WATCH: Jo Swinson say that a vote of no confidence would play into Boris Johnson’s hands

Opposition parties met today to talk strategy for the next stage of the Brexit Drama.

Over the weekend we had seen talk of a potential vote of no confidence this week.

Matthew D’Ancona explained yesterday on Twitter why this would be a mistake.

Jo Swinson has always been clear we can’t risk an election until we are certain that the threat of no deal on 31st October has been gone and it appears that she won the day.

Lib Dem MPs held a photocall outside the Commons and this is what Jo had to say:

I understand that Jo presented a strong case for a government of national unity headed by someone other than Jeremy Corbyn. This isn’t a personal thing at all. Jo always does her homework. I suspect she will have shown the meeting figures that show that Corbyn would not command the confidence of enough MPs to put him in Number 10. I hope that she and others are able to convince him that he needs to step aside and wait until the election to make his bid for the job on a full-time basis.

Christine Jardine told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme today (from around 2:35 minutes in) that this has to be handled very carefully to make sure we don’t end up crashing out with out a deal. We need to get that extension before we do anything else.

We would back a vote of no confidence to get us a caretaker PM to see us through this period. She says it should be someone who can rise above party politics. We have to put the national interest first.

She suggested that the SNP’s decision that it would back Jeremy Corbyn has more to do with Scottish independence. Over the Summer Labour’s leaders said that they would allow a second independence referendum, much to the annoyance of the party in Scotland.

She said that the problem with Corbyn is that he is as divisive as Boris Johnson. A respected, moderate figure would get people to coalesce around them and would command wide respect.  Jeremy Corbyn, she said, knows fine he doesn’t have the numbers and he should step aside in the national interest and allow someone else to take us through this.

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24 Comments

  • Paul Barker 30th Sep '19 - 8:28pm

    The meeting was a partial success in that Labour agreed not to put forward a VONC yet. However, The SNP are being less clear, conceivably they could put a VONC & Tory MPs could be whipped to back it. That would be a High-Risk strategy for both Parties though.
    The Talks continue but I think Labour are probably taking part to avoid blame, I doubt they are seriously considering a Temporary Administration led by a Neutral figure, I cant see what the Labour Leadership would get from it.
    My guess is that the Stalemate will continue for some time. The only sliver lining is that our Vote seems to be still rising & that we are taking Voters from both Labour & Tories.

  • @Paul Barker – I doubt they are seriously considering a Temporary Administration led by a Neutral figure, I cant see what the Labour Leadership would get from it.
    Paul, I completely disagree – I actually think there would be a clear win for Corbyn in doing that.
    Just think about it: There is stalemate all this week, and then, say on Friday morning he calls a press conference. “I have today decided to rule myself out of consideration as PM in a GNU. It’s clear that some Tories and LibDems will not support me, so I will decline to stand for the role because, to me, stopping a hard Brexit is bigger than any one person. Instead, I propose that my great colleague and friend Margaret Beckett take on the role of temporary PM. Hopefully now the other parties can agree to back my VONC, so that that GNU can be established and hard Brexit can be stopped. I will not take a role in the GNU, but will back it 100% in its efforts to stop hard Brexit and then proceed to a General Election.”
    I think he’d get a lot of kudos for this. His people could talk about his ‘gallant sacrifice, great statesmanship’ etc. – a great narrative to take into the election. And what would he be giving up, really? A few weeks as a toothless PM, unable to do anything except what the ex-Tories, SNP, LibDems and John Woodcock let him?? To me, it’s a no brainer.

  • “We need to get that extension before we do anything else.”

    So – we’re going to let things slide until October 19th, when the Benn Act kicks in – or later, if Johnson drags his feet and finally finds a way to bend/break/ignore the law? By then, a belated VONC would not leave enough time to replace Johnson with a GNU, so No Deal Brexit it would be. We would scream that it was Labour’s fault, Labour would scream that it was the Lib Dems’ fault, and the public would conclude that both sides were right.

  • Oh please, why on earth would Corbyn go for anything like that.
    I don’t really like the man and I do not want to see him as Prime Minister and although I think he a fool, he is not that naive.
    Corbyn would be derided at the following election by the Libdems and others. People would say that he was incapable of leadership and bringing people together that even members of is own party did not want him as prime minister, arguments would be put forward by this party and others that a vote for Corbyn would be an unstable Government as Liberal Democrats and others cannot work with him. He would be destroying what slim chances he already has of forming the next government and that is why Corbyn will never agree to this.

    Like I said, I am no Corbyn supporter and I do not wish to see a Labour Government whilst he and his cohorts are running the party, but just want to point out the folly of these calls for a GNU without Corbyn running it.
    Its never going to happen and so no is this Gnu

  • David Evershed 1st Oct '19 - 1:57am

    The Speaker only allows a VONC from the leader of the opposition. So the SNP or Lib Dems can not call such a vote.

    It would not be a Government of National Unity without the bulk of the largest party in Parliament (the Conservatives).

