That’s all from us for today – thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s a summary of the day’s main events:
- The UK was gearing up for a 12 December general election after Boris Johnson’s plan to go to the country received the backing of the Commons. MPs voted through the prime minister’s proposal for a pre-Christmas ballot and rejected an opposition move to hold it three days earlier.
- Proposed amendments that would have enfranchised 16 and 17-year-olds, as well as EU nationals, were not taken forward. No 10 had said it would pull the bill altogether if the amendments were passed.
- The Tories restored the whip to 10 of the 21 MPs from whom it was withdrawn last month. The party stressed that the fact the other had not had the whip restored did not mean they would not.
- The UK might not get a further delay to Brexit if it cannot be sorted by 31 January 2020, Donald Tusk warned. The outgoing president of the European council again urged the UK not to waste the time it had been given.
- Two prominent MPs announced they were standing down. Heidi Allen, of the Lib Dems, cited the “nastiness and intimidation” she has endured, while the former Labour leadership contender, Owen Smith, referred to both “political and personal reasons”.
- Theresa May’s former chief Brexit adviser claimed more civil service planning for a leave vote in 2016 would probably not have helped much. Sir Olly Robbins was giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.
If you’d like to read yet more, my colleague Rowena Mason has the full story:
A Scottish majority for the SNP after the general election will show an “unequivocal and irresistible demand” for a second independence referendum, the party’s leader has claimed.
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to vow to “take the fight to the Tories” to keep Scotland in the EU and decide whether to remain part of the UK when she joins the party’s candidate for Stirling on the campaign trail on Wednesday. She said:
The SNP is ready for an election. We stand ready to take the fight to the Tories, to bring down this undemocratic government, and give Scotland the chance to escape from Brexit and decide our own future.
Scotland has been ignored and treated with contempt by Westminster, and this election is an opportunity to bring that to an end.
A win for the SNP will be an unequivocal and irresistible demand for Scotland’s right to choose our own future.
Ian Murray, one of seven Labour MPs north of the border, joked that it looks as though it would have to be a “Murray Christmas” after fighting off a deselection attempt spearheaded by Unite the union last week.
Jackson Carlaw MSP, the interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has claimed voting for his party will keep Scotland in the UK.
The choice for voters is this: Vote ScotTories to end the division and keep Scotland in the UK. A vote for anyone else risks Nicola Sturgeon winning and pushing ever harder for her unwanted and damaging independence referendum. We are ready and we are determined.
The Scottish Greens have said they will contest several seats, warning it will be “the most important one we’ve ever faced”. The party’s co-leader, Lorna Slater, has said:
We have just 10 years left to prevent climate breakdown but Westminster has been taken over by an authoritarian Tory government obsessed with forcing a disastrous Brexit on the country and doubling down on their climate-wrecking policies.
Instead of tackling the greatest risk to human life in history, the main parties at Westminster lurch from one crisis of their own making to another, which is why it is more important than ever that we have Green voices in there who are committed to a Scottish Green new deal, stopping Brexit and building a new progressive future for Scotland.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, appeared to show excitement for the election:
The home secretary’s chief of staff was escorted out of a bar in parliamentby armed police earlier – just as MPs were voting on an election that Boris Johnson wants to make about law and order.
Two people who witnessed the incident say James Starkie was ordered out of Strangers bar after swearing loudly in the vicinity of a Tory MP, Col Bob Stewart, being refused service and appearing to punch a door.
As police escorted him out of the bar, which is frequented by MPs, witnesses said he apologised for his behaviour.
Starkie is a familiar face around Westminster as a former Vote Leave campaigner who went on to work for Michael Gove, before taking up his position as a senior adviser to Priti Patel. A House of Commons spokesperson said:
We can confirm there was an incident with an individual in Strangers bar. The individual was asked to leave, and was escorted from the estate by parliamentary security
Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, has welcomed a general election being held on 12 December:
It is right that the people of Northern Ireland have their say through the ballot box. The DUP will use this opportunity to campaign strongly to send a message that Northern Ireland is better in the union of the United Kingdom and we cannot be separated economically from Great Britain.
We have a record of speaking up for Northern Ireland in Westminster and delivering for everyone in Northern Ireland.
At a time of great uncertainty as to who will form the next government how Northern Ireland votes will matter as never before. Unionists need their strongest team returned to so that Northern Ireland’s interests are protected in the next parliament. That team is the DUP.
Former Labour leadership contender to stand down as MP
Owen Smith, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in 2016, will not seek reelection, he has announced:
Dave Ward, the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), has tweeted:
Earlier this month, CWU members working for Royal Mail backed strikes by 97% in a huge turnout of almost 76%, raising the threat of industrial action in the run-up to Christmas.
The former cabinet minister, John Whittingdale, has said the prime minister told the meeting that, while it would be a “tough election”, the Tories have “everything to play for”. Whittingdale added:
He said it wasn’t because we were ahead in the polls or the because of the horror of Corbyn but because we had no alternative; that parliament is deadlocked and the only way to solve that is to have a general election.
(He said) we would be taking the deal which he negotiated – and which defied all expectation in that it got all that we wanted – and we will be campaigning to ratify that deal and then get on with tackling the big agenda.
The senior Tory MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said the prime minister was “pretty upbeat” about the Conservatives’ chances at an election.
Alistair Burt welcomed being one of the 10 Tory rebels readmitted to the parliamentary party. After leaving the 1922 Committee, he told reporters:
Back in the fold. It’s a big family and it’s very nice to have them back and I’m very appreciative. [Boris Johnson] is a born campaigner, no doubt about that.
Boris Johnson has told reporters it’s time for the country to “come together to get Brexit done” as he left the Conservative backbench MPs’ meeting.
Here’s a little more detail from HuffPost UK:
It is worth noting that Rees-Mogg has again declined to explicitly address whether or not the election of a new Commons speaker would go ahead before parliament is dissolved next Wednesday.
