Corbyn ‘ready to fight election’ despite concerns over Johnson move
Critics of the PM cautioned he may seek to change the date of an election to force through a no-deal Brexit.
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he is ready to fight a general election after concerns a move to trigger a poll by Boris Johnson could be a ploy to force through a no-deal Brexit.
However, a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) discussed how to prevent falling into the “elephant trap” – with one MP saying they could turn down the option of a general election.
The Labour leader had expressed his confidence that MPs will this week deal the Prime Minister a major blow by passing legislation to block a deal-less departure from the EU on Halloween.
Critics of Mr Johnson have raised fears that an election mooted for October 14 if opponents win this week’s parliamentary showdown could be a move to force a no-deal by delaying the date of the vote.
Mr Corbyn confirmed he has sought legal advice, which was understood to have given the party confidence that mechanisms exist to prevent the election date being shifted.
In an interview after cross-party talks with no-deal opponents on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn said he “fully expects” the legislation would be passed this week.
There’s no way we are going to fall into a general election trap Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis
“Let’s see what happens after this legislation has gone through and if an election is called, I’m absolutely ready to fight it,” he added.
Later in the day, Labour’s position became less clear.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told Channel 4 News that Labour will vote for an election, but added that MPs would only do so “on our own terms and in our own time and not as a result of any provocation from Boris Johnson”.
Labour chief whip Nick Brown is understood to have told the PLP meeting that they would not be “falling into” an “elephant trap” over fears that the polling date could be changed.
Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis told the PA news agency: “All that was said is there’s no way we are going to fall into a general election trap.
“It was unequivocal. We will not be falling into that elephant trap if no-deal is a possibility. It just won’t happen.”
Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said one possibility would be to vote against a request for an election by the PM, which would need the support of two thirds of MPs.
“One option is not to back it. One option is to do something else that would prevent Boris from what he’s trying to do,” Mr Russell-Moyle said.
“And there’s another option on the table that would scrap it entirely.”
Although dismissed by Downing Street insiders as “tinfoil hat stuff”, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth had earlier in the day urged caution over the possibility the PM may shift the election date.
“If he wants a general election to ram through what I believe is a disastrous no-deal Brexit which will lead to medicine shortages, food shortages, chaos for people at the borders, then we are not prepared to endorse that trick,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.
Mr Corbyn and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer are understood to have met with the Commons Clerk’s office to discuss various options amid election concerns and no-deal legislation.
They were not present at the PLP meeting, where it is understood shadow chancellor John McDonnell addressed the room on Chancellor Sajid Javid’s upcoming spending review, which Labour believes will be a sweetener for a potential general election.