Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed a pre-Christmas general election after telling his shadow cabinet that the party’s condition of taking a no-deal Brexit “off the table” has been met.
Boris Johnson has put forward a short bill for a 12 December poll that bypasses the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and only requires the support of a simple majority in the Commons.
But MPs have voted in favour of a proposal which makes it easier for them to put forward amendments on the government’s bill for an early general election – including expected attempts to give 16-year-olds and EU citizens the vote.
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The key questions being asked in Westminster are: will Lindsay Hoyle, the deputy speaker, allow MPs to vote on amendments calling for the franchise to be extended to 16- and 17-year olds and EU citizens and, if he does, will either of them pass?
Those two factors will determine whether Boris Johnson gets his wish for a pre-Christmas general election. Why? Because the government has said that, if either amendment passes, they will scrap the bill that would trigger an early election.
What would happen then is unclear. Ministers would be expected to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and try to get Brexit done in the current parliament, but No10 spokesperson refused to be drawn on the government’s back-up plan.
Economic figures will be published next week
Official figures expected to lay bare the deteriorating state of the economy will be published next week in a blow to the government.
Chancellor Sajid Javid was facing growing criticism for refusing to release the normal autumn forecasts, after cancelling his budget announced for 6 November.
But the independent office for budget responsibility (OBR) has now said it will go ahead and publish the latest figures anyway.
Our deputy political editor has more.
Johnson compares Corbyn to Goldilocks
Boris Johnson compared Jeremy Corbyn to Goldilocks, joking: “One offer is too hot, one’s too cold. I hope he’ll be able to stand up this afternoon and say this time, this offer of an election is just right.”
He added: “It will have a government that is yearning with every fibre of its being to be able to get on and deliver our one nation Conservative agenda.”
The PM went on: “There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless, wilful, fingers crossed, not me guv refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people and that is to refresh this parliament and give the people a choice.”
Downing Street has vowed to pull the early election bill if MPs pass an amendment to extend the franchise to 16- and 17-year olds, a Downing Street spokesman has said.
Asked if ministers would scrap the plan for a December election if the amendment passes, the spokesman said:
“Yes, in short.
“Nothing would sum up how broken this parliament is if, after them all standing up there and saying they want a general election, they vote for an amendment that is deliberately designed to prevent the delivery of a general election before 2020.
“If you amend the votes by changing the franchise you are voting for a further delay.
“You cannot honestly argue you are supporting an election on 12 December and also vote for a change in the franchise because it’s quite clear that a vote to change the franchise would create a six month delay.”
‘How many elections do we need?’ Voters in Coventry share their views
The Press Association has been out looking for the new Brenda from Bristol – the woman who famously moaned “not another one!” when the 2017 election was announced.
Would-be voters have been giving their reaction to a possible pre-Christmas general election.
On the streets of Coventry, people greeted the possibility of another vote with a mix of exasperation and scepticism as the possibility.
Natalie Seaman, who is from the city, said: “I suppose (it is) a bit annoying, but I want to see the Tories out so I am quite happy to have the opportunity to go and vote and try and get Boris Johnson and the Conservatives out. It’s not going to ruin my Christmas.”
A man who gave his first name as Thomas said: “It’s messed up because there’s too much corruption going on in this government at the moment.”
He added: “How many elections are we going to have in this country? How many do we need? This parliament have to sort out their problems between them.”
Adam Jones, describing Brexit as a “good thing”, said: “I’m not really that bothered (about an election). If Brexit has already been decided, then what is the general election for? Isn’t that what we voted for?”
One woman replied simply “it’s all a mess”, while another echoed the sentiments of Brenda from Bristol, saying “Another one?”
Another despairing male voter said: “They’re all idiots, I don’t like any of them.”
Corbyn says Labour will attempt to expand the electorate
Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that Labour will bring forward amendments to election bill on expanding vote to 16 and 17 year-olds, and to EU citizens.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty has tweeted a picture of his proposed amendment, which would lower the voting age to 16 for the forthcoming election.
Government threatens to pull its December election bill
The government is threatening to pull the early election bill, according to Robert Peston – if Labour insists on pushing an amendment to give EU citizens the vote.
Earlier the PM’s spokesman said: “Changing the election franchise days before an election could cause administrative chaos.
“There would be between 2.4 million to three million people added to the electoral roll at the last minute with no idea on the cost or logistical burden this could cause.”
Boris Johnson says MPs want to push Brexit back until ‘the 12th of never’
The prime minister says the government has “tried to be reasonable”. He accuses opposition MPs of wanting to “spin [Brexit] out forever, till the 12th of never”.
