Jo Swinson says Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman should lead unity government instead of Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
15th August 2019

Jo Swinson has said Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman should become caretaker Prime Minister and not Jeremy Corbyn if the Government loses a vote of no confidence.

Ken Clarke, Jo Swinson and Harriet Harman.
Credit: 
PA

The Liberal Democrat leader floated the political grandees as alternatives to the Labour leader as she hit out at his request to install him in Number 10 as a "precondition" for bringing down the Government.

And she accused Mr Corbyn of letting ministers "off the hook" over Brexit - and said she did not trust him to prevent a no-deal scenario.

Lib Dems reject Jeremy Corbyn's call to make him PM to block no-deal Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn urges other parties to back him in 'time-limited' caretaker government

ANALYSIS How Boris Johnson is preparing to blame everyone but himself for no-deal

The comments come after he sent a letter to fellow opposition parties and potential Tory rebels asking them to back him in a "time-limited" administration to prevent a no-deal Brexit before calling an election.

But, at a speech in the City of London, Ms Swinson ridiculed the idea the Labour leader could command the support of his own MPs, let alone those from the Conservative benches.

Instead she suggested he stand aside and allow either Mr Clarke, a Tory former Chancellor, or Ms Harman, an ex-deputy leader of Labour, step in and call for an extension of Article 50 and a second referendum if Boris Johnson is deposed.

She said: "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.

"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."

The Lib Dem leader, who was introduced by Chuka Umunna and cheered on by Sarah Wollaston, the former Change UK MPs who have defected to her party in recent weeks, added: "This isn't about personalities, this is about having a plan that actually works.

"What we need in a leader of an emergency Government is a long-serving Member of Parliament who is respected on both sides of the House.

"So someone like Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman; the father and mother of the House.

"They are hugely experienced, and unlike Jeremy Corbyn or indeed myself they are not seeking to lead a Government in the long-term."

Asked if either of the politicians had been approached about this, Ms Swinson said she has "been in contact", and praised the long-serving MPs for their "sense of public duty".

She added: "I'm confident that if that's what the House resolves, that those individuals would be happy to take on that role to try and steer our country through these difficult waters."

But Labour's Angela Rayner hit out at Ms Swinson's "childish" behaviour and "political game-scoring" by refusing to work with Mr Corbyn.

The shadow education secretary told ITV News: "Jo Swinson does not get to choose who the leader of the labour Party is, our leader is Jeremy Corbyn, and she should respect the leader of the Labour Party and respect his title as the official Opposition.

"He’s elected democratically to do that, he's got the support of his MPs and we are the biggest opposition party.

"She should work with Jeremy Corbyn, this is party political games-coring by saying she won't work with Jeremy, and it's quite childish to be honest."

She added that given the risk of a no-deal Brexit to the country "to say 'I'm not working with him because I don't like him' is a very childish thing to do, and she needs to reconsider that".