Asked about the matter for a second time in the Commons, he said he had nothing to add to his previous answer, which we summarised just a few moments ago.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said:
This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back.
The choice at this election could not be clearer: A Labour government will be on your side; while Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, who think they’re born to rule, will only look after the privileged few.
We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen. This is our chance to build a country for the many not the few and fit for the next generation.
Responding to the vote in parliament for a general election, the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, has said:
This general election will decide the future of our country for generations. It is our best chance to elect a government to stop Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and will be standing on a manifesto to stop Brexit by revoking article 50.
This country deserves better than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn and I am excited to take our positive, pro-European, liberal vision to the country as the Liberal Democrat candidate for prime minister.
Boris Johnson received a rapturous reception as he arrived at a meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee after his bid for an early general election cleared the Commons. Conservative MPs cheered and banged the table as he arrived for the meeting in parliament.
Asked whether the Commons will be electing a new speaker before it dissolves, Rees-Mogg says the dissolution date is Wednesday, so the Commons may be sitting on Monday and Tuesday.
The leader of the Commons, Jacob-Rees-Mogg, says he’ll set out tomorrow how the government intends to proceed for the rest of the week.
Also tomorrow, he says, the prime minister will address the Commons on the Grenfell inquiry’s report and MPs will discuss the Northern Ireland budget bill.
My colleague, Rowena Mason, has just published this on the vote for a general election on 12 December:
MPs back pre-Christmas general election
Boris Johnson’s wish for a general election on 12 December looks set to be granted after MPs voted in favour of it by 438 to 20; a majority of 418.
The prime minister had already defeated an attempt to change the date to 9 December (see: 8.01pm) – the only serious opposition remaining to his proposal – and the bill that seeks to implement a 12 December general election will now pass to the Lords, who are expected to wave it through.
MPs will soon vote on whether or not to hold the early general election, with the date – assuming they back it – having now been set as 12 December.
The Independent Group for Change MP, Chris Leslie, tried to move an unexpected amendment but was denied by the deputy speaker, Eleanor Laing. She then makes way for the Speaker, John Bercow, who calls for MPs to vote on a third and final reading.
UK set for 12 December election as MPs reject Labour amendment
The Commons has rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to hold an early general on 9 December, rather than the government’s plan to do so three days later.
MPs voted against amendment 2 by 315 votes to 295; a majority of 20.
Just before MPs went off to vote, the Tory backbench MP Steve Baker warned that, if the Lords amended the early parliamentary general election bill, they would be “playing with their own futures”. Baker, the chairman of the hard Brexit-supporting European Research Group, told the Commons:
On a serious note, this bill of course has to go through [the Lords] and I think if the other place were to put in amendments to this simple and straightforward bill, which sought to produce a particular outcome, I think we would have to say they have no right whatever to do that.
That it would be quite unconstitutional and I think they would be playing fire and indeed they would be playing with their own futures in that House were they to seek to amend this bill to produce a particular outcome.
MPs are now voting on amendment 2, which would change the date of the election from Thursday 12 December to Monday 9 December.
Here’s a little more on Labour’s preparations for the likely December election: It’s understood that trigger ballots are to be halted and that Labour MPs will now be automatically reselected – subject to NEC approval and assuming they haven’t decided to retire.
Any selection meetings in key marginals that were scheduled for this week will still go ahead. In those constituencies where no such meeting was planned, the selection will now be handled by panels staffed by NEC members and regional and constituency party representatives.
A Labour spokesman said:
After the 2017 snap general election, we immediately began democratic selections to ensure Labour members would be able to choose their candidates. Members have selected candidates in almost 200 seats.
We’re more prepared than we’ve ever been at this stage in the parliamentary cycle, ready to launch the most ambitious, radical campaign for real change that this country has ever seen.
Here’s a little more on the news that the Tory party has welcomed back 10 rebel MPs. The prime minister was said to have told them he always wanted to find a way for them to rejoin the party and the 10 MPs accepted his offer to be readmitted. A party spokesman said:
They have had the whip offered back to them, they have accepted the whip: they are Conservative Members of Parliament with the Tory whip.
He said the decision was not a comment on those who have not had the whip restored. The former Tory chancellors, Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, along with former justice secretary, David Gauke, are among those not to have been welcomed back.
Their number also includes Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve, as well as Rory Stewart, Guto Bebb, Anne Milton and Antoinette Sandbach. Each of them remains an independent MP, while Sam Gyimah joined the Lib Dems.
The Tory MP Andrew Percy has called for a “more civil campaign” during the next general election. The Brigg and Goole MP said:
The 2017 election was an appalling campaign for many of us to go through and the abuse and threats and damage to property, damage to constituents’ property perpetrated, in some cases, by people in the name of the leader of the opposition.
So I hope the campaign next time in December is a more civil campaign on all sides, because this is not a matter that one side owns particularly.
There is a report around that the government has agreed to drop 12 December as the date and go for 9 December:
But the Tory backbencher, Steve Baker, has just told MPs:
I have just popped out to ask ... an authoritative source whether we’ve given way on the date and I understand the government’s not given way on the date. But who knows what discussions are going on behind the scenes?
We’re now getting some reaction to the news that the Tories have restored the whip to those 10 rebel MPs. The prime minister’s brother Jo Johnson, who is not seeking reelection, has welcomed it:
As have Damian Green, who was de facto deputy prime minister under Theresa May, and the former education secretary, Nicky Morgan:
The backbench MP, Ben Howlett, is somewhat less appeased:
As is now being pointed out by some correspondents in Westminster, it’s not entirely clear at this point why the whip has been restored to some of the 21 MPs and not others:
Tories restore the whip to 10 MPs
It’s now been confirmed that the Conservative party has agreed to welcome back into the fold 10 of the 21 MPs from whom the whip was withdrawn last month.
The rebel MPs were expelled after defying Boris Johnson’s orders to oppose efforts to wrest control of the parliamentary agenda from No 10. The prime minister had warned them he considered the matter equivalent to a confidence vote.
