Brexit: Senior Tory denies Boris Johnson's cabinet split over early general election

Labour frontbencher also says party will back an election after EU grants delay - despite splits among MPs

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 24 October 2019 12:41 BST
What does a no-deal Brexit mean?

A senior Tory has sought to dispel rumours of splits in Boris Johnson's cabinet over whether to call an early election to break the Brexit impasse.

As EU leaders consider whether to grant a further Brexit delay, the prime minister is facing the choice between pressing on with his Brexit deal or calling a snap election before Christmas.

Senior cabinet ministers are said to be divided over whether to gamble on a December poll, with Mr Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings reportedly pushing for the prime minister to ditch attempts to get his deal through parliament in favour of an early election.

Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith is said to be among those urging Mr Johnson to make another attempt to pass the deal, despite MPs' rejection of the prime minister's attempts to ram it through parliament by Halloween.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour would back an election once the EU granted an extension - despite deep divisions among Jeremy Corbyn's party over the timing of a poll.

Tory chairman James Cleverly insisted the cabinet was united around its support for a general election and rubbished reports of disunity among the prime minister's top team.

He told Sky News: "Don't always believe the papers. The cabinet makes collective decisions and when the cabinet speaks, it speaks with one voice.

"That is how it is meant to do, the cabinet position, the government's position, the prime minister's position is clear

"We are ready for a general election, we have been calling for an election for months. The Labour Party is frightened."

(Statista (Statista)

Asked whether Mr Cummings was running the government, Mr Cleverly said: "The prime minister is head of the government. I'm very happy to support him.

"I wasn't in those meetings and I've learned very, very quickly to take with a large pinch of salt some of the things which are said to have happened in meetings."

Downing Street has made it clear that the prime minister will push for an election if the EU grants a lengthy delay to leaving the EU.

But he needs the support of Labour MPs to secure a poll under fixed-term parliament legislation introduced by David Cameron, which requires the prime minister to win the support of two thirds of MPs.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the prime minister asks for one - despite widespread opposition from Labour MPs as the party struggles in the polls.

She told Today: "That's our position. But we also want the prime minister to look at the compromise that's been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that's the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the bill."

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said Labour is prepared for an election before Christmas "if necessary".

"We're hoping, step by step, hoping we can get some agreement with the government ... If we can't we're up for an election for whenever it comes, and we're confident..." he told ITV's Peston.

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