Mon, 30 January 2023

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By Andrew McCormick
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John McDonnell: Lib Dems will be blamed for no-deal Brexit if they don't back Jeremy Corbyn as PM

John McDonnell: Lib Dems will be blamed for no-deal Brexit if they don't back Jeremy Corbyn as PM
3 min read

The Liberal Democrats will be "blamed" for a no-deal Brexit if they do not get behind Jeremy Corbyn as a caretaker prime minister, John McDonnell has warned.

In a fresh swipe at Jo Swinson's party, the Shadow Chancellor dismissed calls for a senior backbencher to head up a so-called 'government of national unity' - saying the plans would not work "full stop".

The Liberal Democrats have insisted that a caretaker government, aimed at averting a no-deal Brexit if Boris Johnson is ousted from Number 10, could only be led by a senior backbencher.

The party has argued that Mr Corbyn would be unable to command the confidence of the House of Commons, and has instead pitched figures including Labour grandee Harriet Harman and former Tory Cabinet minister Ken Clarke as potential interim leaders.

But, speaking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Mr McDonnell said such a plan "wouldn't work".

"It wouldn't gain support of Labour MPs, full stop," he said.

He added: "We want to ensure that we abide by the normal conventions, which is the largest party is given the opportunity to form that government. 

"The other opposition parties will then have to make their minds up, because if they don't swing their support behind Jeremy Corbyn, they'll be blamed for the no-deal."

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have already suggested that they would be willing to support Mr Corbyn's offer to become a caretaker Prime Minister, with the Lib Dems and the Independent Group for Change both opposed to the move.


Mr Corbyn has urged fellow opposition party leaders and senior backbenchers to support him in a "time-limited" government to help block a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking earlier this year, the Labour leader said the plan would allow him to extend Article 50 to avoid a "deeply damaging" no-deal - with a short spell in government allowing him to trigger a fresh general election in which his party would support a second EU referendum.

The Sunday Times reports that those pushing for a unity government are now floating Commons Speaker John Bercow as a potential interim leader in a bid to sidestep Mr Corbyn's objections.

According to the paper, his Cabinet would be made up of "clean skin" MPs who would not be bound by party loyalty because they are preparing to step down at the next election.

A source familiar with the idea told The Sunday Times: "If none of the opposition party leaders are given roles in the cabinet, then it should allay Corbyn’s fears that his authority will drain away if he does not become caretaker prime minister."

One senior Tory rebel meanwhile said: "To be frank, if Corbyn hadn’t insisted on leading a government of national unity, we’d probably already have one by now."

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