Boris Johnson denies government would go on strike

Boris Johnson drops plans for government to 'go on strike' if MPs reject pre-Christmas election after ridicule

No 10 vowed that ‘nothing will come before parliament but the bare minimum’ – but has now retreated

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
@Rob_Merrick
Friday 25 October 2019 17:58
comments

Boris Johnson has dropped plans for the government to go “on strike” if he fails to trigger a pre-Christmas general election, after the move was widely ridiculed.

No 10 had threatened to abandon all legislation if Jeremy Corbyn refuses to agree to a snap poll – saying “nothing will come before parliament but the bare minimum”.

But the stance, widely interpreted as going on strike, prompted criticism from both Brexit supporters and from Labour MPs, one of whom branded it “beyond childish”.

Now Downing Street has retreated, saying only Brexit legislation will be halted, while bills for the prime minister’s “domestic priorities” will go ahead.

Mr Johnson, speaking on a visit to a hospital, made clear there would be no strike and that he would pursue his wider agenda.

“We are going to be governing in the interests of the country. We are going to be continuing with our dynamic One Nation Conservative agenda,” he claimed.

“What we won’t do is engage in pointless Brexitology in parliament when parliament is simply committed to delay.”

Little more than 12 hours earlier, a Downing Street spokesman had told journalists only the “bare minimum” would be done, adding: “We will pursue a general election every day and do everything we can to get it.”

However, despite the “strike” being called off, the Treasury made clear the Budget, announced for 6 November, has been scrapped.

The prime minister is leaving open the option of pulling Monday’s vote, to overturn the Fixed-term Parliaments Act​ for a 12 December election, if the EU has not made its decision on an Article 50 extension.

However, No 10 still expects Brussels to decide early on Monday – but is braced for a delay to 31 January, which Mr Johnson has condemned as unacceptable.

Helen Goodman, a shadow minister, was among Labour MPs who questioned why Mr Johnson did not simply agree a timetable to bring back the withdrawal agreement bill, saying: “This is beyond childish.”

Another, Jess Phillips, protested: “Think of the progress that could be made on rights, security, safety and the future of our country.

“Think of that unique chance to change things. Imagine not bothering because you didn’t get your way.”

It now appears certain Labour will scupper the election on Monday, after Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, suggested “further legislation” was needed to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman insisted it would be “impossible” for the prime minister to change the election date – to beyond the expected new 31 January deadline – after parliament had been dissolved.

“Parliament dissolves 25 working days before the date of the election. At the moment of dissolution, the date of the election is locked,” he said.

He acknowledged a date change was possible in the few days between a vote to trigger an election and dissolution – but predicted MPs would seize control of the Commons to prevent that anyway.

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