Guardian News and Media/ London
Jo Swinson was being “extremely petulant” when she dismissed Jeremy Corbyn’s call to make him prime minister to block a no-deal Brexit, according to the Labour frontbencher Barry Gardiner.
In comments likely to ratchet up tensions between the two parties before a meeting Corbyn has called of parliamentary opponents of no-deal, Gardiner accused the Liberal Democrat leader of wanting to propel the Queen into a constitutional crisis.
Swinson rejected Corbyn’s offer earlier this month when he outlined plans to oust the government through a vote of no-confidence and form a “strictly time-limited” caretaker government to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
But Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, told Sky News on Sunday: “I think it was extremely petulant of Jo Swinson to come out and dismiss this the other day.
“It sounded as if she couldn’t take yes for an answer because she has been saying, and the Liberal Democrats and others have been saying for so long: ‘Look, we need to have a second referendum and Remain needs to be on the ballot paper.’
“They are now being offered a failsafe parliamentary procedural way of delivering that and they’re saying: ‘Oh well, we are not going to co-operate if Jeremy Corbyn is going to be the person who does it.’” Gardiner added that the “natural constitutional process” was that the leader of the opposition was called on by the Queen to lead a new government when an old one failed.
“If Jo Swinson wants to propel Her Majesty into a constitutional crisis where, instead of inviting the leader of the opposition to form a new government, she invites somebody else who is not the leader of a political party, then that would be forcing the monarchy into a very embarrassing and difficult judgment call that they would have to make.”
After initially rebuffing Corbyn, Swinson said she would work with the Labour party to prevent a no-deal Brexit amid pressure from other opposition leaders, but underlined her belief that a Corbyn-led unity government would not win the confidence of parliament.
The Conservative and Labour grandees Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman – who are the father and mother of the house, or longest-serving male and female MPs – are prepared to lead the emergency government, Swinson added, saying she had won both of their assurances.
Gardiner’s comments drew a response from Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesperson, who said that Swinson “has very reasonably pointed out” that Jeremy Corbyn needs at least eight Tory rebels to support his prospective premiership for his caretaker government to work.
“This is not going to happen,” he added on Twitter.
Umunna said of Gardiner’s comments: “By all means disagree but this is patronising tribal bluster. It doesn’t promote “unity.”
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