Len McCluskey accuses Jo Swinson of 'playground politics' as row over Jeremy Corbyn unity government call deepens

Posted On: 
16th August 2019

Unite boss Len McCluskey has accused Jo Swinson of practicing "playground politics" after she warned Jeremy Corbyn he does not have the parliamentary numbers to lead a government aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit.

The Unite general secretary took aim at the Lib Dem leader.
Credit: 
PA

The union's general secretary - a key ally of the Labour leader - accused Ms Swinson of a "dishonourable, divisive and destructive" position, as she continued to float the idea of senior backbenchers Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman at the head of any caretaker administration.

The comments came amid a deepening row between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over Mr Corbyn's call for opposition MPs and Tory rebels to back a "time-limited" government that would ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 and call an election before stepping aside.

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The Labour leader on Friday said it was "not up to" the Lib Dems to decide who should be Britain's next Prime Minister.

And, in a fiery statement, Mr McCluskey - who long opposed calls for Labour to back a second referendum on Brexit - said Mr Corbyn had "done the absolutely correct and honourable thing, which is to propose a short-term government to defend the jobs and communities of this country".

He added: "As the leader of the opposition, of course, he should lead this government and steer the country to stability.

"Jo Swinson, therefore, has no business indulging in playground games of ‘pick your mates’. This is a deadly serious time for our people and they need deadly serious solutions, not publicity-seeking stunts. If our plants, skills and jobs are lost, her party will share the blame."

The Unite chief also trained his fire on the Conservatives, saying they had "doubled down on division" under Boris Johnson.

But, in a direct attack on Ms Swinson, he added: "On the other side, we have Jo Swinson ignoring the 52 percent by appealing solely to the 48 percent. This is dishonourable, divisive and destructive politics."

CORBYN: NOT UP TO LIB DEMS

The general secretary's intervention came as Mr Corbyn stepped up his own criticism of the Liberal Democrats.

He told the Press Association it was "not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be".

The Labour leader added: "Surely she must recognise she is a leader of one of the opposition parties who are apparently opposed to this government, and apparently prepared to support a motion of no confidence?

"I look forward to joining her in the lobbies to vote this government down."

But a Lib Dem source shot back: "The issue remains that Jeremy Corbyn simply has not got the numbers - several opposition MPs have been clear they will not support him already, let alone Conservative rebels.

"As the clock continues to tick, the question for Corbyn is if he cannot command a majority in the House of Commons, will he support someone who can?"

And the party's former leader Sir Vince Cable said: "It would be up to the House of Commons to decide who a caretaker prime minister put in place to stop a no-deal Brexit would be.

"This is not about party leaders, but getting a group together to stop no-deal.

"It is clear Jeremy Corbyn cannot command that majority in the House. I urge him to do the right thing and confirm that if he cannot, he will support someone who can."