Skip to Content

Coffee House

Sunday shows round-up: Corbyn says parliament should be ‘cautious’ about PM’s Brexit deal

13 October 2019

1:13 PM

13 October 2019

1:13 PM

Sophy Ridge began her show with an interview with Jeremy Corbyn. Brexit negotiations are at a critical juncture with an elusive withdrawal deal seemingly in the government’s reach ahead of the EU council summit on the 17th. Corbyn expressed doubts about backing any such deal, citing concerns about the Irish border and urged MPs from other parties not to wave through the deal out of relief that a no deal exit would be avoided:

JC: I think many in parliament – not necessarily Labour MPs but others – might be more inclined to support it even if they don’t really agree with the deal. But I would caution them on this because my view would be that I would want a deal that resembles the five pillars we’ve put forward.

I will form a government if Boris falls

Corbyn insisted that if Boris Johnson resigned for what ever reason, he would be the one to succeed. However, the Labour leader is a divisive option. Several anti-Brexit voices have declared their support for another candidate who might be better able to command a majority in the current Parliament. Corbyn told Ridge that history was on his side:

JC: All British parliamentary precedents going back as long as you care to look are that the first option is the leader of the opposition being invited to form an administration… We will form an administration if this government collapses.

Caretaker government unlikely to test Labour policies

Ridge asked Corbyn if he would take advantage of being installed as a caretaker Prime Minister to try to pass any of Labour’s manifesto commitments from 2017. Corbyn replied that this wasn’t on the cards:

JC: We wouldn’t have a majority to get any legislation through… I don’t think there’d be much point. [But] obviously immediate issues that come up… would have to be dealt with.

No Scottish referendum in ‘early years’ of Labour government

Corbyn emphatically ruled out any prospect of a coalition arrangement if Labour won a general election without a majority. Fears have been raised that the Labour leader could be tempted by offers from the SNP if he agreed to a second independence referendum. Corbyn’s answer suggested that the SNP would need a fresh mandate at the Holyrood elections before he would agree to ‘indyref2’:

JC: We are not going into coalition with anybody… We would certainly not countenance [a referendum] in the early years of a Labour government because I think the 2014 referendum was supposed to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

Labour leadership ‘up to the members’

Earlier in the week, John McDonnell told Alastair Campbell  that he couldn’t see either him or Corbyn staying on if they lost a second election. Ridge pressed Corbyn to see if he would come to the same conclusion. Corbyn appeared much more reluctant to surrender the reins of power:

JC: It’s a hypothetical question, and it’s up to the members of our party to decide who the leader is.

Jacob Rees-Mogg – Brexiteers can trust Boris Johnson

The Leader of the House of Commons also joined Ridge. Rees-Mogg gave a spirited defence of the Prime Minister’s eurosceptic credentials, arguing that he had been prepared to suffer several career setbacks on the road to securing Brexit, not least resigning as Foreign Secretary over the Chequers agreement.

JRM: Boris Johnson’s whole political career has revolved around this issue… He has a long track record of being very committed to reforming and then leaving the EU… I think he is someone that even the most eurosceptic… can trust and have confidence in.

‘Time will tell’ if I must ‘eat my own words’

Ridge put the point to Rees-Mogg that reports of Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit plans sounded not too far distant from the ‘customs partnership’ arrangement arrived at by Theresa May, which he described at the time as ‘completely cretinous’ and a ‘betrayal of common sense’. Rees-Mogg said that he was not yet in a position to know:

JRM: We will have to find out in a day or two whether I will have to eat my words or not. Time will tell, but… I trust Boris Johnson to ensure that the relationship that the UK has with the EU is one where we are not a vassal state.

‘Surrender act’ is normal use of language

Ridge asked about the current debate regarding the appropriateness of political language. Rees-Mogg, who is no stranger to a colourful turn of phrase, defended his description of the Benn Act as the ‘surrender bill’ and drew a distinction between freedom of  expression and being abusive:

JRM: Using terms that encapsulate the purpose of an act is completely normal and standard. All politicians do this… and it’s important to differentiate that from the type of abuse that people get… Calling something the ‘surrender bill’ is just the normal use of language.

Jo Swinson – Corbyn and Johnson ‘are not fit to be PM’

The Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson once again made clear that there was no chance that she would offer her support to Jeremy Corbyn to form an administration, declaring both of her main rivals unfit for office:

SR: Are there any circumstances under which you would back a Jeremy Corbyn government?

JS: No. Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be Prime Minister. Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister. And the country deserves a better choice.

Lib Dem majority ‘entirely possible’

Swinson was happy to indulge her party’s wildest dreams, arguing – like her predecessor David Steel in 1983 – that the Lib Dems were on the threshold of winning an overall majority in Parliament. She outlined her case for her belief to Ridge:

SR: What do you think the odds of [a majority] are?

JS: I think it’s entirely possible. We are in a very volatile time in our politics… The fault line has shifted. It’s not about left/right any more… it’s liberal values against authoritarianism, whether your approach is an open one or closed one, and the Liberal Democrats are firmly on one side.

Nicola Sturgeon – We will ask consent for indyref2 ‘in matter of weeks’

Andrew Marr’s chief interviewee of the day was the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The show came from Aberdeen where the SNP conference is being held, and unsurprisingly, Scottish independence is firmly on the agenda. Marr asked if Sturgeon was making a request for a ‘Section 30 order’, from Westminster which would be a requirement for a second referendum to be considered a lawful exercise:

NS: We will make a request for a Section 30 order…

AM: Will you be asking for that order this year?

NS: Yes… We will do it at an appropriate moment. It is coming in a matter of weeks.

‘Don’t even bother picking up the phone to me’

And finally, Sturgeon made clear that the issue of independence was an absolute red line in any circumstances when it came to forming a government at Westminster. This attitude would extend to any confidence and supply arrangement or any other informal deal if no one wins the next election outright:

NS: We would favour a progressive type alliance, but I’ll say this to Jeremy Corbyn or any Westminster leader who is looking to the SNP for support – if you don’t accept Scotland’s right to choose our own future… don’t even bother picking up the phone to me.

See also

Show comments