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Johnson faces ambush as SNP and Labour look to table confidence vote next week to make Corbyn PM

Boris Johnson is facing an ambush as the SNP and Labour look to table a confidence vote next week in a bid to secure Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘fail safe’ prime minister.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been coy over who should stand as a caretaker prime minister – saying she was ‘open minded’ – but it is understood the SNP would now accept the Labour Party leader.

A source close to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the ‘first person who must have the opportunity to do that is Jeremy’, according to the Telegraph.

It comes as a cloud of suspicion surrounds Mr Johnson over whether he will stick by the law and seek an extension to Article 50 if he cannot secure a Brexit deal by October 19.

Any SNP push for a confidence vote is expected to be tabled before January in a bid to avoid coinciding with the rape and sexual assault trial of the party’s former leader Alex Salmond, MPs have claimed.

The 35-strong SNP contingent in Westminster will vote against Mr Johnson in any confidence vote and, crucially, the party also appears ready to install the hard-Left Labour leader.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured in Glasgow on Friday) had been coy over who should stand as a caretaker prime minister - saying she was 'open minded' - but it is understood the SNP would now accept the Labour Party leader

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured in Glasgow on Friday) had been coy over who should stand as a caretaker prime minister – saying she was ‘open minded’ – but it is understood the SNP would now accept the Labour Party leader

A source close to the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the 'first person who must have the opportunity to do that is Jeremy (pictured)'

A source close to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the ‘first person who must have the opportunity to do that is Jeremy (pictured)’

The move could pave the way for a huge Commons showdown as early as next week – when Mr Johnson is meant to be in Manchester for the Tory conference.

The SNP is also demanding another referendum on Scottish independence just five years after the ‘once-in-a-generation’ vote in 2014.

A Downing Street source said the SNP move to back Mr Corbyn showed Labour had done a deal to hold a second Scottish independence in return for being propped up in power.

The 35-strong SNP contingent in Westminster will vote against Mr Johnson (pictured on Friday in a hospital in Harlow) in any confidence vote and, crucially, the party also appears ready to install the hard-Left Labour leader

The 35-strong SNP contingent in Westminster will vote against Mr Johnson (pictured on Friday in a hospital in Harlow) in any confidence vote and, crucially, the party also appears ready to install the hard-Left Labour leader

Nicola Sturgeon hinted that she could back Jeremy Corbyn as a 'unity' PM on Friday

Jeremy Corbyn

Nicola Sturgeon (left) hinted that she could back Jeremy Corbyn (right) as a ‘unity’ PM on Friday

But a No 10 source said: ‘We have known for a long time that Jeremy Corbyn is willing to sell the Union down the river in his attempts to get into Downing Street without an election.

‘The public don’t want to see these backroom deals – they want to see Parliament held to account at an election.’

Miss Sturgeon called for the Opposition to unite around a single candidate to take control as caretaker prime minister – which could possibly be the Labour leader.

But the party’s backing led to renewed fears that the SNP propping up a Labour government would dramatically increase the threat of a second Scottish independence referendum.

Miss Sturgeon yesterday confirmed on Twitter she would be prepared to back a move that could make Mr Corbyn a caretaker prime minister.

In response to a journalist suggesting the only ‘fail-safe’ way of ensuring an extension to the Brexit deadline is ‘to pass a vote of no confidence [VONC] and install Corbyn or someone else as PM’, the Scottish First Minister replied: ‘Agree with this. VONC, opposition unites around someone for sole purpose of securing an extension, and then immediate general election. 

‘Nothing is risk free but leaving Johnson in post to force through No Deal – or even a bad deal – seems like a terrible idea to me.’ 

Quizzed on whether that meant Mr Corbyn, she added: ‘The point I’m making is not really about who it should be – I’m open minded on that – more that the opposition needs to unite behind a plan and act.’

Asked if the SNP could support a Corbyn-led government, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: ‘We will put in No 10 whoever can deliver an extension to Article 50 and an immediate election.

‘This isn’t about a government of national unity… it’s a mechanism to extend Article 50 and deliver an election.’

Labour say only Mr Corbyn, as leader of the Opposition, could become interim prime minister. 

How could Corbyn get a Commons majority? 

No single party has had a majority in the House of Commons since the 2017 election. 

The Tories are the biggest single group with 287 MPs out of the total 650.

They are allied with the DUP, which has 10 MPs. 

Before Boris Johnson stripped 21 Remainers of the whip – and Amber Rudd resigned in solidarity – he was on the threshold of the magic number of 320. 

That is enough to control the House, factoring in the seven Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats and the Speaker and deputy Speaker who do not vote. 

But Mr Corbyn’s path to a majority in a confidence vote is much slimmer. 

There are currently 245 Labour MPs, and not all of them want to see him as PM. 

Even with support from the SNP’s 35 MPs, Mr Corbyn would still be well short.

He would need the 18 Lib Dems MPs, and then another 22 votes.

That would come from a configuration of four Plaid, one Green, five Independent Group, and 32 independents – which includes the 22 former Tory Remainer rebels. 

But the Lib Dems are refusing to support him, and want a more ‘independent’ figure such as ex-Tory chancellor Ken Clarke or former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

If Mr Johnson lost a confidence vote, he would stay in No 10 for two weeks to allow MPs to try to find a replacement who can win a majority vote in the Commons.

If Opposition parties rallied around Mr Corbyn he would be installed as prime minister, and an election would be called at the end of the period if they failed.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: ‘Let’s take a guess at what the SNP’s price would be for installing Corbyn in number 10. And we know from John McDonnell that Labour would happily hand them [a second independence referendum] on a plate.’