The party has confirmed that the 10 MPs are:
- Alistair Burt
- Caroline Nokes
- Greg Clark
- Sir Nicholas Soames
- Ed Vaizey
- Margot James
- Richard Benyon
- Stephen Hammond
- Steve Brine
- Richard Harrington
My colleague, Rajeev Syal, has this interesting line from a Labour source on trigger ballots:
And there are now multiple reports in Westminster that Boris Johnson is offering to return the whip to some of the 21 MPs from whom it was withdrawn:
Olly Robbins tells MPs civil service planning for leave vote in 2016 would probably not have helped much
Sir Olly Robbins, who was Theresa May’s chief Brexit adviser when she was PM, has been giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee this afternoon. Here are the main points he made.
- Robbins suggested he was slow to realise how difficult it would be finding a solution to the post-Brexit border issue for goods in Ireland. He told the committee:
I think we had all, to some extent, professionally grown up in a world where the movement of goods was a really very boring and obvious thing.
And the movement of people was interesting and politically controversial. And we therefore thought that the central issue in settling our post-Brexit relationship with Ireland was going to be the maintenance of the common travel area, and the mutual sustainment of rights for Irish people and British people in one another’s territories, and the sort of core of the identity problem that the Good Friday agreement had attempted to solve.
I think I probably, to only criticise myself, was slower. I had weeks rather than months to come to the realisation that actually the people-side of this, while not being complacent about any of it, was, as a bureaucrat, an easier problem to see one’s way through than the movement of physical goods.
- He dismissed suggestions that the UK would be better prepared for Brexit if civil servants had planned for a leave vote before the 2016 referendum. He told MPs:
I know debate continues to rage, rightly and understandably, about whether it was the right political decision not to do contingency planning.
I do think, as I say, very personal view, you can probably overdo the extent to which a vast Whitehall process of churning out ring-binders full of papers pre-June 2016 would somehow have meant that the British state was far, far better prepared afterwards.
- He suggested that, if the civil service had tried to flag up post-Brexit problems with the Irish border before the referendum, no one would have taken any notice. He said:
I think if my Cabinet Office colleagues, who were in post at the time or more generally across Whitehall - I was in the Home Office at the time - if we’d been asked to produce a paper on what does the border look like after a no vote, a leave vote, I think we would have ended up in a position whereby we would have produced what I hope would have been a good quality piece of work, but I’m not sure anyone would have read it.
That’s all from me for tonight.
My colleague Kevin Rawlinson is now taking over.
From LBC’s Theo Usherwood
Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office minister, is responding to Cat Smith.
He says that the government needs time to pass a budget for the devolved administration in Northern Ireland before parliament can be prorogued. If that legislation does not get passed, public sector workers would end up not being paid, he says.
And he says he does not accept the argument about students not being able to vote if the poll is on 12 December. He says most of the big universities will not broken up for the Christmas holidays by then. And he says students always have the option of voting by post.
Cat Smith, the shadow deputy leader of the Commons, opens the debate, moving amendment 2, the one that would change the date of the election from Thursday 12 December to Monday 9 December. She says Labour wants as many people as possible to participate in the election.
Labour fears that students would be less likely to vote on 12 December, because some of them would have gone home at the end of term.
MPs have now moved on to the bill’s committee stage. Lindsay Hoyle, the deputy speaker who is chairing this stage of the proceedings, has just read out the amendments selected. They are the same as those on the provisional list issued earlier. (See 5.19pm.)
MPs pass early election bill at second reading without need for division
MPs have given the bill its second reading by acclamation.
John Bercow, the Speaker, asked MPs to shout aye and no as he called the division. This is how divisions normally start. But only a few MPs shouted “no”, they were clearly outnumbered by the ayes, and so the bill got its second reading on the nod.
The Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden is now winding up for the government.
He says an election is necessary because parliament has stopped the government implementing Brexit. It voted for the Benn act, which forced the government to request a Brexit delay.
From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
MPs set to vote on amendment to hold election on Monday 9 December not Thursday 12
Amendment 2, which is set to be put to a vote (see 5.19pm), is a Jeremy Corbyn amendment that would change the date of the election to Monday 9 December, from Thursday 12 December. It is also been signed by the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.
The government is opposed to this, because it would mean parliament proroguing on Thursday, making it hard for the government to pass legislation needed to approve a budget for Northern Ireland, but it has not said that the passing of this amendment would lead to the bill having to be shelved.
Amendments on votes at 16 and votes for EU nationals not set to be put to vote
The amendments on extending the franchise to give EU nationals and 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the general election have not been selected, according to Tony Grew (aka @PARLYapp).
This means the prospect of the government facing a defeat on these issues, and then deciding to pull the bill, has probably been removed.
Phillips says the current electoral laws are not fit for purpose. She says at the last election someone was able to stand against her whose main claim to fame was that he had threatened to rape her.
A one-line bill will not sort out these problems, she says.
She says she will happily go back to her constituency for the election, so she can spend six weeks sleeping in her own bed and seeing her children.
But she thinks, when it comes to addressing the problems facing democracy, this bill will be “useless”, she says.
The Labour MP Jess Phillips is speaking in the debate now. She says the problem facing parliament is that the government is behaving as if it has got a majority when it hasn’t.
The idea of introducing a bill that might attract majority support in the Commons was never considered, she says.
She says MPs are in a “twilight zone” where the government seems to think it only has to write down a proposal and it will pass. That is not the way parliament works, she says.
She says she represents a leave seat. But she is not worried about that, even though she voted remain. She says her majority went up at the last parliament.
Phillips asks what will happen if there is another hung parliament. The election will be a Rorschach test, she says. MPs will look at the result and draw whatever conclusion from it they want.
She says MPs should be honest about the fact that they will interpret the election results to suit their own agendas.
The Brexit extension until 31 January has now been officially confirmed, my colleague Jennifer Rankin reports.
