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John McDonnell: Labour will form a minority government

The shadow chancellor told BBC News that his party will seek to govern without coalition deals.

John McDonnell has told the BBC that Labour will seek to form a minority government.

Speaking to Andrew Neil, Labour's shadow chancellor said: “The problem that we’ve got is that . . . the Conservative Party, particularly under Theresa May, is an unstable coalition in itself, will fall apart. We’ve already seen this morning, Tory MPs calling on Theresa May to go, saying her position is untenable, and Boris Johnson and David Davis on manoeuvres, looking for alternative leadership, so I don’t think they can form a stable government.

“Therefore, although [Labour] don’t have a majority, which I deeply regret, forming a minority government is the best opportunity of a government that will be stable in the interests of the country.”

This minority Labour government would work vote by vote, putting individual policies before parliament, rather than seeking an overarching coalition deal with any other party, he explained.

“We’re not looking for a coalition or deals, we will set out our policy programme based on an alternative Queen’s Speech and we’ll expect people to vote for it,” McDonnell said.

On the specific suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn might do a deal with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, McDonnell added: “No deals, no coalitions, we put forward our policies. If the SNP want to vote for some of them, that’s up to them.”

He said that with its better-than-expected election result, Labour had “laid the foundations now for the potential for minority government and then eventually a majority government”.

In response to the suggestion that a minority Labour government would be just as unstable as anything Theresa May could command, McDonnell said that the policies his party would put forward would be very hard for other MPs to vote against.

“We’d be able to shape our policy programme based on our manifesto, on a set of popular policies which large numbers of MPs would support, or certainly wouldn’t want to be seen to be voting against.”

He cited scrapping tuition fees as one example of such a policy.

“I believe with sufficient political skill, a minority government can be a stable government, it would be a better government as well, because it would be based on policies that were popular in parliament and in the country as well.”

As to what happens next, McDonnell said that the pressure was now on Theresa May to realise that the country had rejected both Conservative government and her personal leadership.

“I hope she realises today very quickly that she cannot continue. The Conservative party needs to realise that it cannot re-enter government in the way that it is at the moment in its unstable, divided form. We’ll be the only alternative.”

Caroline Crampton is head of podcasts at the New Statesman.

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Will the Brexit Cabinet talks end in a “three baskets” approach?

The joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. 

It's decision day in the Brexit talks. Again.

The Brexit inner Cabinet will meet to hammer out not its final position, but the shape of its negotiating position. The expected result: an agreement on an end state in which the United Kingdom agrees it will follow EU regulations as it were still a member, for example on aviation; will agree to follow EU objectives but go about them in its own way, for example on recycling, where the British government wants to do more on plastic and less on glass; and finally, in some areas, it will go its way completely, for instance on financial services. Or as it has come to be known in Whitehall, the "three baskets" approach.

For all the lengthy run-up, this bit isn't expected to be difficult: the joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. There are two difficulties: the first is that the EU27 won't play ball, and the second is that MPs will kick off when it emerges that their preferred basket is essentially empty.

The objections of the EU27 are perhaps somewhat overwritten. The demands of keeping the Irish border open, maintaining Europol and EU-wide defence operations means that in a large number of areas, a very close regulatory and political relationship is in everyone's interests. But everyone knows that in order for the Conservative government to actually sign the thing, there is going to have to be some divergence somewhere.

The bigger problem is what happens here at home when it turns out that the third basket - that is to say, full regulatory autonomy - is confined to fishing and the "industries of the future". The European Research Group may have a few more letters left to send yet.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.