Jo Swinson in humiliating U-turn over bid to stop No-Deal Brexit
For most of yesterday, the plot had looked all but doomed after the East Dunbartonshire MP refused to be included in any scheme involving Jeremy Corbyn.
The proposal would see Corbyn call for a vote of no confidence when Parliament returns in September, and, if successful, he would then form a “strictly time-limited” temporary government, becoming caretaker Prime Minister.
He assured the other parties that he would only then seek another extension to the Brexit process, preventing a No-Deal Brexit, before then calling a general election.
While the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and a number of Tory backbenchers gave the plan a cautious welcome, the LibDems rejected it outright.
“We are facing a national crisis. We may need an emergency government to resolve it. But if Jeremy Corbyn truly wants that to succeed, surely even he can see that he cannot lead it,” Swinson said.
“There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and independents to stop Boris Johnson. It’s not even certain he could secure all the votes of Labour MPs. This isn’t about personalities, this is about having a plan that actually works.”
The LibDem boss said her preference would be for parliament to pass legislation seeking to extend EU membership beyond 31 October, in order to hold a second referendum.
If this was not possible then she would back a no-confidence vote, with veteran MPs Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman taking on the role of caretaker Prime Minister because they are “respected on both sides of the House”.
Labour’s Angela Rayner called the LibDem position “quite childish”.
Raynor told ITV News: “Jo Swinson does not get to choose who the leader of the Labour party is. Our leader is Jeremy Corbyn, and she should respect the leader of the Labour party, and respect his title as leader of the official opposition.”
Guto Bebb, a Tory MP critical of Johnson, told the BBC: “I think there are other alternatives that are open to us, but I do think that those who have said that they will do anything necessary to stop the long term damage of a no-deal exit must take seriously this type of offer.”
The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said her party was “willing to work across party lines and explore all options to stop a No-Deal Brexit”. She tweeted: “Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion is not the only possible option – but given the circumstances, nothing should be ruled out at this stage. Jo Swinson should rethink.”
In a video message to Swinson, Caroline Lucas, said: “Jo, we need to stop Boris Johnson. We need a people’s vote. Please join us in engaging with Corbyn to see if we can find a way forward.”
By 6pm, Swinson had changed her mind.
She 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.
A No 10 spokesman said: “There is a clear choice: either Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister who will overrule the referendum and wreck the economy, or Boris Johnson as Prime Minister who will respect the referendum and deliver more money for the NHS and more police on our streets.”