as in 2017?

    There are two things wrong with the Act. Firstly, it doesn’t state how long there is between the 14 days when no new government wins a vote of confidence and a general election. It would have been easy to set it on the Thursday 17 working days after the fourteenth day in 2 (7). I wonder if this power of the PM was retained due to Conservative influence. The other thing wrong with it is there is no procedure for how the House of Commons can pass motions of support in a proposed new government which can then be turned into the real one.

    John Marriott,

    If Johnson loses a vote of no confidence I do not see the need for him to resign, I think he would remain PM unless a proposed new government could gain a majority in the House of Commons. If no proposed new government could gain such support and he couldn’t win a vote of confidence he would remain PM until the result of the General Election is known and if takes time for a new government to be formed by the other parties, he would remain PM during that time as well (as Brown did in 2010).

    In the event that a proposed new government does gain the necessary support, the Queen would ask them to form a new government. I wonder if the last Prime Minister dismissed by the monarch was William Grenville in 1807. I would expect that Johnson would resign and not have to be dismissed by the Queen.

  • Richard Easter 17th Aug '19 - 8:10am

    I wonder if Labour was lead by a strong Remain figure who was far more to the right on economic and foreign policy issues (e.g. Kendall), if Swinson would still be calling for Harman (a person who has significant baggage and pretty much has zero credibility with the traditional working class Labour voter) or Clarke?

    Equally lets say Burnham won the leadership election and based on his campaign combined a certain amount of Corbynite economic policy but with a more populist veneer – and unlike Corbyn was rather more popular with the electorate – would Swinson be calling for someone other than Burnham (who would be a far greater threat to the Lib Dems than either Blairites or Corbynites)? I’m guessing that such calls against Burnham would just be met by laughter.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug ’19 – 11:41pm……………..No Lord Greaves, if the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party fails, that is the time to look at what you people find a more palatable option……………..

    Had Jo Swinson stopped to think, before dismissing even talking to Jeremy Corbyn as “Nonsense”, she might have considered that such talks were the only answer. If during the ‘talks’ it became obvious that Jeremy Corbyn could not garner enough support to lead a ‘coalition against a no deal Brexit’ then the onus would’ve been on him to step aside for a more acceptable candidate. If he failed to do so the fault for any failure would be his; instead Jo Swinson must accept the blame.

    What seems to have been forgotten, in this matter, is the rest of the EU. They have watched as Westminster infighting has already broken an agreed deal and now they’ll stare in amazement as the same tribalism makes no-deal a near certainty.

    The EU don’t want a no-deal, that would be very harmful to them, and, IMO, their united front against Johnson has been largely sustained by the belief that the UK parliament would prevent such a no-deal. Now, faced with little hope of the UK blocking a no-deal they might feel that an a deal with an ‘amended backstop’ would be the lesser of the two evils.
    Johnson would get his ‘tough’ Brexit and, in any election held afterwards, would win with a large majority.

    As I’ve said before, “Thanks”

  • Andrew Tampion 17th Aug '19 - 8:26am

    With reference to whether the Prime Minister has to resign if a vote of confidence is lost under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 you need to look at section 2 Early parliamentary general elections link here:
    While nothing is explicitly stated about the prime minister being forced to resign or not, subsection 7 say that if a parliametary general election is to take place under section 2 then the polling day is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
    If the Prime Minister who lost a vote of confidence under subsection 3 was forced to resign immediately and no new Prime Minister won a motion of confidence in the House of Commons then there would be no Prime Minister to recommend a polling day to the Queen.
    Since the Act assumes that there is a Prime Minister to advise the Queen it follows that the Prime Minister who loses a vote of confidence must remain in office unless either a new government is formed or a general election takes place.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug ’19 – 11:14pm. …….There is quite a degree here of what I would call rather ignorant commentary ….. But we are not talking here of a Labour government – we are talking of an Interim Government formed of people from across Parliament to carry out some specific functions………..