Tusk tells UK it might not get another Brexit extension
Donald Tusk, the outgoing president of the European council, has sent the UK a farewell tweet.
He says this extension could be the UK’s last.
(Whether that is true or not is another matter. In practice, the EU27 would be reluctant to push the UK out of the EU against its will. If Labour won the election, it would request another extension to allow time for a renegotiation and a referendum.)
Tusk also urged the UK not to waste the time granted by an extension when the last one was announced in April. It is hard to argue that his advice was taken to heart, because it was another six months before a new UK government agreed an alternative Brexit plan with the EU.
These are from ITV’s Robert Peston.
Anne Main, a Conservative Brexiter, is currently speaking in the debate at the moment. She has been going on for a while, arguing that the public want to have the Brexit situation resolved.
You will have noticed that I haven’t been giving the speeches minute-by-minute. But you are not missing anything. The whole debate for far has been rambling and rather dull.
From ITV’s Joe Pike
Government will pull bill if amendments to give vote to EU nationals or 16- and 17-year-olds pass, says No 10 source
If anyone had any doubt about this, Downing Street has confirmed it will withdraw the general election bill if MPs attach amendments to extend votes to either 16- and 17-year olds, or EU nationals.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman had already said such a move would bring “administrative chaos”, and go against the convention that changes to the franchise are done over time and via consultation, but went no further.
However, a No 10 source confirmed such amendments would be fatal to the bill:
You cannot honestly argue that you are supporting an election on 12 December and vote for a change in the franchise. It’s quite clear a vote to change the franchise would create a six-month delay.
Sam Gyimah, the former Conservative minister who defected to the Liberal Democrats, has used an interview in the Evening Standard to say he will stand for his new party as a candidate in Kensington. It used to be a seat with a decent Tory majority (although not as safe as it was when it was part of the Kensington and Chelsea constituency), but at the 2017 general election Labour’s Emma Dent Coad pulled off a surprise victory, winning with a majority of 20.
The Lib Dems came a poor third in the seat in 2017. Asked why he thought he had a chance, Gyimah told the Standard:
You have the Conservative party pursuing a reckless hard Brexit, which has turned its back on business and is out of touch with modern Britain. Then you have a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn who is unfit to be the prime minister and stands for an assault on property rights and people’s pensions. What we bring are sensible pragmatic policies and getting things done. Throughout Brexit I’ve shown that I stand for the values that diverse, forward-looking people in Kensington share.
Back in the debate Labour’s Pat McFadden is speaking now. He says if something was a bad idea yesterday, it is still a bad idea today.
If something was a bad idea yesterday, it might just be a bad idea today.
I don’t believe that the prime minister has been pushing for an election because it is impossible in any way to get his deal through, after all the proposal received its second reading last week.
This is being done because the prime minister wants to avoid proper scrutiny of his proposals before he calls an election, and he has been desperate since the day he took office to run this election.
Boris Johnson has been desperate for an election, he says. And he says there are two reasons why it is a bad idea.
An election does not take a no-deal Brexit off the table, he says.
And he says Johnson’s Brexit deal is flawed. It would involve two Brexits: one for Northern Ireland, and one for the rest of the UK.
These are from ConservativeHome’s Mark Wallace.
Labour’s Kevan Jones says he will not be voting for an early election. Here is an extract from the statement he has written explaining his position.
Now that a deal has moved past second reading, and time has been afforded to discuss it, the government is now calling a general election, an entirely unnecessary exercise, instead of allowing scrutiny of its own bill. It remains my belief today that this impasse must be overcome by deliberation and cooperation in parliament.
As such, I will not vote for an early general election today.
And the Labour MP Anna Turley says she won’t vote for an early election either.
From ITV’s Carl Dinnen
The Tory MP Bob Seely is speaking now. He criticises Labour for obstructing Brexit, saying Jeremy Corbyn is someone who can neither oppose nor lead. But Labour’s Kevan Jones says Labour offered to sit down with the government to negotiate a new programme motion, to allow the withdrawal agreement bill to go ahead, but with MPs getting sufficient time to debate it.
Seely does not accept the point. But Jones repeatedly says Labour made this offer. Jones says it was Boris Johnson who decided not to press ahead with the withdrawal agreement bill, not Labour.
The Labour MP Paul Farrelly told the Commons he would not vote for an early election. Intervening earlier in the debate, Farrelly said:
[I’d] encourage as many of my colleagues as possible to defy the threats and blandishments to do so because the reality is that the uncertainty of an outcome of a general election certainly does not take no-deal off the table.
Swinson says she would always vote to give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote.
Anyone sceptical about this should look at what happens in Scotland. She says in Scotland you see sixth-formers leaving school in the afternoon and going to the polling station. It is “a sight to see”, she says.
Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, is speaking now.
She says Boris Johnson “had a cheek” talking about the whole UK in his opening speech. Johnson has not been acting in the interests of the whole of the UK. He has let Northern Ireland down. He said no Conservative PM would accept a border in the Irish Sea. But that is exactly what he has done, she says.
I’ve beefed up some of the earlier posts from the opening of the debate with direct quotes from speeches, including from Boris Johnson’s. (See 2.41pm.) To get the updates to show, you may need to refresh the page.
Blackford is still speaking. He says the government should extend the franchise to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote, and EU nationals to vote in general elections.
He says EU nationals are on the electoral register already.
At the end of his speech Blackford receives applause from SNP MPs.
The full text of the bill is now here (pdf), on the UK parliament website.
And the explanatory notes are here (pdf).
Amendments to the bill would normally be on this page too, but they are not, because the bill was only published today and the amendments are only going in now.
The Labour MP Stephen Doughty says he has tabled an amendment to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.
Reminder: just because an amendment has been tabled, that does not mean it will be put to a vote.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, is speaking now.
He says the SNP has been accused of trying to obstruct Brexit. “Guilty as charged,” he says.
