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The U.K.’s opposition parties are jostling for position in the event there’s no outright winner in next month’s general election. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon hinted she could support Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister if it kept the Conservatives from office. But Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson “categorically” ruled out helping the Labour leader into power.
Corbyn, meanwhile, accused Boris Johnson of seeking a hard-right agenda under the banner of Brexit. In a speech in the bellwether seat of Harlow, the Labour leader promised to resolve Brexit within six months of taking power.
Must read: Hedge Funds Flock to Support Johnson, Fueled by Fear and Policy
Labour leader Corbyn says Johnson is trying to “hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS and working people”Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson rules out helping Corbyn take power in a hung ParliamentBBC poll tracker shows the Conservatives on an upward trajectory, and some signs of recovery for Labour. The Brexit Party is seen losing supportRead more: Johnson and Corbyn Trade Brexit Barbs as U.K. Election Heats Up
Corbyn Aiming for All-Out Victory (12:50 p.m.)
While the smaller opposition parties squabble over who night or might not prop up a minority Labour government, Jeremy Corbyn refused to entertain anything but victory as he campaigned in Harlow, north of London.
“We are campaigning to win,” the Labour leader said when asked if he would accept the Liberal Democrat policy of blocking Brexit if it was a condition for the party propping up a Labour government. “We are not campaigning to form a coalition with anybody.”
Corbyn said he is proud that Labour’s policy straddles the Brexit divide. “Why would I only want to talk to one half of the country?” he asked.
But in a YouGov poll published Tuesday, 65% of respondents said they are unclear about Labour’s position on Brexit, whereas the majority said they do understand the policies of the Conservatives, the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. YouGov polled 1,606 adults on Oct. 30-31.
Barnier Warns Cliff-Edge Risk Remains (12:30 p.m.)
Away from the election campaign, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, issued a warning to Downing Street over its ambition of striking a trade deal by the time the transition period expires at the end of 2020.
The government has ruled out taking up the option of extending that deadline beyond the year-end. Johnson has been clear that he expects the talks to be “extremely simple.”
Speaking in Lisbon, Barnier pointed out that the 11 months left to negotiate a trade deal after Brexit on Jan. 31 would be “extremely short” and that the talks would be “difficult and demanding” because the U.K. would probably want to diverge from EU rules. He described the summer of 2020, the last point at which the U.K. could request an extension, as “the moment of truth.”
Earlier, Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said the government won’t give MPs a vote on extending the transition period — a position that apparently contradicts Justice Secretary Robert Buckland’s commitment on Oct. 22 to give Parliament a say “on the merits of an extension.”
A U.K. official said that commitment from the government was no longer applicable given the Brexit bill was not passed.
Swinson Leaves Door Open to Supporting Labour (12:15 p.m.)
It’s worth noting that Liberal democrat Leader Jo Swinson used very specific language in ruling out helping Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn into power (See 11:10 a.m.). That leaves open the door to Liberal Democrat support for Labour under a different leader in the event no party secures a majority.
The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly fielded questions about who they might support in a hung Parliament, but they’re wary of forming a coalition after their 5-year stint in government with the Conservatives ended in electoral disaster in 2015.
Nevertheless, after the last three elections yielded two hung Parliaments and a narrow Tory win, questions about cross-party cooperation aren’t going away.
Raab Mocks Question on Cummings and Russia (12 p.m.)
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab mocked Labour’s Emily Thornberry after she asked whether Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings has connections with Russian intelligence. Thornberry questioned Cummings’ level of security vetting after the Sunday Times reported that a whistleblower had raised concerns.
“I think the insinuation in her letter that Number 10 is in the grip of a Kremlin mole is frankly ridiculous even by the standards of the loony left,” Raab said. He added that the Intelligence and Security Committee Report into alleged Russian electoral interference (see 10:55 a.m.) had not had the necessary time to be processed by officials.
Social Media Companies Told to Block Abuse (11:40 a.m.)
Social media companies must work together to protect candidates in the run-up to the Dec. 12 general election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack told reporters.
The use of internet platforms for the abuse of rivals in the vote was discussed at cabinet on Tuesday morning after Home Secretary Priti Patel briefed ministers on steps being taken to block threatening behavior.
The U.K. wants a single standard agreed by social media companies and for them to co-operate over the issue, Slack said. “This is not a new issue. This is not a surprise. This is something we believe – and the country believes – the companies should take seriously,” Slack said.
Corbyn: Johnson Brexit Deal Means Thatcherism (11:30 a.m.)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal as a hard-right, Thatcherite plot to sell the National Health Service to U.S. companies.
“Johnson is trying to hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS and working people,” Corbyn said in a speech in Harlow, north of London. He is trying to cash in the votes of millions who voted to leave the EU, to buy political power for himself and then sell them out.”