  • A vote of no confidence is a non starter unless Corbyn stands aside. He simply won’t gain the votes of former Tory MPs that he needs. Simple as that. So the question is will Corbyn do what’s in the national interest and back someone else or in his own interest? That’s the picture that will be painted now which actually puts him between a rock and a hard place.

    Frankly speaking I think the opposition parties should sit Boris out. Force him to extend article 50 and then waste maybe another month or so before calling an election. The longer we can string this out the weaker he will become.

  • John Marriott 1st Oct '19 - 8:15am

    I agree with ‘TonyH’. JC might surprise us all. But, please, Paul Barker, don’t knock the SNP just yet! As for the optics, I would love to see the leaders of ALL the opposition parties standing before the cameras together giving a joint statement. Jo Swinson’s statement was clear and, indeed frightening for all those who reckon their glasses are already half empty. However, phrases like “the Liberal Democrats will be leading the fight against Brexit” clearly sound like electioneering to me.

    At this delicate stage, the insertion of the words “a no Deal” before the word “Brexit” might have been a clearer and more realistic first step. Putting ALL your cards on the table first is no way to win what is increasingly looking like a game of poker, whose result will likely determine the economic future of our countries for many decades.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Oct '19 - 9:39am

    @ Matt,
    I don’t think leavers like yourself need to worry too much about a government of national unity being formed. Given tthat he disparate groups have disparate aims, ranging from Mrs May’s deal to revoking Brexit, the chance of them reaching a unified agreement is, in my opinion, pretty slim, probably non-existent.

    Jo Swinson has made her implacable opposition to Jeremy Corbyn very clear from the outset. Liberal Democrats aren’t going to support Corbyn as a temporary caretaker because he doesn’t have the support! Hmm.

    The Benn Act was masterful, but the so called rebel alliance don’t seem capable of grasping the opportunity. First, Meat loaf then, Louis Armstrong’s , ‘We have all the time in the world”

    An outsider could be forgiven for thinking that stopping a ‘No deal Brexit’ wasn’t the most pressing consideration.

  • I did not vote Leave either but it is Remainer intransigence which has got us to this point and worse is to come.
    If only some concession and accommodation had been made with the Leave side. Even the May deal then we would have a slight detachment with no ill feeling which could have been reversed in an few years. Instead Remain has pursued a complete repudiation and reversal of the vote, as though it had never happened at all. People searched their souls before they voted. To be told their opinion was worthless is disrespectful.
    Now, the machinations described above have no hope of success. An extension for what? What is supposed to happen? A new administration devoted to revoke or BoJo with a No Deal majority?
    On the subsequent collapse of swathes of European farms and businesses the acrimony and resentment will mean no hope of UK / EU re-engagement for generations.
    All for the sake of a little respect and compromise.

  • William Fowler 1st Oct '19 - 10:41am

    The thing that would blunt Boris would be a GNU for a final referendum, no deal v remain, remain most likely to win and the Conservatives would then be blamed for losing Brexit, with TBP taking their vote in a GE. This assumes no viable deal as of Oct 13th. No point trying to negotiate a compromise deal as it would not be acceptable to anyone as the EU would go out of their way to make it a bad deal for the UK, knowing there was a final referendum.

    Corbyn as temporary PM is ok as long as someone like Spreadsheet Phil is chancellor, implementing Boris’s spending plans, again to blunt him at a GE.

  • David Allen 1st Oct '19 - 10:43am

    Peter Wigley,

    “2. Negotiate a new deal if possible.”

    There isn’t time for an interim government to do that. Look how long it took Theresa May to agree a deal – which Barnier says is final- ! There could soon be fatal splits between Labour soft Brexiters trying to make Brexit look and work better, versus Lib Dems and others preferring to see Brexit rejected at the referendum.

    “3. Put this (or no-deal if no new deal) to the people in a referendum.”

    That’s also hard for an interim government to do, but it must be done. Otherwise we jump straight into the election Johnson has been gunning for, with Johnson screaming for the Brexit Nation to overthrow the “illegitimate” Benn Act and Get Brexit Done. The referendum must therefore be the simplest, clearest avialable choice – the May / Barnier Withdrawal Ageement (which leaves all Brexit varaint options open for later decision) versus Remain.

    Even that requires six months. So the interim government cannot simply be Ken Clarke, empty cabinet chairs, a wing and a prayer. It must be a balanced Cabinet with Labour as leading partners but without sole overall control.

    The clinching case should be: We have already tried (in 2017) a GE to resolve Brexit, and it didn’t work. Another GE retry will just re-create another divided parliament. This Parliament was legitimately elected by a nation which knew that resolving Brexit was its main task. It should do that now. A referendum, with the real terms for withdrawal now known, will reach a decision.

  • I am sure progress is being made quite quickly, please do not accept press statements, press reports etc, it is what is happening actively behind the scenes of which we are almost all unaware of.
    In a way it is not who leads it perhaps, but who is in it, how is it made up, on a balance of parties at Westminster then it would be overwhelmingly Labour.

  • Peter Martin 1st Oct '19 - 12:08pm

    The alternative to saying you’ve no confidence in the BJ government is to say have at least some confidence. So which is it?