    “Number”, Lord Greaves,”Numbers”.. The interim government will be formed by most of the 247 Labour MPs, 35 SNP, 14 LibDems and a handful of others.
    I cannot imagine any other situation when 5% of the team makes picking the leader the price for their participation; even Johnson’s election as PM by a handful of ‘true blue’ Tories seems sensible by comparison,,well, maybe, not that sensible-

  • Alex Macfie 17th Aug '19 - 8:35am

    Andy: “Harriet Harman … could be PM for five weeks, then possibly launch her own leadership bid?”
    Considering that HH has twice been Acting Leader of the Labour Party, and declined to run for Leader both times, this seems most unlikely. I rather wish she had thrown her hat in the ring either of those times, but the fact that she did not do so suggests she has no leadership ambitions.

  • Denis Mollison 17th Aug '19 - 9:12am

    @expats – But we are in a situation where 5% can potentially pick the leader. The figures you give – Lab 247 + SNP 35 + LD 14, + PC/Grn 5, total 299 (and I don’t think you can count on all the Lab MPs) – fall around 5% short of a majority. So a handful of around 5% can indeed `pick the leader as the price for their participation’. This is of course a simplification: the 5% needed are not a fixed group. There’s a pool of independents, labour rebels and moderate Tories from which to recruit them, and what pleases one set may alienate others.

  • Denis Mollison 17th Aug '19 - 9:14am

    @expats – PS – for 299 read 301

  • Michael BG
    The Fixed Term Parliament Act is undemocratic because it ensures that it effectively silences the voice of the people for five years, and deprives them of the opportunity of removing corrupt or incompetent governments, or passing judgement on such governments and replacing them with an alternative. It was designed opportunistically by the Liberal Democrats to cement their position in power when they were the junior partners in a coalition and should have been repealed by when the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition government was replaced. Instead of the democratic mechanism of a general election which reflects the voice of the people the FTPA provides for stitch ups and uneasy compromises between disparate and antipathetical interests, such as we are witnessing in the current farce. Do Liberal Democrats really think Labour MPs from Brexit Constituencies are going to support an ex Thatcherite hawk like Clarke? In the days before the FTPA there would have been a vote of no confidence which, if successful, would have resulted in a general election during which all positions on Brexit could have been put once again to the people. It is not surprising that the Liberal Democrats were the architects of the FTPA given the contempt and disregard for democracy with which they have responded to the democratic expression of the people’s will in the EU referendum, which was to leave the EU by a majority. If Corbyn has any sense he will refuse to call a vote of no confidence until he has the support of all putative supporters, including Swinson. If Johnson has any sense he will pre-empt all this government of National Disunity nonsense (A government which no-one would have voted for) and offer MPs a vote on a General Election, just as May did.

  • Peter Martin 17th Aug '19 - 9:15am

    @ Richard Easter,

    “……….and unlike Corbyn was rather more popular with the electorate..”

    It’s perhaps worth pointing out that Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, achieved 40% of the vote in the 2017 GE. This was at least 10pts better than the doomsayers were predicting at the start of the election campaign. This would have been enough to win in normal circumstances. As it was, it was enough to deprive Theresa May of an overall majority. This must be evidence enough that JC’s ‘popularity’ isn’t a key problem for Labour.

    This was also achieved with a promise to the electorate that Labour would abide by the 2016 referendum result.

    We all know that Labour isn’t promising that any longer and we all know, too, they they’ve little chance of getting anywhere near 40% if we have an election fought on the issue of Brexit. Labour’s policy is totally incomprehensible. There’s been an attempt to try to keep both Remainers and Leavers on board which has resulted in significant defections from both. In other words, in an attempt to please everyone they’ve ended up pleasing no-one.

