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Tory rebels 'welcome' plan to install Jeremy Corbyn as caretaker Prime Minister to stop no deal Brexit

Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin, Dame Caroline Spelman and Nick Boles offered to meet the Labour leader
Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin, Dame Caroline Spelman and Nick Boles offered to meet the Labour leader Credit: PA

Four Tory former ministers on Thursday “welcomed” Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to bring down the government and become a caretaker Prime Minister to stop a no deal Brexit.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve was branded “un-Conservative” by his own association chairman after he signed a letter with fellow remainer rebels Sir Oliver Letwin, Dame Caroline Spelman and Nick Boles offering to meet the Labour leader “to discuss the different ways” to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.

On Thursday night, Jo Swinson offered to meet Mr Corbyn after initially denouncing his plan to build a ‘strictly time-limited’ cross-party coalition to force Boris Johnson from office as “nonsense”. 

The Liberal Democrat leader tweeted: “I’ve offered to meet Jeremy Corbyn to discuss how we can work together on a deliverable plan to stop no-deal, including the option of uniting behind an MP who can command a majority in the House.”

Ms Swinson’s climbdown could mean that the Tory rebels remain the last obstacle to Mr Corbyn’s plan after the SNP and Plaid Cymru both signalled their support.

It came as former defence minister Guto Bebb, the Conservative MP for Aberconwy, suggested that he would rather see Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister than a no deal Brexit. 

Urging MPs to take Mr Corbyn’s plan “seriously”, he said: “A short-term Jeremy Corbyn government is less damaging than the generational damage that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit".

On Thursday evening, the Prime Minister tweeted: “The referendum result must be respected. We will leave the EU on 31st October. #LeaveOct31

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was “absolutely extraordinary that any Conservative MP considered even for one minute installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.”

He added that even if colleagues threw their weight behind someone else: “The only upshot of that would be that the leader of HM Opposition Jeremy Corbyn would be installed in Downing Street.”

The four Tory former ministers were included in a letter sent by Mr Corbyn to opposition leaders on Wednesday calling for them to unite behind a caretaker government, lead by him, to stop no deal by extending Article 50.

He proposed that the alternative government would call a general election in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum.

On Thursday, Mr Grieve, Sir Oliver, who was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under David Cameron, former Environment Secretary Dame Caroline, and former skills minister Nick Boles, who resigned the Tory whip in April over Brexit, wrote to Mr Corbyn agreeing to hold talks.

The letter read: “We agree that our common priority should be to work together in Parliament to prevent No Deal Brexit and welcome your invitation to discuss the different ways that this might be achieved. We would be happy to meet with you as well as colleagues from other opposition parties whenever convenient in the weeks before Parliament returns.”

The move prompted outrage in Mr Grieve’s Beaconsfield constituency where chairman Jackson Ng told the Daily Telegraph he had been “inundated with irate emails”. Mr Grieve lost a local motion of confidence in March after repeatedly rebelling against the government over Brexit. 

Mr Ng said: “The continuous and thoroughly un-Conservative behaviour being exhibited by Dominic Grieve and his behaviour towards the government has become more worrying. 

“Should he entertain the idea of siding with Jeremy Corbyn or any other Government other than the existing Conservative Government currently being led by Boris Johnson, he will leave us with no choice at all as an Association.” 

A source at Sir Oliver’s West Dorset Conservative Association said: “We are completely at odds with our MP over this. This is the latest of many red lines he has crossed”. 

On Thursday, Dame Caroline appeared to backtrack on the letter, saying: "I could not support a Corbyn Government, end of. I am not going to vote against my own government in a vote of no confidence."

Initially rejecting the idea on Thursday as she gained her 14th MP in Sarah Wollaston, Ms Swinson said there was ‘no way’ Mr Corbyn could unite Labour MPs, let alone rebel Conservatives and independents. 

She instead suggested veteran MPs Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman for the role because they are "respected on both sides of the House".

Mr Clarke has so far declined to comment while Ms Harman last night tweeted: “We will all work together to enable Parliament to prevent the deep damage a No Deal Brexit would do to our country!"

Anna Soubry, leader of the Independent Group for Change, which has five MPs, said Mr Corbyn "is not the person given he struggles to maintain the confidence of his own backbenchers".

But SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon did not rule out the backing of her party's 35 MPs.

"It's no secret, I'm not the greatest fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we won't rule out any option if it helps avert what is a looming catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit," she said.

Ms Sturgeon appealed for Ms Swinson to "rethink" her dismissal, as did Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts offered her cautious support, saying the party is open to a unity government regardless of who leads it.

Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed some Conservative MPs had "responded positively" to meet over the plan.

And Mr Corbyn appeared to have convinced some of his opponents within his party on the basis of blocking no-deal.

