Political

The best choice for PM in a government of national unity is…

With all the talk of a possible government of national unity in order to stop Brexit, who is the sensible choice to head it up?

But, of course, that requires your starting point to be, ‘what compromises might be acceptable to make this idea work in order to stop Brexit?’ which isn’t the impression that Jeremy Corbyn is giving.

Here’s Jo Swinson’s response to Corbyn’s call for non-Labour MPs to make him Prime Minister:

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for your letter of 14th August 2019 in relation to stopping a damaging “No Deal” Brexit.

We are determined to do whatever it takes not only to stop “No Deal” but also to stop Brexit.

Since becoming Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have travelled across the United Kingdom speaking to people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to discuss their concerns and worries. It is clear that a “No Deal” Brexit is a bad for our environment, bad for our NHS, bad for rural Britain, and bad for our family of nations.

So, in this moment of national emergency, I stand ready to work with anyone to stop Boris Johnson and his hard-line Brexit government in pursuing “No Deal”. My party has already been working with the Labour Party and other opposition parties to do this for many months now. That will continue under my leadership.

As I said before the start of the summer Recess, the Liberal Democrats will support a motion of no confidence in the government if it is brought before the House of Commons. If the motion is successful and a new Prime Minister is sought, our constitution operates on the principle that that person must command majority support of the House of Commons.

Based on on-the-record statements that have already been made, at least seven MPs on the opposition benches have indicated they would not give you confidence in these circumstances. Regardless of how my party were to vote in those circumstances, in order for you to command the confidence of the House, at least eight Conservative MPs would need to support you in taking office. For this and other reasons, I do not believe your plan is viable. I would be interested to know whether eight or more Conservative MPs have indicated to you that they will support you in these circumstances.

However, there are clearly other senior members of the House who could potentially command a majority in the House. Today I suggested that Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman, the Father and Mother of the House, could lead an emergency government.

They are the most experienced Members of the House, widely respected on both sides, and neither are seeking to lead a government in the long-term. I would be interested to hear your suggestions. I can understand that you would have a preference for a Labour alternative. Indeed, if she can command the support of the House of Commons Harriet Harman would be Labour’s first female Prime Minister.

Obviously, we hope legislative measures in the House of Commons will be successful in securing an extension to Article 50 to ensure that the UK does not fall out of the European Union with No Deal and no long-term security or stability.

Finally, a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal is vital. I hope that you can reassure me, and everyone campaigning for a People’s Vote to give the British people the final say on Brexit, that you are doing all you can to can to persuade the 25 or more Labour MPs who have previously voted against it to now back it in a Commons vote. I hope that we can now count on the full support of all Labour Members of Parliament.

I am ambitious for the Liberal Democrats, as you are for the Labour Party, but we are facing a national crisis and we may need an emergency government to resolve it. This isn’t the time for personal agendas and political games. We cannot allow party politics to stand in the way of Members from all sides of the House of Commons working together in the national interest. What matters right now is a plan that works and will stop a “No Deal” Brexit.

With this in mind, I would be happy and keen to meet in the coming days to discuss how our parties can work together to stop “No Deal” and who else might be able to lead an emergency government.

I look forward to hearing from you.

My door remains, as ever, open.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP

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