    From a Labour POV, it would be better to have an election after we’d left the EU provided that it was the Tories who had taken us out. That will enable the Labour Party to fight the next election on the much safer ground, for them, of the state of the economy, the NHS, education etc.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Aug '19 - 9:21am

    17th Aug ’19 – 8:28am Tony Greaves
    Former Labour MP Chuka Umunna said on Newsnight that “10-15” Labour MPs, whom he knows and has negotiated with, would not support Corbyn as PM. He declined to name them because the Labour whip would be withdrawn from them. Jo Swinson only referred to “doubts” about whether they would all support Corbyn. For every Labour MP who refuses another Tory defector is needed.

  • David Evans 17th Aug '19 - 9:28am

    Mack, What garbage. As usual, you ignore the points make by Michael BG (which completely answer the key point in your subsequent post) and instead carry on with your continuing diatribe against The Fixed Term Parliaments Act and what you see as what those nasty politicians did to stop a PM being the only person to choose the time for him/her to hold a general election.


  • The Corbynites are out in force on this thread.

    1) Corbyn will never command a majority
    2) let him in and he won’t leave
    3) supporting him loses Conservative remainers

  • John Marriott 17th Aug '19 - 9:32am

    Most democracies I know, if not all, have a form of FTPA. They seem perfectly happy with it. So, what makes us so different? “Democratic expression of the people’s will”? Do you mean the 38% of those eligible to vote? In any case, I thought that “take back control” meant putting Parliament in charge. Government by referendums may be fine for the Swiss; but they are an exception over here, and quite rightly so, given the current mess.

  • Clarke says he will do it, Harman has not denied she would do it, it seems to be happening.

  • Mike MacSween 17th Aug '19 - 10:48am

    An excellent piece from Matthew Parris, as usual. This quote sums up what I think just happened:

    “Instead, the Labour leader has fired off what was essentially an open letter, taking (for example) Ms Swinson so by surprise that she foolishly forgot to feign interest in the proposal and instead called it out for the nonsense that, in just a couple of weeks, it would be.”

  • Peter Martin 17th Aug '19 - 10:55am

    @ John Marriott,

    ‘In any case, I thought that “take back control” meant putting Parliament in charge.’

    Largely yes. The one proviso is that Parliament has to accept that they are lent their powers from the people. They need to return them undiminished at the end of the Parliament. The Parliament cannot give away what doesn’t belong to it.

    Therefore, no signing of foreign Treaties like Maastricht or Lisbon! This should have ever have been allowed to happen without the expressed consent of the people.

  • Peter Martin 17th Aug '19 - 11:25am

    @ Mike,

    Even though I don’t share Matthew Parris’s distaste for the Labour Party I’d have to say he has it right in saying it’s better for them not to have an election just at the moment. Its better to wait until after the Tories had done their deed. I said as much in my 9-15 am comment.

    It will also give the electorate the opportunity to say to the far right that they might have succeeded in taking us out of the EU, but they can’t expect to then have everything their own way. I’ve never quite understood why we would ever have a Tory Brexit or a Labour Lexit.

    The way politics works is that we are more likely to have a reaction from the electorate to be just the opposite of what is predicted. In other words a Lexit can only come about if it’s the Tories who take us out.

  • John Marriott 17th Aug '19 - 11:54am

    The Lib Dems must be doing something right. Totally ignored by Polly Toynbee in her list of ‘opposition parties’ in an article last week in The Guardian, they received full blast from that other Labour luvvie, Owen Jones, in today’s edition!

    What Mr Jones fails to appreciate is that, without a substantial number of Tory votes, any GoNU stands about as much chance as a snowflake in hell of getting a majority. I honestly can’t imagine many, if any, Tory Remain MPs supporting a Corbyn led government, no matter how temporary. We should also factor in that not ALL Labour MPs will follow their leader into the division lobbies. Don’t forget that abstentions on either side could make the difference. We don’t want abstentions, do we?

    In the same newspaper was a very revealing article by Jonathon Freedland lamenting how many opportunities had been missed over the past few years while the nation obsessed with Brexit. Exactly. Fiddling while Rome burns? How many more years of this nightmare have we got to endure? Compromise, compromise, compromise!

