Jeremy Corbyn rejects idea of national unity government

© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Jeremy Corbyn has rejected the idea of the Labour Party forming a national unity government with the Conservatives, with jointly appointed ministers, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with The Telegraph on Thursday, the outgoing Labour leader warned against the proposal – citing the duty for opposition parties to hold the government to account during the crisis.

When asked about Labour participating in government, Corbyn said: “It’s the duty of opposition parties to hold it to account, and that is exactly what we’re doing.

“I think we should be challenging the government and challenging them on the economic response, challenging them on job security, and that is the way to get better government and better decisions.”

The Islington MP added: “If everybody got together and said ‘we’re all absolutely in this together we won’t criticise each other’ – that is a negation of what our democratic society is about.”

The comments from Corbyn follow the decision by Labour’s First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford to invite Conservative and Plaid Cymru members to join a group coordinating the response to the virus.

The Welsh ‘cabinet Covid group’ receives reports on developments from the chief medical officer, the chief executive of Wales NHS, the emergency coordinating centre and the Welsh Local Government Association.

In a statement to assembly members, Drakeford said: “In recognition of the uniquely serious position we face, I have invited the leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru to join that group.”

The Government of Wales Act restricts the number of ministers to 14, which means that the administration would have to remove existing ministers in order to form a national government with opposition representation.

Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader is due to be announced on Saturday as voting in the internal election process drew to a close at noon on Thursday.

Keir Starmer is the favourite to win the contest, with the latest polling predicting a win in the first round for the Holborn MP with 53% of first preferences.

Responding to a question from Left Foot Forward on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “The PM will want to have good and cooperative relationship with the leader of the opposition when they take up their post.”

They also noted that Labour had worked closely with ministers on the emergency coronavirus legislation that was fast-tracked through the legislative process ahead of parliamentary recess.

There are now a total of 33,718 recorded cases of Covid-19 in the UK, although the true figure is thought to be higher. There have been 2,921 reported deaths from the virus.

More from LabourList