Tory grandee Ken Clarke and senior Labour MP Harriet Harman are both prepared lead an emergency government to prevent a no-deal Brexit, it emerged today.
The Father and Mother of the House – the longest serving MPs – were suggested as a more palatable alternative to Jeremy Corbyn, who has proposed becoming caretaker PM to prevent no deal under Boris Johnson.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, who put their names forward, said she has spoken to the pair – who are Father and Mother of the House – and won their assurances they are ready to ‘put public duty first’ to ‘stop us driving off that cliff’.
Ms Swinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people’s names without checking that they’re OK with that.
‘They put public duty first, and they don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit, and if the House of Commons asks them to lead an emergency government to get our country out of this Brexit mess and to stop us driving off that cliff to a no deal, then yes, they are prepared to do that and I think that is to their credit.’
It came as Mr Johnson warned four Tory Remainer rebels plotting with Mr Corbyn to stop a No Deal Brexit that the 2016 EU referendum result ‘must be respected’ as he recommitted to his ‘do or die’ pledge.
Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline Spelman sparked Brexiteer fury after they agreed to meet with the Labour leader to try to figure out a way of stopping the UK crashing out of the EU at the Halloween deadline without an agreement.
Mr Johnson directly responded to the quartet last night as he told them: ‘We will leave the EU on 31st October.’
Mr Clarke (pictured in London) was suggested along with Ms Harman as a more palatable alternative to Jeremy Corbyn, who has proposed becoming caretaker PM
Ms Harman (pictured in London in April) is believed to have told friends she would be willing to stand if Mr Corbyn could not form a unity Government
Boris Johnson, pictured at a crime roundtable in Downing Street on Monday, has issued a barely disguised warning to Tory MPs who are working to stop a No Deal Brexit
Mr Johnson addressed Tory rebels directly with a tweet last night in which he recommitted to his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge
The trio of Tory former ministers were joined by a fourth, Guto Bebb, who suggested he would prefer a temporary government led by Mr Corbyn over a No Deal split from Brussels.
The parliamentary maths that could put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street and delay Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn’s plan hinges on a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s Government being successful.
He is planning to potentially call such a vote within days of Parliament returning in September.
After a series of defections and election defeats, the Prime Minister’s majority in the Commons is just one, meaning a tiny rebellion by Remainer Tories could sweep him from No 10 just weeks after getting his key in the door.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), losing a confidence motion triggers a 14 day countdown to an election being called.
During that period it is possible for a prime minister to win a confidence vote and prevent the country going to the polls.
But the same is true of the Opposition leader or indeed any unity candidate that can command enough backing.
Some 650 MPs sit in the Commons. Excluding Sinn Fein’s seven who do not take their seats and the Speaker and three deputies who do not vote, a majority is 320.
Mr Johnson has 311 Tory MPs plus the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party parliamentarians, taking him to 321.
This majority of one is set against perhaps half a dozen Labour MPs who back Leave and who do not want it to be delayed and may vote against Jeremy Corbyn or any leader aiming to postpone Brexit.
The question is how many Tories are ready to back a no confidence vote by Mr Corbyn or allow him to become prime minister.
It is a drastic option that would end the careers of any Conservative MPs who join, but only a PM can request an extension to the Article 50 process, and the legal default currently is that the UK leaves at Halloween with or without an agreement.
The decision by the Conservative rebels to oppose a No Deal divorce prompted fury among Tory activists in their constituencies as some claimed the MPs were ‘completely at odds’ with voters.
It is also likely to prompt questions about whether they could now face votes of no confidence in their respective constituencies. Mr Grieve lost such a vote earlier this year and has limped on while Mr Bebb has said he will step down at the next election.
The Labour leader has appealed to opposition leaders and Tory rebels to back his plan to bring down the Government with a no-confidence vote, extend the Brexit deadline beyond October 31 and force a snap general election.
The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Tory MP Guto Bebb have all signalled they could support the plan.
But the Lib Dems swiftly dismissed it, saying Mr Corbyn was the wrong person for the job and instead suggested the longest continuously serving male and female MPs for the task.
Ms Harman, the former Labour deputy leader, has told friends that she is also prepared to stand, if Jeremy Corbyn is unable to form a government.
‘The Leader of the Opposition should be the first to try to take over and form an interim government to extend Article 50. If Parliament does not back that, then it is for whoever can command confidence of the House,’ she told friends, according to the Sun.
Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he thought it would be ‘an odd thing’ for Mr Clarke to take the helm at the age of 79.
‘I’m 44 years old. He was an MP before I was born. He’s been around for a long time,’ Mr Kwarteng told Today.
‘I think it would be an odd thing for him to lead a unity government, you know. I think he’s nearly 80.’
Ms Swinson has come under pressure from other opposition leaders including SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to rethink her rejection of Mr Corbyn’s plan.
The Lib Dem leader later wrote to Mr Corbyn to suggest they meet ‘in the coming days’ to work on a no-deal prevention plan.
Senior Remain-supporting Tories Dominic Grieve, Dame Caroline Spelman and Sir Oliver Letwin, as well as independent MP Nick Boles, have also agreed to meet Mr Corbyn.
But Dame Caroline and the Independent Group for Change ruled out support for any Corbyn government.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Sajid Javid was to become the first senior member of Mr Johnson’s Government to meet with an EU leader to discuss Brexit, during a trip to Berlin on Friday to see German finance minister Olaf Scholz.
Despite the deadline looming, the Prime Minister has refused to meet the bloc’s leaders for discussions on a new deal unless they agree to scrap the Irish backstop.
The letter sent by Jeremy Corbyn setting out how he intends to stop a No Deal Brexit
Sir Oliver has faced criticism from his constituency over his decision to meet with Mr Corbyn. Guto Bebb, a fourth Tory former minister, yesterday suggested he would favour a temporary Jeremy Corbyn-led government over a No Deal split
Dominic Grieve (pictured in July) is one of three sitting Tory MPs along with Dame Caroline Spelman and Sir Oliver Letwin to have agreed to meet with Jeremy Corbyn to discuss his anti-No Deal plans
It came as it emerged that Mr Johnson is laying the groundwork to make sure the EU’s legal supremacy over UK law ends immediately when Britain leaves the bloc.
The House of Commons voted to repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) of 1972 last year but an order to actually implement that vote was never made when Theresa May was in office as Brexit was delayed.
The Times reported this morning that Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, will sign the so-called ‘commencement order’ in the coming days which means the ECA will be scrapped in the immediate aftermath of October 31.
The move has delighted Tory Brexiteers who said implementing the decision to repeal the legislation was ‘well overdue’.
Hammond facing vote of no confidence over anti-No Deal stance
Former chancellor Philip Hammond faces the prospect of a vote of no confidence in his Surrey constituency because of his ardent anti-No Deal Brexit stance.
Mr Hammond coordinated a show of strength from Tory Remainers earlier this week as he attacked Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy and vowed to fight the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.
But his outspoken opposition to No Deal has reportedly gone down badly with some of the members of the Conservative Association in his Runnymede and Weybridge seat.
Party insiders told The Telegraph that many activists were ‘not best pleased’ at Mr Hammond working against Mr Johnson and there was ‘no doubt’ tensions would boil over in the near future.
It came as senior allies of Mr Johnson savaged Mr Hammond and accused him of being ‘patronising and misleading’.
Iain Duncan Smith, who served as Mr Johnson’s campaign chairman during the Tory leadership race, said Mr Hammond was talking ‘utter nonsense’ over his attempts to interpret what people were voting for at the EU referendum in 2016.