  • … and having moved to a different thread, Mack still goes on about his favourite fantasy … and on … and on.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Aug '19 - 12:57pm

    @ John Marriott,

    The initiative was to stop a no deal Brexit, something that those who, on balance, favoured Brexit and Remain but were prepared to compromise could get behind.

    Do you think that the Liberal Democrat Party under its current leadership would compromise its position which is to stop Brexit entirely with little regard for those who , decided to vote leave, a group that appear to be held in contempt by ardent remainers?

    I fear that when Boris Johnson has taken us out of the EU in a reckless manner, those of us who were prepared to compromise will just have to ‘suck it up’.

  • John Marriott 17th Aug '19 - 3:31pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    I know that what I am about to say will not go down well with people like ‘frankie’; but, like many people, I honestly cannot see how we will ever get the kind of deal we currently have if we actually leave now and later try to return to the fold. The Scots should consider this if they ever do get independence from a non EU U.K.

    One of the reasons why I have not considered rejoining a party of which I was a founding member (and represented on various local councils for thirty years) and a member of the old Liberal Party for ten years before that is because, mindful of the current direction of travel of the EU and the fact that there is a considerable minority of people, who, for a variety of reasons, some of which I frankly do find hard to understand, are just not happy with an ever closer political relationship with the EU is the Lib Dems’ almost blind conviction that, given another referendum, there would be a massive vote in favour of Remain. Certainly where I live in Lincolnshire there is no sign that there has been a considerable change of opinion.

    How often do we hear those people old enough to have voted in 1975 say that they were voting for a ‘Common Market’ not a United States of Europe? Don’t play the clever dick and tell them that they ought to have known what they had signed themselves up to. All I do know is that, with militant unions running rampant, inflation nudging 25% and the IMF about to call, the lifeline offered by EEC membership kept GB plc afloat until revenues from North Sea Oil kicked in at the end of the 1970s. How ungrateful a nation we have turned out to be!

    It may well be that compromise (half in half out or something like Norway) may be past its sell by date. However, I’ve been wrong before. I really thought that Parliament would sort it out before the end of March. Could it do it by the end of October? Only if those supporting a GoNU can find an acceptable ‘Leader’, whom those vital Tory remainer MPs could support.

  • When considering an alternative Prime Ministers to Jeremy Corbyn, I don’t think Harriet Harman would be acceptable to Jeremy Corbyn because when acting leader of the Labour Party she whipped the Labour MPs not to vote against the Conservative welfare cuts. I don’t think Ken Clarke is acceptable because he does not support another referendum and I think a unity government to be formed has to support a referendum and not an early general election. (As it is likely that independent MPs, even if not the Independent Group for Change, and Conservative rebel MPs would not be re-elected in a general election I think it unlikely they would support a government which would call an early general election.) Therefore I would like to suggest Margaret Beckett who has been an MP since 1983 plus 1974-79; she has lots of Cabinet experience including being Foreign Secretary 2006-07 and Leader of the House of Commons 1998-2001.

  • Mack,

    Thank you for responding to my question. Having a fixed term for a Parliament is not undemocratic and it is standard practice in many democracies including the USA. It is more democratic than allowing the Prime Minister to choose the date of a general election which was the situation before it was passed. Your criticism therefore seems to rest on your dislike of coalitions and your preference for the First Past The Post system for elections which allows governments (most of the time) to be formed when the party forming them failed to receive over 50% of the total vote. (The last time one party received over 50% of the vote was in 1931). Your other criticism is that there is no general election after a vote of no confidence. If we had STV then it is unlikely any one party would ever have a majority and the idea that MPs could form a different government when the existing one lost the confidence of the House of Commons makes sense. It is a modern phenomenon in the UK for a government to hold a general election after losing a vote of no confidence. In the past a new government was formed first – 1846, 1852, 1859, 1866, 1885 and 1895. It is therefore unusual in British history for a vote of no confidence to be followed by a general election with the party which was defeated remaining in office – 1841, 1924 and 1979. As we are a representative democracy the Fixed-Term Parliament Act is democratic within those terms. It is possible to have a different systems where no MPs are elected only a government for a fixed term and then there is no way of removing it, or for there to be annual general elections. The purest form of democracy would mean the whole adult UK population being in Parliament.