Corbyn is wrapping up now. He says Labour is ready for this election. He wants to give people hope. He will go out there and give that message, whenever the election takes place.
Whatever date the house decides the election will be, I’m ready for it, we’re ready for it.
Because we want to be able to say to the people of this country there is an alternative to austerity. There is an alternative to inequality. There is an alternative to sweetheart trade deals with Donald Trump.
There is an alternative of a government that invests in all parts of the country, a government that’s determined to end injustice in our society.
And a government that is determined to give our young people a sense of hope in their society rather than the prospects of indebtedness and insecure employment in the future, which is sadly all the Conservative government and their coalition with the Lib Dems ever brought.
I’m very ready to go out there and give that message in any election, whenever it comes.
If Sky’s Kate McCann is right, Labour backing for votes from the age 16 and votes for EU nationals (see 2.46pm) will not make any difference because the amendments will not be called.
Corbyn says Labour will be supporting votes for people aged 16 and 17, and also supporting the right of EU nationals to vote in the general election. He says, if EU nationals have made their future in this country, they should have the right to vote here too.
In response to an intervention from a Scottish MP, Corbyn says the idea of making election day a public holiday, so as to increase turnout, is a good one.
He also says he favours extending the franchise to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote.
Jeremy Corbyn is responding to Johnson. He says he is looking forward to campaigning all over the country. And he says he will campaign against Johnson in Johnson’s constituency, Uxbridge and South Ruislip - if Johnson is still the candidate there.
Corbyn is referring to rumours that Johnson might switch to a safer seat.
Boris Johnson opens early election debate
Boris Johnson opened the debate. His speech was very like the one he delivered last night, although it also sounded as if he had written it before Labour confirmed that it wanted an early election.
I will post some quotes here an an update later.
UPDATE: Here are extracts from the speech.
It is now a week since parliament voted to delay Brexit, yet again. It is a week since this parliament voted yet again to force Brussels to keep this country in the European Union, for at least another three months, at a cost of £1bn a month ...
I’ve twice offered more time for debate, Mr Speaker, I’ve offered more time last week, I made the same offer last night. I said that we were prepared to debate this bill, the withdrawal bill, around the clock, to allow parliament time to scrutinise this bill, to the point of intellectual exhaustion ...
Not only has this house been considering this issue for three-and-a-half years, but last week when this bill was being debated there was not a single new idea, there was not a single new suggestion, and all they wanted was more time, more weeks, more months, when they couldn’t even provide the speakers to fill the time allotted.
[Labour] 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 ...
There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless, wilful, fingers crossed, ‘not me guv’ refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people and that is to refresh this parliament and give the people a choice.
Does government defeat on Creasy amendment mean bill might fall?
How significant is the government defeat on the Stella Creasy amendment? (See 2.23pm.) At this point it is hard to tell. As ITV’s Robert Peston reports, government sources are saying that, if an amendment to the bill giving EU nationals the right to vote in the general election gets passed, the government will pull the bill, and the December election will not go ahead.
Presumably the same would apply if an amendment were passed to give the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds - although enfranchising EU nationals would be easier, because they already can vote in local elections.
The fact that the Creasy amendment has been passed means that it is possible that amendments on these topics could now be put to a vote.
But we don’t know yet whether they will be put to a vote. The clerks would have to accept that they were “in scope” (ie, relevant to the subject of the bill). And the chair would have to decide to call such amendments (which is never a given).
Even if there are votes on these topics, it is not clear that they would pass. Opposition MPs would vote in favour, but the opposition is only winning votes at the moment with the support of the ex-Tory independents, and people in that camp tend not to be the sort of people who favour introducing major constitutional change in a rush.
And, finally, if Labour actually does want an early election – and this morning Jeremy Corbyn looked as if he did (see 11.54am), although many of his colleagues obviously have their doubts – then it would make sense for the party to let these amendments fail.
We will find out later today. The final votes should take place at about 7.45pm.
Johnson loses procedural vote on early election bill, meaning opposition amendments can now be considered
Boris Johnson has lost the first vote. The Stella Creasy amendment has been passed by 312 votes to 295 - a majority of 17.
This means that, during the main debate, opposition amendments can be accepted.
The business motion as amended goes through on the nod.
From the official Labour whips Twitter account
MPs vote on Creasy's amendment to business motion
MPs are now voting on Stella Creasy’s motion.
If passed, this would ensure that during the main debate on the bill MPs can propose amendments in the usual way. Under the government’s plan, only amendments from the government would be put to a vote.
Labour’s Stella Creasy is now moving her amendment. (See 11.20am.) She says the government has tried to rig the debate. That is because the programme motion takes away the right of the chair to select any amendment for debate. She says that is “not cricket”.
If this programme motion is allowed to stand, it would set a precedent for future debates, she says.
She says if the bill is to pass, it should do so via fair play.
The SNP’s Pete Wishart says, if Labour is going to oppose this programme motion, this bill might not progress.
He says Boris Johnson has failed to deliver his key promise to deliver Brexit by 31 October. He says the “Kippers” (Ukip supporters), Faragists and rightwing Tories must feel like mugs.
He says a December election is not ideal. He says in parts of his constituency in December it gets dark at 3.30pm. But he says this is a risk worth taking for the sake of having an early election.
Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, is now speaking. She criticises the way the government has introduced this bill, saying MPs have had very little time to implement it.
She says the programme motion is “unacceptable” and deliberately designed to frustrate the Commons.
Rees-Mogg says the government wants this bill to get royal assent by 5 November, so that the house can rise on 6 November. He says parliament also has to pass a budget for the Northern Ireland assembly before then.
He says this is a short bill, and that the business motion is routine. He says Stella Creasy’s amendment in itself would not wreck the bill, but it would be a “gateway to amendments that could seek to obstruct the bill”, he says.
MPs debate early election bill
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, is now moving the business motion for the debate, which gets considered before the second reading debate starts.