BREAKING: MPs vote in favour of Creasy amendment
MPs have backed, by 312 votes to 295, an amendment from Labour MP Stella Creasy to make it easier for MPs to put forward further amendments on the government’s bill for an early general election.
MPs voting on Creasy amendment to make further amendments on election bill possible
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the bill for an early general election would mean parliament would dissolve on November 6.
He told MPs: “This bill will need royal assent by November 5 for the House to dissolve just after midnight on November 6.
Rees-Mogg said this would allow for the 25 days required ahead of a general election on December 12.
But the Speaker has selected an amendment from Labour MP Stella Creasy to make it easier for MPs to put forward further amendments on the government’s bill for an early general election.
Referring to the Creasy amendment, Rees-Mogg said this was not necessary for “a straightforward piece of legislation”.
Mark Francois bids farewell to ‘midget’ Speaker
The Tory MP Mark Francois bid farewell to Speaker John Bercow by making a jibe about his height.
Calling on Francois to speak, Bercow said: “We stood against each other in Conservative student politics in 1986. I was the candidate of the right and he the candidate of the left. But some things change over the years.”
Responding, Francois said: “Mr Speaker, you won. And I can I say although we have not always agreed on everything, in the 18 years that I have been in this House, can I say most earnestly, from one midget to another, I wish you a long and happy retirement.”
MPs beg Bercow to stay on longer
Speaker John Bercow has been taking points of order ahead of the debate on the election bill in the Commons.
Some MPs have urged Bercow to stay on as Speaker past the scheduled end of this session on Thursday, when he is set to stand down.
Bercow said he had no ambition to stay any longer, but could stay, if asked, until early next week if the dissolution of parliament happens then.
Tories enjoying 10 point poll lead ahead of expected election
Lord Ashcroft suggests electoral pact with Brexit Party – and a peerage for Nigel Farage
The pollster and long-time Tory donor Lord Ashcroft has suggested Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice should be handed peerages in return for an electoral deal which could see the Conservatives given a “clear run” everywhere outside of a dozen seats in the North.
Giving 16-year-olds vote ‘administratively impossible’, says No 10
Asked about the early general election bill potentially being amended to allow votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, the prime minister’s spokesman said it would be “administratively impossible” to deliver.
“The government’s position has not changed: we have no plans to lower the national voting age.
“Eighteen is widely recognised as the age people become an adult. Below the age of 18 you are treated as a minor in both the foster care system and the criminal justice system. Full citizenship rights including voting should be gained at adulthood.”
He added: “I think it is also important for me to point out that votes at 16 are administratively impossible to deliver in the time available – there would be less than three weeks before the voter registration deadline to register 16 and 17-year-olds.”
And on EU nationals potentially being given the vote, the PM’s spokesman said: “Changing the election franchise days before an election could cause administrative chaos.
“There would be between 2.4 million to three million people added to the electoral roll at the last minute with no idea on the cost or logistical burden this could cause.
“This may in turn lead to delays with polling cards, postal votes and at polling stations that could undermine everyone’s ability to vote in the election.
“It would also mean EU nationals in the UK enjoying wider voting rights than UK nationals in any other country other than Ireland. Citizenship requirements are the norm in national elections in democracies including the United Kingdom.”
How many Labour MPs will vote against general election?
It seems there are still hopes among some backbencher Labour MPs that the scale of their rebellion could be big enough to deny Boris Johnson his December election.
Labour MP Peter Kyle – a leading supporter of a second referendum – says he won’t back it. If the election does go ahead, he suggests we could be heading for another hung parliament.
Liberal Democrat MP Sam Gyimah, a defector from the Tories, will stand in Kensington at the next election, he has announced.
The former minister and current MP for East Surrey will take on Labour incumbent Emma Dent Coad, although Kensington has typically been a Labour-Tory marginal. Dent Coad currently has a majority of just 20, so the Tories will be confident of winning the seat if the left-wing vote is split (the Lib Dems won just 12 per cent of the vote in 2017).
The unrest continues over at the People’s Vote campaign. We understand that the 40 staff members who were meeting with chairman Roland Rudd and Patrick Heneghan, the new chief executive, have now walked out in protest.
One staffer told The Independent that employees were “incredibly upset” and had discussed the possibility of resigning en masse. They added:
“People want to get back to work but now don’t feel safe or secure or happy in their jobs.”
Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen, a former Tory, has announced that she will stand down at the next election.
In her letter to her South Cambridgeshire constituents, she said she was “exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace”.
Labour MP calls general election ‘sheer madness’
While many Labour figures tweeted enthusiastically about the prospect of an election, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman posted: “Sheer madness to hold a General Election in December & on Boris Johnson’s agenda!”
Sheerman also claimed: “I hear Labour frontbenchers & whips resigning over decision to vote for December election.”