Lib Dems minded to support government’s one-line plan
The Liberal Democrats will smooth the route towards a pre-Christmas general election, Sebastian Payne writes.
The party is planning to table a simple piece of legislation to call an election on December 9, as it will not back the Johnson government’s motion tonight for an election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.
If the government’s motion fails – it will unless Labour changes its mind – then Number 10 will bring forward a bill “almost identical” to the Liberal Democrats’ offering. Crucially the party will support it.
One senior insider said they “can’t see any problem with us supporting it” but it would depend on its contents.
“The base line has to be triplelock protection of avoiding no-deal, don’t ask us to facilitate ramming the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons and the date must be set in stone.”
The Lib Dems are also not ruling out supporting a bill with a different election date, as Mr Johnson may opt for December 12 over December 9. “The sooner the better.”
Crucially, the Lib Dems have also said they are not minded to back any amendments to the bill that would impede its process through parliament.
“We wouldn’t want to support amendments because we want to get it through as a simple bill,” the insider said.
“If there were those kinds of amendments, it doesn’t go through. The clock is ticking, we’re losing important weeks,” said one MP. Such amendments may also be ruled out of scope.
If the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National party do support the government’s bill for an election without amendments, they could outmaneuver Labour.
Approximately 339 MPs could support this route, producing a rough majority of 19:
• Conservatives: 257
• Spartan Tories: 28
• SNP: 35
• Liberal Democrats: 19
It is unlikely that the Democratic Unionist party, most of the 23 independent Conservative MPs and other independents would support the election bill.