    Methinks it’s time to put up or shutup !

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Oct '19 - 1:02pm

    We must not regard the extension a unilateral UK option. The EU needs a good reason, and might formulate its own conditions, as it did last time. A UK-representative with clout, who really wants the extension and a resolution, and who can commit the UK to the requested steps would therefore be better than sending Johnson who will do everything to minimise the EU’s extension-appetite.

    Given the polls, the EU might well say that a GE is not enough; if the best-case result of the GE is another referendum in one year, the alternative outcome being a delayed no-deal, it makes sense for the EU to request the referendum first. I am not sure the Benn-bill would force Johnson to agree to that.

    There are many good reasons to replace the Nation’s steward before Oct 17, and not with a political lightweight.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Oct '19 - 3:51pm

    @ Hard Rain,
    Agreeing with you is becoming a habit that I must try to break.

    Wise heads, the late Paddy Ashdown ( a diplomat as well as a politician , Vince Cable and indeed Norman Lamb) both judged it correctly after the 2016 Referendum. However, I seem to remember Nick Clegg defending the Liberal Democrats’ policy of a second referendum so soon after the result.

    The behaviour of the Conservative Party and those leavers who think that the current behaviour is normal, justified, or even admirable and a sign of strength, are not alone in bringing about greater division and dogmatism. It takes two to tango, there has been action and reaction and the end result is not pretty. This party cannot shirk responsibility for the part it has played in the increasing polarisation and division that has taken place.

    Some of the rebel Tory MPs now seem to be coming round to the idea that another referendum might now be the only way out of this disastrous mess. Labour has already done so. The problem is, that what has been said cannot be unsaid. What has been done cannot be undone. Having pushed people to the extremes, compromise ( which some still will not accept as a precondition to resolution), has become infinitely harder to achieve.

    More importantly, as Arnold Kiel says, an extension is not a unilateral decision. Would I waste more time and effort when the UK, extension or not does not yield an accepted, and acceptable, decision and approach to our membership or otherwise of the EU? Probably not. Those who think otherwise suffer from the same sense of exceptionalism as leavers, an unfounded believe that we really are too important to cast adrift.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Oct '19 - 4:43pm

    Hard Rain,

    “If only some concession and accommodation had been made with the Leave side” the result would be to leave, ensure a Tory-victory at the GE, after which they could shape their 52nd US state project unchallenged. No, Brexit is binary, no room for compromise. The UK’s choice is EU or Trump, simple as that.

  • Sandra Hammett 1st Oct '19 - 6:22pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for all you democrats out there.

    Get the extension for… drum roll…

    Two stage referendum
    1st stage No Deal Leave vs Deal Leave/Remain
    should No Deal Leave win, unfortunately that’s that we all agreed

    2nd stage Deal Leave vs Remain
    Should Deal Leave win parliament would actually have to work together to carry it out rather than relying on the interpretation of a select group.
    Should Remain win well then it’s business as usual and apple pie for dessert.

    It’s the only way for it not to be a stitch up by either side.

    PS
    I like a lot of people are running out of patience with either side due to their sheer ineptitude and unwillingness to cooperate which results in division and vitriol. Their constant attempts to score cheap political points have achieved nothing except this period of stagnation and anger we are being forced to endure.
    Whether it’s leave or remain; the politicians need to choose. Because if you thought the 2016 was a vote against the establishment, who knows what will be unleashed by further indecision and polarisation.
    The Bard wrote ‘A pox o’ both your houses’ in 1597, it continues to be a universal truth.

  • Martin Frost 1st Oct '19 - 7:15pm

    I have reached the painful conclusion that Lib Dems and Conservative and Labour defectors face a stark choice. Allow Johnson to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal or put Corbyn temporarily in command. The Government of National Unity idea is a non-starter and is not even allowed for under our constitution.

    A Corby Government,like the present one, could be brought down at any time but to continue to pretend that there is a a third alternative is just living in the clouds.

    There is risk for moderate forces under both scenarios but for me reversing Brexit should be the No1 priority. Frankly I would rather have an election now than carry on as we are.

  • @Jayne
    Thank you for your posts

  • Peter Martin 1st Oct '19 - 8:51pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    Just on a point of information: There are currently 50 US States so there would have to be an addition before the UK could possibly become the 52nd.

    Canada has always managed to avoid becoming the 51st State so it’s unlikely to be them. And if they can avoid US statehood, there’s no reason we can’t do the same.

  • Peter Martin
    People have been making 52nd state claim since I was a child. It was even a regular assertion in the Blair years, when Britain was in the EU. Mostly it happens when the Republicans are in power. The current mode is to act as if Trump will hold office forever, when he could be out by next year and would still only have another four year term, anyway. It is especially common for people who want Britain to remain the 28 state of Europe forever. The thing I find interesting about the EU is that for a “tolerant” and “progressive” project in a “globalised” world its advocates do seem to see threats and enemies almost everywhere that isn’t Europe. Ironically, it’s based on the notion of the exceptionalism of a mythic interconnected European, mostly high, culture.

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