  • Peter Martin
    @ 9.15
    As a Labour Leaver, member and supporter I can agree with you that it would be greatly to Labour’s advantage for Johnson to take us out of the EU before a general election. Then I and many Labour Leavers like me, could happily vote Labour. If there is a General election before Britain leaves the EU and at that GE Labour backs another referendum and campaigns to Remain I will have no choice but to hold my nose and vote for a party of Brexit.

  • Denis Mollison 17th Aug ’19 – 9:12am…………@expats – But we are in a situation where 5% can potentially pick the leader. The figures you give – Lab 247 + SNP 35 + LD 14, + PC/Grn 5, total 299 (and I don’t think you can count on all the Lab MPs) – fall around 5% short of a majority. So a handful of around 5% can indeed `pick the leader as the price for their participation’. This is of course a simplification: the 5% needed are not a fixed group. There’s a pool of independents, labour rebels and moderate Tories from which to recruit them, and what pleases one set may alienate others.Denis Mollison 17th Aug ’19 – 9:[email protected] – PS – for 299 read 301………………

    This party are masters in “missing the point”. There is no guarantee that opposition to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will succeed, even the vote of ‘No Confidence’ may fail, but, when things ‘go pear shaped’ after a no-deal’ Brexit what will the various parties say?
    a) Labour..”We put forward a proposal to stop it” … b) SNP.. “Despite our differences with Labour we accepted the need for serious talks”..c) LibDem..” We dislike Corbyn more than a no-deal”…

    Earlier I mentioned the EU…Now let’s look at Scotland… There were two parties opposed to a Brexit of any kind but, in any post Brexit election, which one will ‘Remainers’ choose? The party that said b) or the party that said c)…IMO “this party shopuld kiss Scotland goodbye”…

    BTW..Haven’t times changed… In 2010 we were told that numbers matter and, subsequently, how a mere 57 MPs couldn’t make a major difference to policy,,,Now, 14 MPs are deemed to be ‘masters of Leave”.

  • Paul Barker 18th Aug '19 - 8:27am

    I welcome the refreshing honesty of many of the recent comments on this thread which are now much more openly attacks on The Libdems.
    Of course you have to ask why anyone would bother coming on a LibDems Site just to attack The Libdems, I think fear is the answer. With both The May Elections now 3 Months in the Past, Libdem Polling figures continue to hold up, we keep winning Seats off both Labour & Tories in Local Byelections & our Leader looks fresh & strong compared to the 2 Has-beens Leading our Rivals.
    Keep up the attacks, it just makes us stronger.

  • @ John Marriott
    ‘In any case, I thought that “Take back control” meant putting parliament in charge.”

    Parliament did take charge, and gave the power back to the people to make the decision leave or not leave the EU via a plebiscite. That done, in my view, the current parliament has no right to rescind the decision made under that power. It can now only do so with the authority of another general election in which a party or coalition of parties that have promised in their manifestos to Remain, achieve a majority. If they fail to do so and a party or parties that are pro Brexit achieve a majority then we will leave, or stay out, if we have already left.

    ‘Government by referendums may be fine for the Swiss; but they are an exception over here, and quite rightly so, given the current mess.’

    I cannot see why referenda should be fine for one country but not another. Curious logic. However, that aside, I abominate plebiscites, which I believe represent political failure and are the last refuge of weak politicians such as Cameron. At the 2015 general election Ed Miliband eschewed the promise of an EU referendum, a decision which was both courageous and honourable and for which he is given too little credit. As I was a Labour member I voted for Miliband. At the time I was too preoccupied with the appalling consequences of the LibDem/Tory coalition government’s harsh and cruel austerity policies and their effects on the poor, to place European membership very high on my political agenda. However, when offered the opportunity by Cameron to leave the undemocratic, neo-Liberal EU, the political architecture of which is inimical to Socialism, I grabbed the opportunity. The irony is, that by propping up Cameron’s government for five years the Lib Dems allowed the Tories to achieve sufficient popularity within the electorate for them to gain a majority and institute the EU referendum. For that, the Lib Dems have the gratitude of Brexiteers.

