Jo Swinson is under pressure from across the political divide to rethink her outright dismissal of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit by becoming caretaker prime minister.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told the Lib Dem leader that she should rethink her rejection of the proposition, which the Lib Dem leader described as “nonsense”.
Sturgeon signalled her 35 MPs could support Corbyn’s plan for a no-confidence vote, extension to the Brexit deadline and general election with him as temporary prime minister.
Plaid Cymru also suggested it could support the Labour proposal, while some Tory rebels apparently suggested they would meet with Corbyn.
But senior Tory Remainer Dame Caroline Spelman and the Independent Group for Change refused to support any Corbyn government.
Swinson has suggested instead that as veteran MPs Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman would be better suited for the role.
“There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and Independents to stop Boris Johnson,” said Swinson. “It is not even certain that he would secure all the votes of Labour MPs.”
But Sturgeon said the Lib Dems “should rethink”, adding: “Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion is not the only possible option – but given the circumstances, nothing should be ruled out at this stage.”
The SNP leader told the BBC: “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.”
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.
And 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” Corbyn’s offer, saying it should be “treated seriously” by everyone trying to stop no-deal.
Green MP Caroline Lucas also called on Swinson to rethink in a “personal appeal”, saying: “Please join us in engaging with Corbyn to see if we can find a way forward.”
Remain-backing Tory MP Guto Bebb was lukewarm about whether it was the right move, but told BBC Radio 5 Live he “will consider anything that avoids the pitfall of a no-deal Brexit”.
“It’s certainly an option which has been put on the table and should be at least considered,” he said.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey appealed to critics by saying the move is “not about implementing Labour policy” but about avoiding the “unfathomable” damage a no-deal could cause.
“What I would say is issue a plea to Jo Swinson particularly. 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,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
But the Independent Group for Change leader Anna Soubry said Corbyn “is not the person given he struggles to maintain the confidence of his own backbenchers”, while Dame Caroline Spelman for the Tories also said she could not support the proposal, nor a vote of no confidence in her own government.
“I could not support a Corbyn Government, end of,” she told the Birmingham Mail, appearing to back Boris Johnson isntead.