Barry Gardiner says Lib Dems risk roping Queen into constitutional battle over Corbyn-led government snub

Posted On: 
25th August 2019

Barry Gardiner has accused the Liberal Democrats of being prepared to force the Queen to make an “embarrassing” constitutional call by rejecting a unity government headed by Jeremy Corbyn.

Barry Gardiner has accused Jo Swinson of being "extremely petulant"
Credit: 
Sky News

The shadow international trade secretary accused the party’s leader Jo Swinson of being “extremely petulant” in dismissing the Labour leader’s plan for a "time-limited" administration to prevent a no-deal Brexit before calling an election.

Mr Corbyn, who is expected to launch a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s government in the coming weeks, had made the proposal in a letter to the leaders of all opposition parties.

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But he was knocked back by Ms Swinson, who said she would prefer a caretaker adminisitration to be led by Tory or Labour grandees such as Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman.

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme, Mr Gardiner said it was the “natural constitutional process” for the leader of the opposition to take over if a Government falls.

He added: “If Jo Swinson wants to propel Her Majesty into a constitutional crisis, where instead of inviting the leader of the opposition to form a new government she invites somebody else, who is not the leader of a political party, then that would be forcing the monarchy into a very embarrassing and difficult judgement call that they would have to make.”

The shadow frontbencher insisted that Mr Corbyn’s “fail-safe” procedure would stop a no-deal exit in October and that a second referendum would follow the temporary government being formed.

“I think it was extremely petulant of Jo Swinson the other day to come out and dismiss this proposal in the way that she did,” he said.

"It sounded as if she couldn’t take yes for an answer. And she’s been saying, and the Liberal Democrats and others have been saying for so long, look we need to have a second referendum and Remain needs to be on the ballot paper.

“They are now being offered a fail-safe Parliamentary procedural way of delivering that and they’re saying ‘oh we’re not going to cooperate if Jeremy Corbyn is going to be the person who does it’.”

In his letter to key figures from the Lib Dems SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens, Change UK and the Conservative backbenches, Mr Corbyn warned that the country was "heading into a constitutional and political storm" and urged other MPs to "do everything we can to stop it".

But Ms Swinson said the Labour leader would be unable to bring together enough MPs to support his proposal.

"In my first week as leader of the Liberal Democrats I called on Jeremy Corbyn to table a vote of no confidence in the Government, and I asked him to table it before summer recess, because that was the only way to be sure we could hold an election before crashing out of the 31st of October,” she said.

"Time and time again Jeremy Corbyn has let the Government off the hook on Brexit. On 31 key Brexit votes he has either asked his MPs to sit on their hands, or marched them through the voting lobby side by side with the Government.

"And now, instead of doing everything in his power to stop us from crashing out, he is demanding the keys to Number 10 as precondition for a vote of no confidence."

She added: "We're facing a national crisis, we may need an emergency Government to resolve it, but if Jeremy Corbyn truly wants that to succeed surely even he can see that he cannot lead it.

"There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and independents to stop Boris Johnson. He's not even certain he can secure all the votes of Labour MPs."