John Bercow, the Speaker, announces that he will call Stella Creasy’s amendment to the business motion, which would block an attempt by the government to limit the ability of MPs to force votes on amendments to the bill. (See 11.20am.)
Bercow urges MPs not to spend too much time debating the business motion. He says the second reading vote must take place four hours from now.
Bercow says candidates for Speaker should decide if they want to delay election to replace him
John Bercow, the Speaker, is responding to the points of order.
He says this should be a matter for the candidates to replace him.
He says he has no desire to serve beyond Thursday evening.
But if people want him to stay on, he would be willing to, he suggests.
MPs urge Bercow to delay election of new Speaker until after general election
In the Commons John Bercow, the Speaker, is now taking points of order.
Bercow was due to stand down as Speaker on Thursday, with the election of the new Speaker scheduled for Monday.
But some MPs are now urging Bercow to stay in office until the end of this session, which will either be on Thursday, or on Monday or Tuesday next week, depending on what gets agreed as to the timing of an election.
Chris Bryant, who is one of the candidates to be the next Speaker, said now was not the right time to elect a new Speaker.
Newnight’s Nicholas Watt says it is not yet certain that the December election will go ahead. He explains:
We will find out shortly, because the debate on the programme motion is about to start.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, that drug pricing would not be included in any trade deal with the US after Brexit. Responding to a reference to the Channel 4 Dispatches investigation saying that drug pricing has been discussed in talks between UK and US officials, Hancock said:
The NHS is off the table in trade talks and pharmaceutical pricing is off the table and transparency over pharmaceutical pricing would not benefit this country at all because we get the best deals in the world because we can keep them confidential.
Here is the Evening Standard’s take on Labour’s decision to back an early election. The Standard, of course, is edited by the former Tory chancellor George Osborne.
OBR to publish new economic forecasts during election so voters can better understand 'fiscal policy options'
One of the joys of an election is the unexpected event that has the potential to derail campaign planning. The 2019 general election was only confirmed (effectively) about two hours ago, but Boris Johnson has already received his first election setback; in a surprise announcement, the Office for Budget Responsibility has announced that it plans to publish revised economic forecasts on 7 November.
Robert Chote, the OBR chair, has revealed this in an open letter to the Treasury (pdf).
Normally the OBR publishes revised economic forecasts twice a year, accompanying the budget and the spring/autumn statement (the timing of the budget determines which it is). Chote says the OBR started working on new forecasts when the Treasury announced a budget for 6 November. But that budget has been cancelled.
There were suspicions that one reason for the cancellation of the budget was that it would involve the government having to publish OBR figures showing that there was less scope for tax cuts and spending increases after the election than the Tories might like to admit. Chote does not address this point directly. But he says that, since the OBR last published a forecast in March, government borrowing has increased more than expected and there has been a “rapid growth” in public spending. He goes on:
Given the importance of these changes for public understanding of the baseline against which the government will need to judge its fiscal policy options, we believe that it would be useful to explain publicly the impact that they would have had on our March forecast, had they been known at the time.
If any of the parties are planning extravagant promises on tax and spending, the new OBR figures may cast extra doubt on their credibility.
But the OBR analysis is not likely to undermine the arguments in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. One report (pdf) has argued it would be much worse for the economy than Theresa May’s deal over the long term. But Chote says that the OBR forecasts only cover a five-year horizon, and that the impact of the new deal, compared with the previous one, would be “relatively modest”.
No 10 rules out changing franchise for general election
Downing Street has set out its red lines ahead of the debate on calling a December election. In brief – the government seems open to a 10 or 11 December date, but is dead set against amendments extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds or EU nationals.
On the date, while the Lib Dem hope for a 9 December poll, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said this would require parliament to dissolve at the start of Friday this week, so as to allow the necessary 25 working days between dissolution and polling.
This would make it “very difficult” for both the election bill and a separate bill on budgets for the suspended Northern Ireland assembly to pass through the Commons and Lords and receive royal assent in time, the spokesman said.
Also, 9 December is a Monday, meaning election preparations would take place of the preceding weekend, which would be logistically difficult and costly, he added.
However, it seems the government could compromise on 10 or 11 December.
In contrast, there seems no possibility of compromise on adding younger voters or EU nationals, with Johnson’s spokesman saying that longstanding convention dictates that changes to the franchise only happen after extensive consultation. He said:
The election law on the franchise should not be changed days before the calling of a general election. The Electoral Commission warns against changing electoral laws less than six months before an election.
Adding 16- and 17-year-olds would be “administratively impossible to deliver in the time available”, he said, warning also that adding EU nationals would bring “administrative chaos”.
The latter point seems less certain given that EU nationals can already vote in local elections, and so many are registered.
But the No 10 spokesman added: “It would also mean EU nationals in the UK enjoying wider voting rights than UK nationals in any other country other than Ireland.”
These are from the Labour MP Barry Sheerman.
I’ve asked Labour if it can confirm or deny what Sheerman is saying about resignations, but have not had a reply yet.
Heidi Allen to stand down, saying she has had enough of 'nastiness and intimidation' MPs face
Heidi Allen, the former Conservative MP who defected to Change UK and then ended up a Liberal Democrat, has announced that she won’t be standing again in her South Cambridgeshire constituency.
In an open letter to her constituents, she says she is “exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace”.
The Financial Times is running its own poll tracker (a chart that incorporates the results of all published polls). It has the Conservatives 11 points ahead of Labour.
Most general elections get described as the most important the country has faced for a generation or so. Here is the academic Matthew Goodwin making a case for why this might be true this time around.
Ruth Davidson abandons plan to join PR firm while still serving as MSP
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has confirmed that she will not take up her new post at an international communications firm while she continues to sit in the Scottish parliament.
