Corbyn backs a general election – while Labour MPs voice opposition

Demonstrators on March 29 demanding the UK leave the EU

YESTERDAY in Parliament Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke in favour of a general election and said this is now Labour’s position.

He said: ‘Labour backs a general election, because we want this country to be rid of a reckless and destructive Conservative government. A government that has caused more of our children to be living in poverty, more pensioners to be in poverty and more people to be in in-work poverty. More families without a home to call their own, and more people sleeping rough on our streets. A government which has cut and sold off so much of our important public services.’

Paul Farrelly, Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme intervened: ‘I shall be voting against an early election today and encourage as many of my colleagues as possible to defy the pressure to do so. The reality is that the uncertainty of an outcome of a general election certainly does not take no deal off the table.’

Corbyn replied: ‘I hope my friend will join in and campaign to defeat this government, to bring in a government which will end injustice, poverty and inequality in this county, that is what I joined the Labour Party all those years ago for and I will be very proud to take as our message to the people of this country.’

Labour MP Stephen Doughty for Cardiff South and Penarth intervened, he said: ‘I have tabled a motion for the right for 16-year-olds to vote.’

Corbyn agreed that 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote along with EU nationals.

Corbyn concluded: ‘There is an alternative to inequality, there is an alternative to austerity. We will be a government that is determined to give our young people a sense of hope in their society rather than the prospect of indebtedness and insecure employment in the future, which is sadly all this Conservative government and their coalition with the Lib Dems ever brought them. I am very ready to give that message in any election when it comes.’

In moving the bill for a general election, Tory PM Johnson said: ‘It is now a week since Parliament voted to delay Brexit, yet again. It is a week since this Parliament voted yet again to force Brussels to keep this country in the European Union, for at least another three months at a cost of a billion pounds a month.’

He added: ‘Twice I have offered more time to debate the Withdrawal Bill, I made the same offer last night. I said that we were prepared to debate this Withdrawal Bill round the clock to allow Parliament to scrutinise this bill to the point of intellectual exhaustion …

‘The whole country can see what is really going on, they can see that they do not want to deliver Brexit, all they want to do is procrastinate.

‘They don’t want to deliver Brexit on October 31, on November 31 or even on January 31, they just want to spin it out to the 12th of never, and when the 12th of never finally comes round they will devise one of their complicated parliamentary procedures and move a motion for a further delay and a further extension then.’

Leader of the Scottish Nationalists, Ian Blackford, said: ‘The honourable member for Stone in Staffordshire, I think he has just written the SNP leaflets for the election campaign for us. The honourable member said that the SNP has tried to obstruct Brexit. Well Mr Speaker … guilty as charged. Let me explain why. We are used to referendums in Scotland, we have had two, one in 2014 and one in 2016 but crucially we were told in 2014 if Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom, that we would be staying in Europe, but more than that we were told that this would be a union of equals, that Scotland was going to be respected.

‘What has happened? Scotland in the European Union voted by 62% to remain in Europe and our vote has been ignored.’

Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader said Boris Johnson ‘had a cheek’ talking about the whole UK in his opening speech. She said he has not been acting in the interests of the whole of the UK. ‘He has let Northern Ireland down. He said no Conservative PM would accept a border in the Irish Sea but that is exactly what he has done,’ she said.

Meanwhile outside of Parliament, another Labour MP made clear his opposition to Corbyn’s general election stance. Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, wrote in a statement: ‘Now that a deal has moved past second reading, and time has been afforded to discuss it, the government is now calling a general election, an entirely unnecessary exercise, instead of allowing scrutiny of its own bill.

‘It remains my belief today that this impasse must be overcome by deliberation and cooperation in Parliament. As such, I will not vote for an early general election today.’

There was a vote on the bill to set the date for a general election and its amendments yesterday evening.