The Liberal Democrats and SNP are preparing to give Boris Johnson an early Christmas present – the snap December election he has been demanding.
The prime minister used an article in the Sunday papers to accuse MPs of holding the country “hostage” by refusing a general election, but the Lib Dems and SNP, in a move that circumvents Labour’s indecision, are to reportedly set to offer the Conservative Party leader an even easier route to an election, requiring just a simple majority in the Commons.
If the European Union gives the UK a Brexit delay until January 31, as requested in Johnson’s letter to Brussels last week, then the pro-Remain parties are prepared to give the PM the opportunity to have an election on new terms.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, confirmed he had co-signed a letter with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson to European Council president Donald Tusk in which they sought an extension until January 31 at the earliest so that the “risk of a devastating no-deal Brexit” could be removed.
He added: “If that meaningful extension is secured we will then work together to bring forward an election this year – but on Parliament’s terms, not on the prime minister’s.”
According to The Observer, the parties’ MPs have drawn up a bill that would allow Johnson to secure a December election with a simple majority of MPs, by-passing the need for two-thirds support.
The draft law would grant an election on December 9 – three days before the PM’s proposed date and, crucially, when more students are still at university to cast their votes in Remain-supporting target swing seats.
The move indicates a split between opposition leaders on whether to go for a December campaign, with Labour putting off their decision on how to vote on Monday.
Labour is said to be undergoing a pre-election power struggle as it formulates its campaign strategy.
According to The Sunday Times, newly-appointed strategist Karie Murphy wants a “99% strategy” which would see Corbyn travel the length and breadth of the country fighting for seats everywhere – but shadow chancellor John McDonnell fears Labour’s approach is not professional enough.
A PR schedule seen by the paper suggests Labour would mention Brexit only twice in the event of a 27-day campaign, with the focus on domestic priorities, including announcing the “extension of free dental care”.
A spokesman for Labour said: “We will run the most ambitious, confident, people-powered campaign.”