Scottish Tory MP Kirstene Hair, added: ‘SNP MPs will happily prop up Jeremy Corbyn in No 10. There is no doubt that [his] weak stance on an independence referendum is a deciding factor.’

Mr Johnson challenged critics to table a vote of no confidence and face him in an election during stormy Commons clashes earlier this week.

However, up until now opposition parties have refused to take up the offer – saying they want to wait until the Halloween Brexit deadline has been pushed back.

There have been fears a no confidence vote could put Mr Johnson in control of the Brexit timetable, as he would be able to dictate the date for a general election if another PM who can secure a Commons majority does not emerge within a fortnight.

Even with support from the SNP’s 35 MPs, Mr Corbyn would still be well short of the mark of 320 he needs to guarantee a majority in the Commons.

There are currently 247 Labour MPs, and not all of them want to see him as PM. 

Despite Ms Swinson’s promise not to support Mr Corbyn with her 18 MPs, some pro-EU MPs have told MailOnline they are worried the Lib Dems are getting ‘itchy feet’ and are eyeing their potential gains from a quicker election.

Labour paved the way for an alliance with the SNP earlier this month when shadow chancellor John McDonnell made clear the party would not block a fresh independence vote.

A Downing Street source said: ‘We have known for a long time that Jeremy Corbyn is willing to sell the Union down the river in his attempts to get in to Downing Street without an election.

‘The public don’t want to see these backroom deals – they want to see parliament held to account at an election.’         

What are the confidence vote scenarios and does Corbyn have a path to victory?  

Boris Johnson is way short of a majority in the Commons since he stripped the whip from 21 Tories who rebelled over No Deal Brexit – and Amber Rudd then quit in solidarity.

Mr Johnson challenged critics to table a vote of no confidence and face him in an election during stormy Commons clashes earlier this week.

However, up until now opposition parties have refused to take up the offer – saying they want to wait until the Halloween Brexit deadline has been pushed back.

A Remainer law passed earlier this month obliges Mr Johnson to beg the EU for an extension if an agreement has not been reached by October 19. 

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, when a PM loses such a battle there is a two-week period for someone else to win a confidence vote. If that does not happen an immediate election is triggered. 

There have been fears that a no confidence vote could put Mr Johnson in control of the Brexit timetable, as he would be able to dictate the date for a general election if another PM who can secure a Commons majority does not emerge within a fortnight.

Here are the scenarios for what happens after the government loses a confidence vote:

Jeremy Corbyn secures a majority

Parliament’s Remainers decide that Mr Corbyn is their only option, making him best placed to succeed as PM. 

As the numbers are on a knife-edge, a vote is called and Mr Corbyn scrapes through. All 245 Labour MPs swallow their doubts and endorse him as PM. 

They are joined in the division lobbies by the SNP’s 35 MPs, and 18 Lib Dems MPs. 

He picks up another 22 votes to take him over the 320 mark from a variety of sources. The four Plaid and one Green MP are relatively kindly disposed.

But the five-strong Independent Group led by former Tory minister Anna Soubry, and 32 independent MPs will be harder work. Ex-Labour MPs John Mann, a strong critic of the leader over anti-Semitism, and Brexit supporter Frank Field, are incredibly unlikely to come over. 

It is possible Mr Corbyn could pick up a few supporters from the 22 former Tory Remainer rebels. Ex-Chancellor Ken Clarke has indicated that in extremis he could tolerate a short-lived Corbyn premiership.

Mr Corbyn goes to Brussels and secures a Brexit extension until January 31, then calls an election – which he is able to fight with the advantage of being ensconced in Downing Street. 

The SNP appears to be on board with a Corbyn 'caretaker' government - but as this chart shows he will need many more MPs to fall into line to get himself over the winning line of 320 votes and into Downing Street. Mr Corbyn could need to pick up seven of the 22 Tory Remainer rebels stripped of the whip, and persuade half the 10 other independent politicians

The SNP appears to be on board with a Corbyn ‘caretaker’ government – but as this chart shows he will need many more MPs to fall into line to get himself over the winning line of 320 votes and into Downing Street. Mr Corbyn could need to pick up seven of the 22 Tory Remainer rebels stripped of the whip, and persuade half the 10 other independent politicians

Another ‘unity PM’ takes over     

After Mr Johnson is defeated in an initial confidence vote, Mr Corbyn tries to put together a majority. But it soon becomes clear that he cannot get close to the numbers needed – as even some MPs in his own party will not tolerate him as PM.

Instead, under huge pressure from his own shadow cabinet, Mr Corbyn agrees to support a less controversial candidate as a temporary leader for the country.

Labour veteran Margaret Beckett and Tory grandee Ken Clarke have both been touted as potential candidates – partly because they are considered too old to want to stay around as premier for long.

No10 aides believe Amber Rudd has been positioning herself as a Chancellor in a Beckett administration.

The opposition parties mass behind the new PM, who comes into power with a mandate to extend the Brexit deadline and then call an election – possibly after a referendum. 

No other PM emerges

Once Mr Johnson loses the confidence vote, the opposition parties think they have the numbers to install a replacement.

But they turn out to be mistaken.

Mr Corbyn finds the resistance to his premiership is stronger than he thought, with the LIb Dems refusing to fall into line. 

But he in turn refuses to get behind any ‘unity’ candidate, insisting it is his constitutional right to be the next PM.

In these circumstances, a fortnight goes past with Mr Johnson still in No10.

At that point an election is triggered under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Parliament is dissolved, and Mr Johnson gets to set the date of the ballot.

Remainers fear in these circumstances Parliament loses control as it is not sitting, and could be vulnerable to any tricks the government tries to pull to avoid delaying Brexit. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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