  • @ Michael B G

    ‘If we had STV then it is unlikely any one party would ever have a majority.’

    A very good reason for not having STV.

    A government by oligarchies stitched up without the authority of a fresh mandate from the people once a government has fallen is inimical to modern democracy. Your position confirms that the Lib Dems have not advanced much beyond the corrupt coalitions engaged in during the 18th century by their Whig antecedents.

  • Mack: “the current parliament has no right to rescind the decision made under that power” Wrong, Parliament has every right to make or rescind any decision it so wishes. Parliament cannot bind itself; this is a fundamental principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

  • Mack,

    The examples I gave were in the nineteenth century not the eighteenth. The examples were of a new government being formed and then a general election held not that a general election was not held. Having a fixed-term Parliament is part of a modern democracy.

    There is not just one form of democracy. And just because you dislike our form, that does not make it undemocratic.

    In the UK the Prime Minister only receives their power from the Parliament. Parliament receives its power from people electing individual members of the House of Commons. You need to understand our system of democracy. If you don’t like it you should support a party which wants to change it.

    Also after a general election the opposition parties do not support the government’s policy but oppose it. The policies of a government are only enacted it there is a majority to support them in Parliament. That is our system.

  • @Mack:

    A coalition government in which multiple parties are represented is neither “corrupt” nor oligarchic; it is, rather, representative, and provides a more accurate representation of the mood of the people than a “majority” government which actually represents a minority of the vote. What you call a “stitch-up” is what more mature voices know as agreement, dialogue and compromise. The “oligarchies” of which you complain are known in ordinary English as political parties.

    If you oppose political parties, if you oppose truly representative representation, if you oppose any form of political dialogue other than the diktat of a parliamentary majority, then you are not a defender of “modern democracy” but its foe. Similar complaints were made about liberal democracies in the 1920s and 1930s; the solution always seemed to be a one-party dictatorship.

  • @Alex Macfie
    “Parliament has to every right to rescind the decision made under that power.”
    Of course, it has, I know that. But my argument is that in de facto terms Parliament abrogated that right when it took the decision to return power to the people to make the decision on maintaining EU membership. I am asserting that Parliament can only legitimately reclaim that right by a general election and if a government is subsequently elected with an express mandate of the people to rescind the verdict of the 2016 plebiscite. Put the matter back to the people in a new general election.

  • @Michael BG

    You both completely misrepresent my position. I am certainly not opposed to representative parliamentary democracy but I am opposed to oligarchical political elites high handedly entering into coalitions without returning to the people to ask for their consent. And ignoring the will of the people as expressed in a plebiscite.

    As the Liberal Democrats are so supportive of modern parliamentary democracy perhaps they should be earnestly encouraging their new recruits who are MPs from other political parties, and who were elected on completely different manifestos, to immediately hold by-elections to see whether they have the consent of their constituents for their new zeal for the Liberal Democrats.

  • Mack,

    I wonder why I associate plebiscites with dictatorships.

    I am glad you support a representative parliamentary democracy. Part of that system is electing an individual who happens to have a party label. It is the person who is elected not a representative of the political party. Therefore in our system it is legitimate for those elected to change their minds and change political parties.

    I think it would be wrong to revoke Article 50 without a referendum being held. The legitimate way to overturn the result of a referendum is by another referendum. However, I do not agree that all MPs have to vote to implement the result of the referendum. Just like after a general election they can oppose the result and do everything in their power to hinder the policy being implemented just like policies in the government’s manifesto. Minorities are represented and have the right to oppose the majority view and often change the majority view over time.

