Boris Johnson to try again for December 12 general election despite defeat

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Boris Johnson is to push on with his effort to secure a pre-Christmas general election after MPs rejected his third attempt to go to the country.

The Prime Minister failed to get the two-thirds majority he needed to secure an election on December 12 under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA).

However, he was planning to come back on Tuesday with a "short" Bill setting aside the provisions of the FTPA which would require just a simple majority.

He said he would continue to press for a December 12 polling day - even though the Liberal Democrats and the SNP suggested at the weekend they could support a slightly earlier date of December 9.

As the Commons sat late on Monday night, Speaker John Bercow said the bill would be amendable amid concerns from Opposition MPs that their ability to do so might be limited.

However, there are fears in the Government that amendments to the bill -such as giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds - could be one way for those against it to bring it crashing down.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg made an attempt to win the opposition parties over by confirming that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to implement the PM's Brexit deal would not be brought back before MPs.

Following Monday's vote - which saw the Government fall 135 votes short of the 434 needed - Mr Johnson told MPs they had to end the deadlock over Brexit.

"We will not allow this paralysis to continue," he said.

He said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had "literally and figuratively" run away from the "judgment of the people."

In response to Mr Johnson's new bill, Mr Corbyn said Labour would "look at and scrutinise" it, but insisted again that no deal must be taken off the table before his party would back an early election.

"We look forward to a clear, definitive decision that no deal is absolutely off the table and there is no danger of this Prime Minister not sticking to his word because he has some form on these matters," he said.

A senior Labour MP suggested the party was poised to reject Mr Johnson's latest bid to get a pre-Christmas general election.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the proposed December 12 election would "disenfranchise" voters including students and cause voters "immense" difficulties getting to the polls.

Asked if Labour would rule out a winter general election, he told Sky News: "I think it's very unwise to be having a general election in the run-up to Christmas.

"If it comes, it comes. We will get on with it and we will take our proposals to the people.

"I doubt the wisdom of holding it at this time of year, it's not a wise choice."

There were not as many MPs in the House as there have been for recent votes, likely because several MPs abstained. Credit: House of Commons

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said his party would support the new plan for a December 12 election if the PM gave a "cast-iron guarantee" he would not bring back the WAB.

He told MPs: "It is clear that there is a desire on the Opposition benches to bring forward a Bill that can give us an election. But we don't trust this Prime Minister and we don't trust this Prime Minister for good reason.

"So the Prime Minister, if he is going to bring forward a Bill, must give an absolute cast-iron assurance that up until the passage of that Bill and the rising of Parliament, that there will be no attempt to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB)."

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson implied her party would reject new calls for a general election.

"He has chosen to stick to his original plan for December 12th which we have already rejected," Ms Swinson said.

She added that the Government must promise it would not bring back the WAB - something she did not trust the Prime Minister to do.

The 39-year-old continued that the Lib Dems want an election on the earlier date of December 9 as this would stop there being time for the WAB to be brought back before MPs.

Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons that ministers "will not bring back" the WAB, which was put on hold last week after Mr Johnson failed in his attempt to fast-track it through the Commons in just three days.

He said that all stages of legislation to trigger an early election would make their way through the Commons on Tuesday.

Government sources had suggested the proposed Lib Dem-SNP timetable - which would mean Parliament would have to be dissolved at one minute past midnight on Friday morning, was simply too tight to deliver.

A Number 10 source said: "We are laying a one-clause motion to amend the FTPA and call an election with the named day of December 12.

"The Bill is very similar to the Lib Dem-SNP Bill.

"The WAB will not be put back.

"This is the way to get Brexit done so the country can move on."

In a one-line Bill presented to the Commons, MPs will only need to back the general election motion by a simple majority for it to pass. Credit: PA

But Mr Johnson said "it's time" for voters to have a chance back his deal and "replace this dysfunctional Parliament with a new Parliament that can get Brexit done so the country can move on".

"Now that no deal is off the table" Mr Johnson said, "we have a great new deal".

Leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, tweeted: "If the PM wants to fight a general election on defending a new EU treaty, that is very disappointing for all Leavers. His new agreement is just not Brexit."

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk to confirm the UK's "formal agreement" to the Brexit extension.

He said the "unwanted prolongation" of Brexit is "damaging to our democracy" but wrote that he'd confirmed "the UK's formal agreement to this extension" to January 31.

If Mr Johnson's plan fails on Tuesday, he has few options remaining that would allow for him to call an early election, but one is a vote of no confidence in himself.

The problem with this route is that under the FTPA the opposition is given 14 days to form an alternative government before an election is called.