Lib Dems will not accept Boris Johnson's preferred general election date

PUBLISHED: 09:52 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:52 29 October 2019

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson during the debate on the motion for a general election. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson during the debate on the motion for a general election. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson faces more resistance from MPs in his quest for a pre-Christmas election with the Liberal Democrats insisting they are not prepared to accept his preferred date.

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The prime minister has put his Brexit deal on hold in an anticipated bid to convince the Commons to vote on Tuesday for a December 12 election in his fourth time of asking.

But he may again be defeated with the date proving controversial for both the Lib Dems and the SNP, who have signalled support for a poll three days earlier.

Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna said his party is against holding a general election on Johnson's preferred polling date of December 12, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It cannot be the 12th."

However, Umunna signalled the Lib Dems could be flexible over their own preferred election date of December 9.

He said: "We will see what else they come forward with. We have got to break the gridlock."

He added: "We are not prepared to accept the 12th. If you have the 12th, it presents an opportunity for the government to try and get their Withdrawal Agreement Bill through.

"We know that they have a record of going back on their promises and breaking the law, so we cannot trust them on that."

Pressed on whether December 9 would be more acceptable than December 12, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner told the programme: "It certainly would."

The PM failed on Monday to get the two-thirds majority needed to secure an election under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), but was planning on a fresh attempt a day later. It fell 135 votes short of the 434 required.

The anticipated short Bill setting aside the FTPA would instead require the support of a simple majority of MPs and is expected to be hurried through all Commons stages in a single day.

One reason the Lib Dems and the SNP favoured going to the public on December 9 is because they believe it would prevent the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) being passed.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said opposition MPs would have the ability to table amendments to the Bill on Tuesday.

Government sources had suggested the proposed Lib Dem-SNP timetable - which would mean parliament would have to be dissolved at one minute past midnight on Friday morning, was too tight to deliver.

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