  • Peter Martin 19th Aug '19 - 3:01pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “However, I do not agree that all MPs have to vote to implement the result of the referendum.”

    I agree. With the proviso that they should also have voted against the holding of the referendum in the first place. So this would mean that Ken Clarke and all the SNP were quite justified in voting to Remain in the EU afterwards.

    But all Lib Dems, except perhaps Nick Clegg(?), voted for it to be held and therefore should be expected to abide by its result. The only possible excuse might be if they made it very clear, in advance, they regarded the outcome as merely advisory. But I don’t remember that being said at the time.

  • Peter Martin 19th Aug ’19 – 3:01pm:
    With the proviso that they should also have voted against the holding of the referendum in the first place. So this would mean that Ken Clarke and all the SNP were quite justified in voting to Remain in the EU afterwards.

    Indeed. If you vote in a democratic election or referendum then you implicitly accept to be bound by the result, at least until such time as it is fully implemented.

    Ken Clarke has since obtained public office by misrepresentation having stood on a manifesto commitment to leave the EU (and “no deal is better than a bad deal”). If us voters misrepresent ourselves at a polling station then that’s a criminal offence; it should be for the candidates too.

    The only possible excuse might be if they made it very clear, in advance, they regarded the outcome as merely advisory. But I don’t remember that being said at the time.

    Certainly not by Paddy Ashdown on the night of the Referendum…

    ‘Lord Ashdown on Democracy, before Leave Won’:

    You know, those who’ve asked for this, and I was the first leader ever to ask for a referendum way back in, I don’t know 89 / 90, have said so because they believe it to be an act of democracy.

    I will forgive no one who does not accept the sovereign voice of the British people, once it has spoken, whether it’s by 1% or 20%.

    Once they’ve spoken, it’s our duty, as those who serve the public, to make the best use, and to make sure our country does the best it can, with the decision the people have given us.

    I mean either you believe in democracy or you don’t. When democracy speaks we obey. All of us do. And then if you put your nation first then you make the best use of it as you can with the decision you’ve got.

    If you are disappointed one way, you still apply yourself to making sure that the British people’s decision is followed, is obeyed, and we do the best in the national interest with that decision.

    Any people who retreat into we’re coming back for a second one, they don’t believe in democracy.

    Anybody who say’s I’m disappointed, I’m therefore going to fight against this; that is I think an abdication of the very thing we stand for.

  • Peter Martin,

    I don’t accept your logic. If an MP voted for a general election in 2017 that does not mean they have to support the new government’s policies.


    I didn’t support the idea of an in/out referendum when we first proposed it. I don’t think it was in 1990. I think we proposed a referendum on Maastricht c. 1992/3 but it was not until c. 2006 that we started calling for an in/out referendum.

    Paddy was wrong, if you lose a general election you hope to win the next one, and the same applies to referendums. (Opposition MPs oppose the government after a general election and try to stop them implementing their manifesto promises.)

    The problems is we don’t know how to treat referendums. I think we should only hold referendums when we have legislated for the result and once a result is declared the legislation comes into force. The Alternative Vote referendum was like that. The Act set out what changes would be made if the people voted yes.

  • John Littler 22nd Aug '19 - 6:29pm

    Jo was as tactful as she probably could be while delivering a stark and honest message to Corbyn

  • Nasser Butt 5th Oct '19 - 10:39am

    I now agree with Jo’s revised and very sensible stance.
    I dont care much about anyone at present being a PM. I am neutral.
    However as a LibDem all I care about is staying in EU and acheiving this thru one way or another.
    I think we need to come off our emotional high horse and get together with others for this Unity Government and achieve the objective as well defined by Sir Oliver Latwin.
    Vote of no confidence followed by a Unity Govetnment, followed by A Referandom, then followed by Gen Election.

    Lets not make it a personal issue about J Corburn or anyone else. Lets be democrats and work with the majority vote of coilition partners about who will be the PM for Coalition Gov.

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