Harlow, in Essex, is seen as a bellwether seat because the government of the day has won it in every election since 1983. Labour is now trying to win back this marginal Brexit-backing seat after it swung to the Tories in 2010.
Health service chiefs have tried to dissuade parties from using the state-funded health service as a battleground but, with the election taking place in winter when hospitals are under strain, it’s unlikely those warnings will be heeded.
Swinson Rules Out Helping Corbyn (11:10 a.m.)
Jo Swinson said she would “categorically” rule out any pact that put Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street in the event no party secures a majority at next month’s general election.
Swinson said she didn’t trust Corbyn on Brexit — she previously said the Labour leader wants to take the U.K. out of the European Union — and also pointed to the atmosphere in Labour that had led to MPs including Luciana Berger (see 10:50 a.m.) quitting the party due to antisemitism.
Don’t Abuse Statistics, Watchdog Warns Parties (11 a.m.)
David Norgrove, chairman of the U.K. Statistics Authority, warned politicians campaigning for the Dec. 12 election not to abuse data in their attempts to win votes.
Sources of statistics should be clear and accessible, Norgrove said in a letter to party leaders as he called on them to avoid selectively using numbers to back their positions.
“Statistics can be a powerful support for an argument, but misuse damages their integrity, causes confusion and undermines trust,’’ Norgrove said in a statement. “This is particularly important during the intense public scrutiny of an election campaign, where misinformation can spread quickly.’’
Grieve: Time Running Out for Russia Report (10:55 a.m.)
Dominic Grieve, chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, said time is running out for the publication of a report into alleged Russian activity in the U.K. — including claims of espionage, subversion and interference in elections.
Even though the report was finalized in March and given to Boris Johnson’s office on Oct. 17, the government has yet to publish it. Grieve, who was expelled from the Tory party for opposing the prime minister’s Brexit strategy, says ministers are attempting to bury its findings.
He will question the government on the issue in the House of Commons at about 12:30 p.m. As it’s Parliament’s last sitting day before the election, “time is running out” as the report must be made available while MPs are in session, he said in an interview.
Lib Dems Pledge to Beat ‘Old Tired Parties’ (10:50 a.m.)
Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson launched her party’s general election campaign on Tuesday with a pledge to stop Brexit and plow billions of pounds into public services.
“Any form of Brexit will damage our jobs, our economy and our public services, starving them of vital cash as the economy struggles along,” Swinson said in a speech in London. Canceling Britain’s departure from the European Union, she said, would yield a 50 billion-pound ($65 billion) dividend that her party would plow into public services over the next five years.
Swinson was introduced by Luciana Berger, a former Labour MP who’s one of eight defectors from other parties to swell the ranks of the Lib Dems. She called Swinson the party’s candidate for prime minister, showing the grand ambitions of a party that won just 12 seats in 2012.
Swinson said it was time to break away from the “big old tired parties,” and that change is possible. “When I look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, I am absolutely certain I could do a better job than either of them.”
New Speaker Concerned About Candidate Safety (8:30 a.m.)
Lindsay Hoyle, the new House of Commons speaker, said he’s concerned about the security of candidates on the campaign trail. He said the police are working on a letter of advice about personal security.
“I do worry about the abuse and level of threat,” Hoyle told BBC radio. His comments come after several MPs said they are stepping down at the election due to online and personal abuse.
Labour, Tories Dispute Timescale for New Deal (8:15 a.m.)
Labour’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said that if his party wins next month’s election, he could renegotiate a Brexit deal with the European Union within three months, judging by discussions he has already had.
But in an open letter to Corbyn, Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Labour of offering nothing but uncertainty and delay, and on Tuesday, Cabinet minister Michael Gove stuck to that line of attack. Corbyn “would go back to Brussels, he would re-negotiate the whole deal — that would take months, possibly years,” Gove told the BBC.
SNP Hints at Backing for Corbyn (7:40 a.m.)
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon hinted her party could support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour if no one wins an outright majority at the election. Another so-called hung Parliament would put the SNP in a strong position to hold the balance of power, she said.
Sturgeon told the BBC her party will not enter into formal coalition with any party, and ruled out backing the Conservatives under any circumstances.
“We could be facing a hung Parliament,” Sturgeon said. “If the SNP is holding the balance of power after that, then that’s an incredibly powerful and influential position for Scotland to be in.”
She added that while Corbyn is guilty of “prevarication” and “lack of leadership” if he were in government it would be better to have “strong SNP voices in there, making sure that Scotland’s interests are protected.”
Johnson and Corbyn Trade Brexit Barbs as U.K. Election Heats UpU.K. Parliament Picks Speaker With Pledge to Heal Brexit DivideCorbyn Goes on the Attack in Brexit Speech: U.K. Campaign Trail
–With assistance from Thomas Penny.
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