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Corbyn says ‘it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who is PM’ amid leadership row

The Lib Dem leader rejected Labour’s plan to fend off a no-deal Brexit under Boris Johnson.

Mr Corbyn struck out at the Lib Dem leader (Nigel Roddis/PA)
Mr Corbyn struck out at the Lib Dem leader (Nigel Roddis/PA)

By Sam Blewett, Political Correspondent, Adam Hale, Wales Correspondent, and Harriet Line, Deputy Political Editor, PA

Jeremy Corbyn has struck out at Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson after she rejected his plan to lead an emergency government to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader said that “it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be” after she swiftly dismissed his proposal to force a general election as “nonsense”.

Ms Swinson is coming under increasing pressure to back Mr Corbyn’s suggestion, which includes forcing out Boris Johnson in a vote of no confidence and securing an extension to the Brexit deadline beyond October 31.

But she has maintained her stance that he is not the right politician for the job, despite agreeing to meet with him to discuss a no-deal prevention plan.

On Friday, Mr Corbyn rejected her suggestion that Tory grandee Ken Clarke or senior Labour MP Harriet Harman could lead the emergency government.

Mr Corbyn told the PA news agency: “It’s not up to Jo Swinson to choose candidates, it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be.

“Surely she must recognise she is a leader of one of the opposition parties who are apparently opposed to this Government, and apparently prepared to support a motion of no confidence.”

Mr Corbyn said Ms Swinson should respect the “normal precedent” to allow the leader of the Opposition to form an administration after a successful vote of no confidence in the Government.

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Ken Clarke has been tipped for the role of caretaker PM (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He also told politicians who were “making noise in the media” to consider supporting him in order to prevent a “damaging” no-deal Brexit.

Ms Swinson said she has spoken to her favoured candidates – the Father and Mother of the House – and won their assurances that they are ready to “put public duty first” to “stop us driving off that cliff”.

However, Mr Corbyn’s plan has won the potential backing of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Tory MP Guto Bebb.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was among those applying pressure to Ms Swinson to re-think her position.

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Harriet Harman is the Mother of the House of Commons (Victoria Jones/PA)

Senior Remain-supporting Tories Dominic Grieve and Sir Oliver Letwin, as well as independent MP Nick Boles, have also agreed to meet Mr Corbyn.

But on Friday Mr Grieve signalled he would not be backing the Labour plan, instead saying he was open to working with like-minded MPs to prevent a “catastrophic” no-deal.

“In that context, I’m prepared to speak to any parliamentarian who shares that view, including the leader of the opposition. If he is against no deal, I’m happy to talk. That is very different to thinking he is an appropriate figure to lead a government,” he said, according to The Guardian.

“Jeremy Corbyn is unfortunately a deeply divisive figure and in trying to stop a no-deal Brexit it is not my purpose to help him into Downing Street.”

Tory rebel Dame Caroline Spelman and the Independent Group for Change also ruled out support for any Corbyn government.

Also on Friday, a source close to Dame Caroline dismissed any chance of her meeting with Mr Corbyn, despite the MP’s name appearing on a letter suggesting she is open to talks.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Sajid Javid became the first senior member of Mr Johnson’s Government to meet with an EU leader to discuss Brexit, during a trip to Berlin to see German finance minister Olaf Scholz.

Mr Scholz stressed after the meeting that “the best and only way for an orderly withdrawal is the negotiated” Brexit agreement.

Despite the deadline looming, the Prime Minister has refused to meet the bloc’s leaders for discussions on a new deal unless they agree to scrap the Irish backstop.

PA

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