Jeremy Corbyn hits back at Tony Blair and says Labour backs election in any circumstances
Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed Tony Blair’s plea for Labour to reject a general election if Boris Johnson tries to call one.
The former Prime Minister said an election before Brexit is resolved would be "an elephant trap" for his party, and that they should back a second referendum instead.
In a speech at the Institute for Government on Monday, he said: “Boris Johnson knows that if no-deal Brexit stands on its own as a proposition, it might well fail.
"But if he mixes up the Brexit question with the Corbyn question in a general election, he could succeed, despite a majority being against a no-deal Brexit, because some may fear a Corbyn premiership more."
But asked later if he supported an election under any circumstance, Mr Corbyn told Sky News: “Of course, we are the opposition party, we want a general election.”
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, two-thirds of MPs must vote in favour of an election if a Prime Minister tables a motion calling for one. That means it cannot happen without Labour voting for it.
Answering questions after a speech in Manchester Mr Corbyn had said that while Britain “needed” a general election, it would come after he and other opposition leaders had done “everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink”.
However, shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman told Radio Four's 'World At One' programme that stopping no-deal should take priority over having an election.
She said: "Our mission here is to prevent no-deal… If that means that a General Election can’t happen at that particular point then stopping no-deal must come first, because we’re not messing around here, we’re not trying to score, this isn’t for the benefit of the Labour Party, this is about preventing mass unemployment."
Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Blair said: “It is counter-intuitive for opposition parties to refuse an election.
“But in this exceptional case, it is vital they do so as a matter of principle, until Brexit is resolved.
“Brexit is an issue which stands on its own, was originally decided on its own and should be reconsidered on its own.
“But the Brexiteers are laying a trap, to seem as if pushed into an election against their will, when they're actively preparing for it.”
Mr Blair also praised Mr Corbyn for having “behaved responsibly” by backing down on his demand that other parties back him as a temporary prime minister following any vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson.