Opposition parties will not back Boris Johnson’s attempt to force election

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Boris Johnson’s demand for a general election on his own terms became increasingly far-fetched when opposition leaders agreed to not vote with the prime minister during his fresh bid.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke with the leaders of the main opposition parties on Friday to discuss their resistance to holding a vote before the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is eliminated.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are all understood to be planning on voting against or abstaining from the Fixed-Term Parliament Act when it returns to the Commons on Monday.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn spoke with opposition leaders (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Opposition leaders including the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson, the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts discussed tactics on Friday morning as Johnson returned to the campaign trail of the election he is yet to successfully trigger.

SNP Westminster leader Blackford said he was “desperate for an election”, but it could not be until an extension to Article 50 was secured.

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He told the PA news agency: “It’s not just about our own party interests, it’s about our collective national interests.

“So we are prepared to work with others to make sure we get the timing right, but the timing right on the basis of securing that extension to Article 50.”

But he did anticipate that an election would be successfully called “over the course of these weeks”.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “The Liberal Democrat position for a while now is that we won’t vote for a general election until we have an extension agreed with the EU. I think the others are coming round to that.

“As a group we will all vote against or abstain on Monday.”

Saville Roberts said voting for an election next week would “play into Boris Johnson’s hands”, giving the PM the opportunity to ignore Parliament and force through a no-deal.

“We were in unity in our opinion, our priority is of course to stop a no-deal Brexit,” she told the BBC.

“In the short time we need to make sure that we get past the October 31 and an extension to Article 50.

“We have an opportunity to bring down Boris, to break Boris and to bring down Brexit, and we must take that.”

Labour said the leaders discussed efforts to prevent a “damaging” no-deal Brexit and to hold an election “once that is secured”.

The development came a day after the PM suffered a torrid day in which his brother resigned from government while describing being torn between family and “the national interest”.

The PM has said he wants polling day to be 15 October, but in order to call the snap election he needs a two-thirds majority in the Commons and opposition parties do not trust him to stick to that date.

They also have concerns about whether he will comply with the cross-party legislation due to be passed by the House of Lords on Friday which would require him to seek a delay to Brexit if there is not a deal in place by 19 October.

Boris Johnson
The PM was under heavy fire for using police as a backdrop to a political speech (Danny Lawson/PA)

Johnson used a rambling press conference on Thursday to say he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a further delay.

On Friday, during his visit to Scotland, he declined to rule out resigning if he fails to deliver Brexit on the current deadline.

“That is not a hypothesis I’m willing to contemplate. I want us to get this thing done,” Johnson said.

The PM’s problems further piled up when West Yorkshire Police’s chief constable said he was “disappointed” to see officers used as a backdrop to Johnson’s political speech a day earlier.

John Robins added that the force had “no prior knowledge” that officers would be used in any other way than to discuss the Government’s policing recruitment drive.

Johnson used his visit to Aberdeenshire to announce that Scottish farmers will receive an extra £51.4 million over the next two years, in addition to the £160 million announced in Wednesday’s spending round.

He was also scheduled to make the traditional prime ministerial trip to the Queen’s Balmoral estate on Friday, but the visit will be shorter than expected due to the political turmoil in Westminster.

The PM will stay at the castle on Friday night before returning to London on Saturday.

His girlfriend Carrie Symonds is expected to accompany him on the Balmoral trip.

There were also further signs of unease within the Tory ranks about the uncompromising Brexit stance which saw Johnson boot 21 senior Conservatives – including former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond – out of the party in the Commons by removing the whip.

Former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who is standing down as Tory MP in Sevenoaks, said he hoped an appeal mechanism would be put in place for his former colleagues.

He added: “I also worry that it sends the wrong message to remainers – particularly in my party.”

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