View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
1 October 2019

It’s not Jo Swinson keeping Jeremy Corbyn from leading a government of national unity

Former Labour and ex-Conservative MPs have the same concerns — and there is no force that will make them back a Corbyn government.

By Stephen Bush

Another day, another immeasurably tedious row about a government of national unity.

The central and under-reported sticking point is that there is no plausible candidate for the role. Jeremy Corbyn, who leads the largest opposition party, has no hope or prospect of winning a vote of confidence in this House of Commons. There are no circumstances in which former Labour MPs sitting as independents, such as John Woodcock, Ian Austin or Gavin Shuker, will vote to put a man they regard as unfit to be prime minister in No 10.

That view is similarly widespread on the Conservative side. Philip Hammond, who as chancellor of the exchequer sat on the national security council, is said to be particularly vocal in private about the significant influence that a prime minister without a majority has over day-to-day questions of security and foreign policy, while several former Conservative MPs haven’t forgotten that a terrorist attack occurred during the last general election. This group will never endorse Corbyn as a result. There is only one path to a Corbyn-led government: if in the event of a Johnson resignation, he takes office by default, without having to win a confidence vote first.

But Labour is reluctant to concede that the identity of which Labour politician takes office in a hung parliament is up for grabs, and to begin a campaign for Downing Street with a public acknowledgement that some MPs, including former members of his own party, regard him as unfit to hold that office.

What’s left is a row that is primarily about signalling more than anything else. Jo Swinson wants to reassure anti-Corbyn voters that the Liberal Democrats are a safe home for them that won’t result in Corbyn entering office through the back door. Corbyn wants to paint Swinson as a closet Conservative. It’s in both their interests to loudly talk up their respective positions — but the reality is that the people whose preferences will decide if a government of national unity is formed are the independents who sit for neither party; and no amount of cajoling will make them accept a government led by Corbyn.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

[See also: Will Jeremy Corbyn agree to step aside in Islington North?]

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Topics in this article :
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU