It has been condemned as the Cabinet of Chaos – a collection of opposition MPs and Tory Remainer rebels who could seize the reins of power if Boris Johnson’s Government falls next month.
The plum Foreign Office job is being lined up for high-profile Tory rebel Rory Stewart
Draft lists of how an ‘interim’ Coalition Cabinet would look have been drawn up by Labour and Liberal Democrat strategists. They are planning for a situation where the two parties form a government with Scottish Nationalists and the 21 Tory rebels booted out by Mr Johnson for defying him on Brexit.
The ‘war-gaming’ is taking place amid mounting speculation that the Prime Minister will be forced to quit if he fails to secure a Brexit deal, with the Tories replaced by a so-called ‘unity government’ committed to delaying the UK’s departure from the EU.
Yesterday’s dramatic events at Labour’s conference – where deputy leader Tom Watson fought off an attempt to axe his job after Jeremy Corbyn’s allies claimed that he had been in negotiations about helping to form a government of national unity – have increased speculation about the composition of the Cabinet: Mr Watson would hope to be the new Prime Minister’s de facto Number Two – if not the leader himself.
The Chaos Cabinet would be kept in place by a loose coalition in the Commons of opposition parties who could together outvote the Tories loyal to Mr Johnson and the party’s DUP allies.
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson. The influence of the anti-Brexit Lib Dems – now up to 18 MPs after high-profile defections by Tory and Labour MPs – would be recognised, with party leader Jo Swinson made Home Secretary
With the Lib Dems refusing to put Jeremy Corbyn into No 10, the strategists have suggested Europhile Tory grandee Ken Clarke or senior Labour moderate Hilary Benn as the most ‘acceptable’ interim PM.
Father of the House Ken Clarke has been a Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe since 1970
According to one version of the draft coalition frontbench seen by The Mail on Sunday, other posts would be carefully shared out across the opposition parties to ensure that their various ‘big beasts’ are happy.
John McDonnell, a key ally of Mr Corbyn’s but now seen by Labour allies as ready to contemplate ‘life after Jeremy’, would become Chancellor in line with his ambitions.
Despite being accused of wanting to be unity PM himself, Sir Keir Starmer – Labour’s spokesman on quitting the EU – would get the job of Brexit Secretary.
However, Emily Thornberry, currently Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, would not get the equivalent Cabinet post, although sources insist she would be handed a high-profile portfolio.
The plum Foreign Office job is being lined up for high-profile Tory rebel Rory Stewart, while fellow party dissident Dominic Grieve, one of the Government’s fiercest critics over Brexit policy, would return to his old job as Attorney General.
Strategists have suggested Europhile Tory grandee Ken Clarke or senior Labour moderate Hilary Benn (pictured) as the most ‘acceptable’ interim PM
The influence of the anti-Brexit Lib Dems – now up to 18 MPs after high-profile defections by Tory and Labour MPs – would be recognised, with party leader Jo Swinson made Home Secretary.
She has effectively vetoed any idea that the interim regime could be led by Labour leader Mr Corbyn. Instead, Corbyn would be marginalised, deemed unacceptable by Lib Dems, Tory rebels and even his own Labour MPs.
Former Cabinet Minister Sir Ed Davey, the man Ms Swinson defeated in this summer’s Lib Dem leadership race, is being earmarked to become Environment Secretary.
Party dissident Dominic Grieve, one of the Government’s fiercest critics over Brexit policy, would return to his old job as Attorney General
Although the SNP has not so far been involved in the unity Cabinet talks, party leader Ian Blackford has been inked in as Scottish Secretary
John McDonnell, a key ally of Mr Corbyn’s but now seen by Labour allies as ready to contemplate ‘life after Jeremy’, would become Chancellor in line with his ambitions
Sources say the solitary Green Party MP – Caroline Lucas – would be ‘typecast’ by being handed the climate change brief. Similarly, although the SNP has not so far been involved in the unity Cabinet talks, party leader Ian Blackford has been inked in as Scottish Secretary.
Loyal Tory MPs fear Mr Johnson could be forced to resign if he fails to secure a deal by the next EU summit, starting on October 17.
The Prime Minister has vowed to ignore the Commons vote compelling him to ask the EU for an extension to Brexit beyond October 31, leaving him facing a stark choice between breaking the law or resigning if talks have broken down.
If Mr Johnson quits or is brought down by a vote of no confidence for refusing to obey the order, opposition parties are expected to push to form the unity government. One close to the discussions said last night: ‘It’s only sensible for the main opposition parties to draw up plans for who would do what job.
‘Bearing in mind this temporary government would be taking over from Tory chaos and would have to be formed very quickly, we have to have a draft Cabinet in mind.’