Jo Swinson: we want an election on 9 December
Opposition parties are overcoming their opposition to an early general election, and are putting forward their own strategies for how to hold one. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP plan to submit a short amendment to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act tomorrow, which would set an election date for 9 December. Lib Dem Leader Jo Swinson told Andrew Marr about the bill and the conditions that would be attached to it:
JS: This bill is very straightforward. It would set the date for the next election on 9 December. But crucially, it would be conditional on there being an extension to Article 50, which would mean no deal is taken off the table.
I will not switch seats
If the polls are correct, the SNP are poised to regain some of the ground they lost after the snap election in 2017. Swinson told Marr that she was confident she would be re-elected in her own seat of East Dunbartonshire, where she was briefly deposed during the SNP surge in 2015:
AM: Are you going to switch seats to ensure that you get back next time?
JS: Absolutely not!... It's the place where I grew up, it's my home seat... I will never be complacent, but I am confident that I will win the seat again.
James Cleverly: Opposition election bill 'clearly a gimmick'
The Conservative party chairman James Cleverly told Marr that he was highly sceptical about the planned Lib Dem-SNP election bill and suggested that it was a minefield for further amendments, such as votes for 16 and 17-year-olds:
JC: The Lib Dem-SNP bill is clearly a gimmick. The bill moves the election date by three days, takes the Withdrawal Agreement completely off the table, and if they want to vote for an election, they can vote for the bill that we put forward.
31 October 'remains our exit date'
Although in practical terms, it's looking unlikely that Britain will leave the EU on 31 October, Cleverly highlighted that until an extension to Article 50 was officially granted, the UK could potentially leave the EU with no deal:
JC: Unless and until we get an extension from the EU that remains our exit date... The real frustration for me, is that we put forward a deal which would have seen us leave on time, with an agreement, and Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP voted against it.
Diane Abbott: Labour is 'up for an election'
The Shadow Home Secretary also joined Marr. Marr asked if Labour would consent to a general election if the Brexit date was pushed back to 31 January. Abbott said that her party was raring to go, but gave no indication of when the party would be willing to test this conviction. She said that it would hinge on 'what sort' of extension was on offer from the EU:
DA: Make no mistake, Labour party members, over half a million of them, and the Labour party is up for an election... [But] we need to know what sort of extension the EU is granting.
Jonathan Ashworth: Election bill 'an opportunistic stunt'
The Shadow Health Secretary echoed both Abbott and Cleverly, declaring that he is in favour of a general election, but decried the Lib Dem-SNP election plan:
JA: This Lib Dem plan is a sort of opportunistic stunt I'm afraid. It's entirely ridiculous. It would need cross-party support to get through the House of Commons procedures, and then it'll be subject to all kinds of amendments, particularly when it gets to the House of Lords.
Philip Hammond: Government should not 'throw tantrums'
The former Chancellor told Ridge that he would not be voting for an early election no matter who proposed it, and pressed for Parliament to begin work on passing the government's Withdrawal Agreement Bill:
PH: This is not the time to be holding a general election... These deadlines - 31 October - are meaningless. The key thing now is to get the deal properly scrutinised in Parliament... The government should stop making threats [and] throwing tantrums.
Johnson deal was on offer to Theresa May
Hammond poured cold water on the government's breakthrough of achieving a deal before 31 October, telling Ridge that the current Withdrawal Agreement Bill had effectively been passed over by the May government as unsuitable:
PH: The deal that Boris has done is a deal that was available to Theresa May 15 months ago – a deal that would have split Northern Ireland form the rest of the UK. Theresa May rejected that [and] Boris agreed with her at the time... [It's] a limited achievement.
'I could support a customs union'
Hammond rejected backing a second referendum, but said that he was considering supporting an amendment to the government's deal which included a customs union:
PH: A customs union would overcome the... problems at the centre of this deal... If the whole of the United Kingdom was in a customs union, then the whole of the United Kingdom would be treated the same, and the threat to the union with Northern Ireland would be gone.
I intend to stand again
And finally, Hammond said that he wasn't going to let the removal of the Conservative whip stop him from standing for election once again:
PH: I am not going to change what I say and what I believe... in any kind of attempt to sneak back in and curry favour with the Conservative leadership...
SR: Would you run as an independent then if you aren't offered a way back into the party?
PH: That's my intention, yes.