Labour is ready to discuss ditching Jeremy Corbyn and holding a second referendum on Scottish independence in order to secure power during post-election horse-trading, a senior party adviser said yesterday.
The party would ‘need to have conversations’ with the Liberal Democrats and SNP if the election produces a hung parliament, Lord Kerslake added.
The former Whitehall mandarin, who is advising Labour on the transition to power, said Mr Corbyn’s future could be on the table in power-sharing talks.
He added: ‘The Lib Dems have said they could not support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government and the SNP have said they would want a second referendum.
‘All of that would form part of the conversation that Labour would be having informally with those two parties.’
Labour sources played down Lord Kerslake’s comments, noting that he is not a party spokesman and claiming Mr Corbyn’s future would not be on the table in talks designed to win the support of smaller parties for a Labour minority government. But the party did not issue an on-the-record denial.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn announcing his party’s ‘arts for all’ policy at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London yesterday
Mr Corbyn has previously ruled out post-election pacts, although senior Labour figures acknowledge that the party would be forced to consider concessions if there was a possibility of forming a government in a hung parliament.
Lord Kerslake, a crossbench peer, is close to Labour’s ambitious Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
His remarks to Sky News will prompt speculation that Mr McDonnell – who has clashed with Mr Corbyn over Brexit – could be ready to ditch his old ally if that is the price of power next month.
His comments come as Boris Johnson offered Scots a ‘guarantee’ that he will never sanction a second independence referendum.
Writing in today’s Scottish Daily Mail, the Prime Minister said he would reject any request from Nicola Sturgeon for ‘another chaotic and divisive independence referendum’.
He added: ‘If the outcome of this election is a strong Conservative majority government, then I can guarantee that we will reject any request from the SNP government to hold an independence referendum.
There will be no negotiation – we will mark that letter return to sender and be done with it.’
Miss Sturgeon has made a second referendum a red line for any coalition talks with Labour. Mr Corbyn has opened the door to another poll, ruling it out only for his first year in power.
Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon has made a second referendum a red line for any coalition talks with Labour
Labour’s leader in Scotland Richard Leonard confirmed yesterday the party would not stand in the way of another referendum if pro-independence parties win the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.
He said this result would be a ‘mandate’ for another independence poll.
Tory strategists believe Labour’s decision to open the door to a second referendum presents a major opportunity for Scottish Conservatives as they fight to defend the 13 seats won in 2017.
Mr Johnson will travel to Fife today to launch the Tories’ Scottish manifesto and hammer home the message that the Conservatives are now the only bulwark against the break-up of the Union.
Speaking ahead of the trip, he said the consequence of two referendums next year would be ‘grinding the country to a halt’ and reducing the Union ‘to the status of a bargaining chip’.
The Prime Minister said that if he is re-elected, he will ‘work every day to make our Union stronger’. In contrast, he claimed Mr Corbyn would do a deal with Miss Sturgeon that would threaten the Union and result in more ‘dither, deadlock and indecision’.
Polling experts believe there is almost no chance of Labour winning a majority next month because of the SNP’s dominance in its former Scottish heartland.
But Lord Kerslake suggested Labour could be well placed to put together a minority government with the support of other anti-Brexit parties.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson on the BBC Question Time debate. The Liberal Democrats have said they could not support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government
He said the political system would be in ‘uncharted territory’ but added: ‘There are two different tests of success for the two political parties. For the Conservatives to truly consider they have won, they have to get a working majority in Parliament.
‘For Labour to be regarded as having won, they simply need to deprive the Conservatives of that [because] other parties are very much closer to Labour on the issue of Brexit than they are to the Conservatives.’
Miss Sturgeon last night predicted Mr Corbyn would cave in to her demand to hold an independence referendum next year.
She said: ‘It doesn’t appear to be the principle of a second independence referendum that Jeremy Corbyn is quibbling about now, it’s the timing.
‘So for the sake of a year, he’s going to turn his back on his chance to govern with a Labour government and do all of these other things he says he wants to do – I don’t find that credible.’
Meanwhile, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Corbyn would also have to ‘show leadership’ and ditch the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent if he wanted the party’s backing.