Backbench MP Wes Streeting said the Lib Dems were "wrong to reject" Mr Corbyn's offer, saying it should be "treated seriously" by everyone trying to stop no-deal.

 

Jeremy Corbyn says it's encouraging MPs across the floor have responded positively to his caretaker plan

The Labour leader tweeted: Encouraging that MPs from across parliament have responded positively to our plan to stop No Deal. We must work together to stop No Deal and let the people decide the future of our country. 

Harriet Harman: Jeremy Corbyn is right to reach out across parties to stop no deal

The Mother of the House of Commons, mooted by Jo Swinson to become the caretaker Prime Minister, has tweeted her support for cross party support. However, she has not made clear her position on whether she would be a temporary Prime Minister if the arrangement was required: 

A change of tune 

Earlier today Dr Wollston defended her defection to the Lib Dems, saying that while her constituents in Totnes had voted for her initially as a Conservative candidate, they had wanted a "centrist" MP.

"Many of my constituents have been rather horrified by the way the Conservative Party have shifted to the right. And I was selected originally by a fully open postal primary, the first in the country, so I think that people do have a support across my constituency for that kind of centre-ground approach," she told the Today programme. 

She later went onto say that she would not seek a by-election in order to continue as the MP for Totnes, despite her constituents having voted her in as a Conservative. 

Interestingly, in November 2011, Dr Wollaston struck a different tone on defections when she backed a Ten Minute Rule Bill which proposed automatic by-elections be automatically triggered if an MP crosses the floor. 

Nicola Sturgeon: The SNP remains willing to work across party lines 

The SNP leader tweeted that Jo Swinson needed to rethink her response to Mr Corbyn's caretaker approach. She said nothing should be ruled out at this stage:

A personal appeal to Jo Swinson 

Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green party, says Jo Swinson has rejected Jeremy Corbyn's approach "out of hand". 

She urged the Lib Dem leader to change her mind and support Mr Corbyn who has "done the right thing".

Corbyn accused of betraying Labour voters as he says Westminster should not block indyref2

The Labour leader has been accused betraying thousands of Labour supporters who back the Union after saying the UK Parliament should not block a second referendum on Scottish independence

He said he did not think a new bid to break-up Britain was a “good idea”, but added that it was not up to Westminster to stand in the way of a fresh vote.

Auslan Cramb has the story here

Sarah Wollaston: 'A less divisive figure is needed for a temporary government' 

Angela Rayner: 'Political point scoring' 

The Shadow Education Secretary has accused Jo Swinson of "political point scoring" for refusing to work with Jeremy Corbyn. 

She tweeted: "When you’re looking at No Deal Brexit and our country in peril, to say “I’m not working with him because I don’t like him” is a very childish thing to do. She needs to reconsider."

Clarke and Harman prepared to take the helm 

Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy is reporting Jo Swinson has confirmed she has spoken to both Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman and they are prepared to lead an emergency government. 

Chuka Umunna: Clarke or Hammond could command majority that Corbyn can't 

Labour Against Antisemitism: It should be the first red line of any antiracist MP to keep Corbyn  away from  No 10

In light of Jeremy Corbyn's letter to become a caretaker Prime Minister, Fiona Sharpe, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism, said:

We are concerned that many MPs, some who have previously professed themselves allies in the fight against antisemitism, appear willing to disregard the concerns of the British Jewish community to promote and enable a Jeremy Corbyn government.

It should be the first red line of any genuinely antiracist MP that Mr Corbyn be kept away from power and out of Number 10.

This is a responsibility for every member of Parliament, not just those from the Labour Party. Mr Corbyn’s reported views suggest he cannot be trusted to protect the British Jewish community and ensuring the safety of all our citizens, particularly minorities, must be the first and last priority of our elected representatives.

Jo Swinson: Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman are motivated by public duty 

When asked if she had spoken to Mr Clarke or Ms Harman about her suggestion to lead the government, Ms Swinson said she was confident that they would be happy to take on the role.

"I have been in contact and I certainly think that those are both politicians who not only have that long experience across the House and have served the country well in the past and put public duty at the heart of what they've done but they are still individuals who are very much motivated by public duty and what is right for the country.

"And I'm confident that if that's what the House of Commons resolves that those individuals will be happy to take on that role to try to steer our country through these difficult waters."

Front Bench: Jeremy Corbyn panicked into sending the letter

In his Front Bench email this morning Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent, argues that the Labour leader's letter to opposition leaders and backbenchers is nothing more than a panicked response. 

He says that "part of the problem of launching these political attacks in the middle of the quietest month (politically) of the year is that not enough MPs are around to pay attention". 

Instead the letter looks more like a panicked response in the most politically fallow time of the year from an Opposition leader who on Brexit has repeatedly appeared to be at the mercy of events, rather than setting a clear course. With a snap election expected in the Autumn, time is running out for Mr Corbyn to work out what his Brexit policy is. Other party leaders will be licking their lips.

