Jeremy Corbyn’s no confidence vote is premature

by Hugo Dixon | 15.08.2019

MPs may eventually need to kick Boris Johnson out of Downing St and hold an election. But they should first try to force him to hold a referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn’s invitation last night to MPs across the political spectrum to join him in a no-confidence vote against the prime minister is premature.

There are two problems with the Labour leader’s proposal. First, he doesn’t yet have the numbers in Parliament to bring Johnson down, take over as caretaker prime minister, ask the EU for extra time and then call an election.

Second, even if he did have the numbers, it would be a mistake to trigger an election now because the pro-European parties are so divided that the Conservatives may well win. That may change if they form an effective “Remain Alliance”, but that’s still not fully formed.

Labour itself isn’t a pro-European party, despite the latest shift in Corbyn’s letter. He now says that, if there’s an election, it will back a new referendum which includes the option to stay in the EU – but he doesn’t say whether the party would back “remain” in such a people’s vote.

There’s a better plan: pass legislation forcing the current prime minister to ask the EU for extra time. Then hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EU. If Labour and sensible MPs in other parties focus on this now, they’ll probably succeed.

It’s only if they fail that MPs should switch to Corbyn’s plan for a vote of no confidence. By that time, there probably will be the numbers to bring Johnson down. But it may still be unclear whether the Labour leader can get enough support to lead an emergency government.

At the moment, the Lib Dems are hostile and there’s no sign yet of any Tory MPs being prepared to put Corbyn in Downing St – even though it would only be for an extremely short period of time. So there’s a risk of a stand-off – with Labour insisting on Corbyn as caretaker prime minister and other parties insisting on somebody else.

In such a scenario, Johnson could stay in power and hold the election after we had crashed out of the EU. With the national interest at stake, good sense will hopefully reign and MPs will rally around somebody. But until and unless it is clear they can, it’s even more important to try the referendum route first.

6 Responses to “Jeremy Corbyn’s no confidence vote is premature”

  • The real problem is that Corbyn, McDonnel, Milne and the rest of the shadow cabinet have no desire to stop Brexit, and never did. They really only want to be able to blame to Tories for it.

  • Corbyn needs to fall in and do whatever it takes to stop Brexit. The problem is that his inner self follows the Tony Benn school of thought and wants to be out of the EU. The situation is so serious now he needs to come round to doing the right thing by backing a second referendum at the very least. He needs to read Sean Rickard’s paper that shows a no deal Brexit will destroy British farming. Half of the nation’s farmers will have next to no income when they lose their EU subsidy payment and there will be huge tariffs on British food exports. Then the government is telling us that food is allowed into the country free of tariffs and without regulation. Prices will fall and British farmers will not be able to compete. Unfortunately many farmers fell for the lies of the Leave campaign in 2016.
    (Cummings actually part owns a farm in Durham that has received thousands in EU subsidies. The hypocrite. )
    The government will no doubt dismiss what Rickard says as ‘project fear’. But this is too easy a get out. It should tell us with figures and evidence what will happen to British agriculture. So, Mr Corbyn, wake up and start working to save the nation from the rank idiocy of the unelected Cummings and the ultra Brexiters. Act now, not later.

  • Agreed. Furthermore:
    The offer is half-baked if Labour does not spell out what their manifesto will say about Brexit. Re-negotiate? You must be kidding. Why would EU agree to an extension based on Labour’s proposal anyway?
    Why does he believe Labour will be in a position to form a government after the election? There goes referendum out the window.
    Does the British system feature such a thing as a time-limited prime minister? Imagine Corbyn, after being elected, turns around and says: “I like being prime minister. If you don’t like me, you can have Boris and No-deal back”.

  • I can entirely understand Jo Swinson and Tory rebels having strong reservations about Corbyn as interim PM, but it surely it depends on if there are other alternatives? Ken Clarke, Harriet Harman would be fine, but what if they can’t command a majority? We are now fast approaching the stage where literally anyone will do, who is determined to stop No Deal and can command a majority across Parliament. If the only alternative is Corbyn, then he would be a better alternative than Johnson, at least in the short term.