Boris Johnson to abandon general election bill if amendments pass allowing 16-year-olds and EU citizens to vote

Parliament blocked a bid by the government to ban amendments to its election bill

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 29 October 2019 16:33
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Creasy amendment allowing the general-election bill to be amended by opposition passes by 312 to 295

The government will pull plans for a 12 December general election if parliament passes amendments to allow 16 -17 year-olds or EU nationals to vote in it, Downing Street has said.

Number 10 sources made clear that they regard the changes to the franchise proposed by Labour MPs as attempts to “wreck” the plan for a snap election put forward by prime minister Boris Johnson.

The PM’s official spokesman told reporters that it would be “logistically impossible to deliver” the changes in time for a national vote in little more than five weeks’ time.

A government bid to prevent amendments to its election bill was rejected in the House of Commons by 312 votes to 295.

The UK briefly looked on track for a certain pre-Christmas election, after Jeremy Corbyn announced at Tuesday morning’s shadow cabinet meeting that Labour would back an early ballot now that no-deal Brexit is off the table.

But the party’s shadow leader of the Commons leader Valerie Vaz told MPs that Labour was “surprised and alarmed” at the government’s “unacceptable” motion, designed to rush legislation permitting an election through both Houses within three days.

And backbencher Stella Creasy tabled the successful amendment to lift the government’s proposed bar on changes to its plans.

Mr Johnson said Labour were not interested in delivering Brexit.

“All they want to do is procrastinate,” he said.

"They don't want to deliver Brexit on 31 October, on 31 November, even on 31 January,” he said.

"They just want to spin it out forever, until the 12th of never. And when the 12th of never eventually comes around, they'll devise one of their complicated parliamentary procedures and move a motion for a further delay and a further extension then."

A Number 10 source said that Labour whips, who were afraid of significant losses for the party in any election, appeared to have “temporarily lost control of Jeremy Corbyn and let him off the leash” and were now seeking to cancel out his election decision by making a public vote impossible.

Any vote to change the franchise for general elections would create at least a six-month delay because of the need to adapt electoral rolls, he suggested.

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