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29 October 2019

Jeremy Corbyn says yes to a December election

"We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen."

By Patrick Maguire

The United Kingdom is set for its first December election since 1923 after Jeremy Corbyn confirmed Labour would vote for a snap poll today. 

Addressing the shadow cabinet this morning, the Labour leader said his main condition for supporting legislation for an early election – a no-deal Brexit being ruled out had been satisfied by Monday’s extension of the Article 50 deadline to 31 January. 

“I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a 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.”

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Corbyn’s decision to back an election comes despite the noisy opposition of most of his MPs, many of whom fear for their seats and had called for Brexit to be resolved via a second referendum first. 

It is also a striking climb down from the line he and other shadow cabinet ministers had taken over the weekend. Until now the Labour leadership has insisted that an extension alone was not sufficient to rule out a no-deal Brexit completely. 

But from the moment the Liberal Democrats and SNP announced their intention to pursue a pre-Brexit election via legislation, it was clear that an early poll would happen whether the Labour leadership liked it or not. Their decision to embrace it despite the misgivings of its parliamentary party and Remainers in the shadow cabinet is an attempt to turn that dynamic to its advantage. 

Now the focus of Labour’s warring factions will turn to a new battle: whether to make good on Corbyn’s promise to run a radical, offensive campaign, as he and his closest allies would prefer, or the more conventional, targeted plan favoured by John McDonnell.