Davidson faced a storm of criticism after the announcement last Thursday that she intended to take up an appointment as a senior adviser to Tulchan Communications – their managing partner is the former Conservative party chair Andrew Feldman, a close ally of David Cameron – before stepping down as an MSP in 2021. It was reported that Davidson would be paid £50,000 for 24 days’ work a year.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, as the Holyrood parliament returns after its autumn recess, Davidson said:
The debate in Scotland about my taking an advisory role with Tulchan Communications has become increasingly contentious. I, and Tulchan, have therefore agreed not to proceed with the appointment.
She continues to insist that she does not believe the role amounted to a conflict of interest, continuing:
I sat down with Scottish parliamentary officials in advance to go through the code of conduct, in detail, in order to avoid any conflict and to ensure I would be working within the rules at all times. The role reflected this.
The consensus view from political opponents and commentators is that working to improve businesses’ understanding of the cares and concerns of people is somehow incompatible with my role as an MSP. So if I am asked to choose between Holyrood and this role, then I choose the parliament I have dedicated the last nine years to, eight as party leader, a decision Tulchan supports.
Corbyn says Labour will fight its biggest campaign ever
Jeremy Corbyn has just delivered a clip for broadcasters confirming Labour’s decision to back an early election and saying the party is “totally determined” to win it. He was surrounded by members of his shadow cabinet, most (but not all) of whom looked happy about the decision.
Repeating the points he made in the statement released earlier (see 10.52am), Corbyn said the party would not back an early election until a no-deal Brexit had been taken off the table. But following the confirmation from the EU that there will be an extension, the party was now ready to back one, he said.
(This marks a discreet climbdown from Sunday, when the party was saying that a Brexit extension on its own would not be enough to persuade it that no deal had been taken off the table.)
Corbyn said Labour would fight its biggest campaign ever. He said:
So we are going to go out there, with the biggest campaign this party has ever mounted – totally united, totally determined - and I’m absolutely looking forward to going to every part of the country with my wonderful shadow cabinet team here and all the fantastic Labour activists to give message of hope where there isn’t one with this government.
He sidestepped a question about whether the party would insist on any conditions before it backed the government bill, implying it wouldn’t, and instead said he could not wait for the campaign to start.
I can’t wait to get out there on the streets. In every town and village in this country, Labour will be there, giving a message of real hope where this government offers nothing.
And when asked if any of his team had doubts about the decision, he replied:
Do you know what, the Labour party loves a debate. But they also love the end of a debate. And this is the end of the debate, and we are going out there to win.
There is one urgent question today.
The Labour decision to back an early election means Boris Johnson is going to get his way, and the bill calling for a poll in December is going to pass. Labour is still planning to push various amendments, but it has agreed to an early election in principle and none of these amendments are being described as red lines.
But MPs will still have to debate the bill. A complicated business motion (pages 6 to 9 on the order paper) has been tabled, saying the whole process should take six hours, with the second-reading vote coming four hours after the start of proceedings.
Unusually, the business motion limits the ability of MPs to amend the bill by saying that that there should be a limit on the number of votes allowed by the Speaker and that amendments moved by ministers should take priority.
The Labour MP Stella Creasy has tabled her own amendment to the business motion that would open up the process and allow amendments to be voted on as usual.
This means the opening of the proceedings will be dominated by a row about process, because the business motion has to be agreed before the second-reading debate can start.
These are from Sky’s Lewis Goodall.
From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
Britain set for December election as Corbyn lifts Labour's opposition to bill
Labour has just released this statement from Jeremy Corbyn. This is what he told the shadow cabinet this morning.
I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to no-deal Brexit being off the table.
We have now heard from the EU that the extension of article 50 to 31 January has been confirmed, so for the next three months, our condition of taking no deal off the table has now been met.
We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.
In this statement Corbyn is not saying anything about the conditions he flagged up yesterday for Labour supporting an early election. That implies the party is not insisting on firm red lines, and that it will support the bill – meaning the early election is definitely on.
This is from the BBC’s Iain Watson.
This does not necessarily mean Labour will back the bill as it currently stands, because yesterday Jeremy Corbyn signalled that, although he might back an election in December, he had a problem with the proposed date, Thursday 12.
From the New Statesman’s Patrick Maguire
From the BBC’s Adam Fleming
More from the People’s Vote campaign, where the Twitter feed seems to be under the control of the anti-Rudd faction. (See 10.16am.)
Around 40 members of staff at the People’s Vote campaign have written to Roland Rudd, who effectively runs it, complaining about his decision to dismiss two of its most senior executives, James McGrory and Tom Baldwin. In the letter, which was sent last night, they said:
It is utterly absurd that at this critical time for our country, you have started an argument about how our campaign is run.
We do not want a public argument, we simply want to get back to work, delivering the people’s vote that our country so desperately needs.
Your actions have meant that we have been unable to do that, at this critical juncture for the campaign and the country.
As the staff of the People’s Vote campaign, we demand you allow us to continue with our work, under the leadership of James and Tom.
My colleagues Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason have a good article explaining the background to the row here.
The gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK has increased slightly to 8.9%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. As the Press Association reports, the new figure compares with 8.6% last year, which was the lowest since records began in 1997, when it stood at 17.4%. The difference in pay of all male and female workers, including those in part-time jobs, has fallen from 17.8% in 2018 to 17.3% in 2019, and continues to fall, the report said. For people under 40 years of age, the pay gap for full-time employees is now “close to zero”, the ONS said.
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has said his party’s votes “should not be taken for granted” by the prime minister today, refusing to confirm whether he would support Johnson’s latest attempt to call a December election, but insisting that his party still wanted one “as soon as possible”.
Of course, Blackford can’t take his own MPs for granted either: yesterday the long-serving Western Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil, broke ranks to criticise SNP support for a winter election.
Asked on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme about his own comments last week that going to the polls in December was “barking mad”, especially in a northern constituency like his, Blackford insisted that circumstances had now changed because of the EU’s extension. He said:
I have no particular relish to have an election over the course of the next weeks but we’re going to have to accept our responsibility. People will still come out.
Asked whether he accepted that a potential outcome of a general election could be a Tory majority and a no-deal Brexit, Blackford said it was “up to the Labour party and others in England and Wales to do their job in defeating the Conservatives. We will do that in Scotland. But the simple fact remains that we cannot sit back and allow this prime minister to take us out of Europe.”
He added that in Scotland “we have the insurance policy of having a referendum on independence”, which the SNP intends to make a key election issue.
But the party must also be aware of echoes of 1979, when the SNP helped to bring down the minority Labour government, ushering in two decades of Tory rule, a memory that still smarts for some.
Johnson using election to move Tories further right, says Hammond
In his Today interview Philip Hammond, the former Tory chancellor, also said that he thought the Vote Leave faction in Downing Street – the advisers who used to work with Boris Johnson on the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, of whom the most important is Dominic Cummings – wanted an early election because they wanted to recast the Conservative party, removing remainers such as Hammond himself. He told the programme:
I fear that the real narrative here is that the Vote Leave activists – the cohort that has seized control in Downing Street and to some extent in the headquarters of the Conservative party – want this general election to change the shape of the Conservative party in parliament. To get rid of a cohort of MPs it regards as not robust enough on this issue and then replace them with hardliners.
As evidence, Hammond cited this tweet last night from Arron Banks, the former Ukip donor and founder of the Leave.EU campaign.
My colleague Kate Proctor has written up the Hammond interview in full here.
No 10 signals willingness to compromise over date of early election in hope of winning over opposition
This is from PoliticsHome’s Kevin Schofield.
A government source who would know says this is true,
As of this morning there were three days separating the Lib Dems and the SNP, who want the early election on Monday 9 December, and the government, who wanted it on Thursday 12. Now the government is shifting, and the gap is down to two days.
We’ll find out later if the opposition parties would accept this. But what is most significant is that the haggling and the compromising has already started.
Boris Johnson faces backlash from Tories as he asks MPs to pass general election bill
Today MPs are due to debate all stages of the early parliamentary general election bill, the legislation announced by Boris Johnson last night after he failed for the third time to get two thirds of MPs (the threshold) to vote for an early election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act procedure. A bill can pass the Commons with a majority of one, and with the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in principle committed to an early election, and even Labour warming to the idea, there is a strong possibility that it will pass, and that by tonight we will be able to plan for an election at some point in the week beginning Monday 9 December.
But it is not in the bag yet. The bill has still not been published, and the government and opposition parties are divided over the date of a December poll. Ministers want it on Thursday 12, whereas the Lib Dems and the SNP want it on Monday 9.
More importantly, most of the parties are deeply split over the wisdom of an early poll. Even the SNP parliamentary party, which is normally a model of unity and discipline and never normally divides over anything, has got one of its MPs going around saying the party’s plan would be like “a birthday present and a Christmas present [for Johnson[ rolled into one”.
And the reason for this heightened uncertainty? Decisions about whether or not to back an early election are almost always driven by self-interest, but no one knows which party is likely to benefit most from an early poll. The psephologists have already been warning that predicting the election will be “extremely difficult”, because the electorate is more volatile than it has ever been in the post-war period. To add to the complexity, no one can be certain how the electorate will respond to the Brexit delay, whether the campaign will be dominated by Brexit or by domestic issues, and how voters will respond to being asked to go to the polls a fortnight before Christmas. MPs and party leaders may have their own theories as to who would gain most from an early election, but there is no consensus and no rock-solid evidence; basically, it’s all guesswork.
The parties are expected to whip the votes this afternoon but, with MPs voting on their own job prospects, we might get more rebellions than usual, which is another reason why the bill could fail. In the Conservative party Johnson is facing a backlash against his decision to go for an election, and this morning there are signs that it is growing.
- The Tory MP Simon Hoare told the Commons last night that voters would not understand why Johnson was calling an election now. Speaking during the business statement announcing today’s bill, Hoare said:
May I ask the leader of the house what we are to say to constituents and others about the fact that we may be able to find time for a five to six-week general election campaign and then the rigmarole of forming a government and yet not for bringing back the withdrawal bill?
- The Tory MP William Wragg said in the Commons last night that “many” Conservative MPs supported the plan put forward by Frank Field in an early day motion, saying that Johnson should instead set aside 14 days to pass the withdrawal agreement bill.
- Johnson is also being told in private by some of his MPs that he should press with the withdrawal agreement bill, and deliver Brexit, before holding an election. This is from an analysis by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
One MP told me that a group of them made it clear to the PM in person on Monday night that they were deeply unhappy at what one of them described as him “being churlish, and taking his bat and ball home”, when he achieved what was said to be impossible by getting a deal in the first place, only to give up when the timetable for it was rejected last week.
Mocking the prime minister’s own slogan, the MP joked “that doesn’t exactly look like trying to get Brexit done”.
- And this morning Philip Hammond, the former Tory chancellor who now sits as an independent having had the whip removed, told the Today programme that he was appalled by Johnson’s decision to go for an election before delivering Brexit. He said:
If [Boris Johnson] has pressed on with a sensible timetable motion, say allowing the Commons five days to consider the bill, it would be out by now and into the House of Lords, and we would be well on our way to being able to leave the European Union, certainly by the end of November, perhaps earlier.
But because he insisted that it all had to be done by 31 October, something that we now know can’t happen, it is the government itself that has been blocking Brexit. And the idea that now we would use our precious time to halt all of this process for five or six weeks, and go out and have a general election, frankly appals me. I think the government is trying to create a narrative that parliament is blocking Brexit and therefore we need an election. But that is simply untrue. Parliament signalled very clearly last week that it was prepared to press on with the Brexit bill, provided it had a reasonable timetable to do so.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
12pm: Downing Street lobby briefing.
After 12.30pm: MPs begin debating the early parliamentary general election bill. It is due to pass all its Commons stages today.
2.45pm: Philip Rycroft, former permanent secretary at the Brexit department, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web, although I will be focusing mostly on MPs debating the early election bill. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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