Alistair Burt will not support a Caretaker Corbyn 

The former minister who quit the government over Brexit said the short answer was "no" when asked if he would support Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

He said he "accepted the result of the referendum, I have voted consistently for the Withdrawal Agreement to try and leave the EU and I'm frustrated, partly by Labour, if they don't want a no deal situation they've missed the chance to vote for a deal and partly by some of my own colleagues, including some of those in the cabinet now, who didn't vote for a deal and we are in the situation we are in".

"I can't see anything where a caretaker government led by Jeremy Corbyn is the answer," he added. 

Tory rebels reply to Jeremy Corbyn's letter calling for caretaker government 

Nick Boles, Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Caroline Spelman have responded to Mr Corbyn's letter, saying they would be "happy to meet" with him to discuss ways to prevent no-deal Brexit.

Letter here: 

'Jeremy Corbyn wants to be Prime Minister... so do I!'

Ms Swinson says while they both want to be the leader of the country, right now isn't the time for such ambitions. Instead, the focus needs to be on stopping no deal.

Our door is open ... come join us

Ms Swinson said someone like the father or mother of the house would be better suited to leading a caretaker government. 

She said it needed to be headed up by someone who did not seek to lead a government "full time", adding that she herself, would not want to lead it full time... is that her hat in the ring?

She then says the doors to the Liberal Democrat are open to more defectors. 

Jeremy Corbyn wants the keys to No 10

Ms Swinson accuses the Labour leader of failing to do "everything in his power to stop us crashing out" and instead "demanding the keys to number 10".

"We may need an emergency government to resolve it," she said.

"If Jeremy Corbyn wants that to succeed surely he can see he cannot lead it?"

She says there is "no way" he can reunite people to stop Boris Johnson and adds "this isn't about personalities it's about having a plan that actually works".

Latin doesn't cut it

Jo Swinson said she was willing to "work with anyone" to prevent a no deal Brexit . 

Telling us to cheer up in Latin just won't wash. Boris Johnson, stop playing with our country's future. 

She blames Theresa May's former rhetoric of "no deal is better than a bad deal" as having "formed the blue print that no deal was even an option". 

Jo Swinson is giving her speech on Brexit 

The leader of the Liberal Democrats says she wants to stop Boris Johnson and "his hard line Brexit government". 

"He was prepared to say anything in his selfish quest to become Prime Minister," she says.

"A no-deal Brexit is utterly irresponsible." 

Anna Soubry: Corbyn's letter is a 'distraction'

Labour will back no-confidence vote in September 

Ms Long-Bailey said the Labour party would back a no-confidence vote when Parliament resumes after recess.

 "Certainly, we'll back it in early September. Obviously, we won't dictate which particular day that will happen on, but as soon as possible," she said. 

While she declined to give a specific date she "suspected" it would be called "within days". 

"We remain committed to a public vote on the terms of leaving the EU with an option to remain," she added. 

"In the situation we're in at the moment, if it looked like we were going into that public vote with just no-deal on the table then, of course, we would campaign to remain.

"If it was a bad deal, again, we would campaign to remain.

"But in terms of what a general election manifesto would say, we are a democratic party and ultimately we will be having discussions over the coming months, you know, in terms of what that final position would be, whether it would involve any renegotiation, whether it would be straight to the public vote.

"But, ultimately, whatever deal is there finally, or a no-deal, that would be put to a public vote."

A caretaker government is "the simplest and most democratic" way of stopping no deal

The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, issued a "plea" to Jo Swinson in response to the Liberal Democrat leader calling Jeremy Corbyn's letter "nonsense".

"What I would say is issue a plea to Jo Swinson particularly," she told the Today programme. 

"I know that Jo wants to avoid a no-deal situation, as we do, and we think this is the simplest and most democratic way of doing that.

"This isn't an issue about personalities and politics, it's not about implementing Labour policy; it's about avoiding a no-deal situation arising and ensuring that a general election is called so, ultimately, the people can decide which government they want."

Ms Swinson had dismissed Mr Corbyn's letter calling for parties to work together as a "nonsense".

Ms Long-Bailey said while it was "sad" Ms Swinson called the letter "nonsense" she still "wouldn't close the door completely". 

"We have to work together, even if we don't like what each other says a lot of the time, but we have to stop no-deal. It's as simple as that, because we know the damage that could be caused is unfathomable," she said. 

'There is a majority in Parliament against a no-deal Brexit'

The SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he believes there is a majority in Parliament against a no-deal Brexit.

"I think really what is important is we tackle the immediate crisis in front of us, and that is the very real threat we have of leaving the European Union on a no-deal basis at the end of October, and I do believe, I strongly believe that there is a majority in Parliament against no-deal," he said.