Will the Lib Dems help Boris Johnson deliver no deal?

Richard Burgon

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone offered a disturbing insight into his party’s thinking this week when asked what he would choose between Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister or a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit. His answer couldn’t have been clearer: “No deal every time”. This highlighted how the Lib Dems are currently a main obstacle to a Corbyn-led caretaker government that would remove Boris Johnson from Downing Street, stop no deal and secure a general election.

Labour’s priority has been to secure an extension to prevent crashing out on October 31st and then to force a general election and make Boris Johnson the shortest-serving PM since Viscount Goderich lasted only 130 days in 1827. Kicking Johnson out by Christmas would be the best present for those communities who have been so damaged by a decade of ruthless Tory rule.

Labour has rightly sought to build broad unity with other parties against a Trump-deal Brexit – be that no deal or some other rotten Johnson deal that would drive down workers’ rights and environmental protections and also threaten our NHS with US corporate takeover. That unity needs to be maintained in the coming weeks to ensure stopping no deal is locked down.

If an extension is soon secured, then we will quickly move on to a general election and, to be frank, the Liberal Democrats’ posturing will soon be forgotten about. But if Boris Johnson tries to wriggle out of his legal duty to secure an extension, then we may need to force a caretaker government that can prevent no deal.

That’s why Lib Dem MPs suggesting they would choose no deal are so worrying. I can only imagine Liberal Democrat voters across the country will be deeply disappointed – to put it mildly – by any failure to take the steps needed to stop a no deal, but also to secure the final say referendum on a future deal, which Labour is offering.

To many, the Lib Dems’ current position may appear somewhat hypocritical given how many recent leaders served as ministers in a Conservative government. They were happy to make David Cameron Prime Minister for five years, but their current position is that they wouldn’t consider making Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister for even five minutes – even for the purpose of stopping a ‘no deal’ Brexit and calling a general election that could lead to a public vote on a Brexit deal.

It also flies in the face of what it right, constitutionally and democratically. Talk in the tea room makes it abundantly clear that Labour MPs are deeply aware that the Leader of the Opposition is the person to assume the role of caretaker Prime Minister to end this crisis of the Tories’ making.

Anyway, no other Labour figure would command the support of more Labour MPs than the leader of the Labour Party, nor of more Labour members. And no other Labour figure could command the support of more members of parliament in total than the leader of the Labour Party. So demands that a “unity” figure be made caretaker Prime Minister instead of Jeremy Corbyn are just pure fantasy, and reveal more about the priorities of those proposing it.

If the Liberal Democrats continue with their current refusenik position, people may draw the conclusion that they are simply acting in cynical electoral self-interest by doing all they can to prevent Jeremy Corbyn being the person who actually stops a ‘no deal’ Brexit because they fear that would mean they would no longer have what they want to be their political USP – being the only party that can stop Johnson’s dangerous Brexit plan.

But every cloud has a silver lining. As more and more Liberal Democrat voters and potential voters wake up to their games, the Lib Dems will lose support and the public will increasingly see that it is Jeremy Corbyn and Labour leading the way against a Tory Brexit and letting the people decide on how to resolve the Brexit deadlock. Such a realisation can only be good news for all who want a real way forward on the many crises our communities face after a decade of Tory austerity.

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