James Forsyth

Why a government of national unity isn’t going to happen

Why a government of national unity isn't going to happen
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There’s been much talk this week of a so-called government of national unity (GNU) to stop Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan. The idea is that he’d be forced out in a vote of no confidence in September and replaced by a caretaker PM who would request an extension to our EU membership before resigning and calling a general election.

But, as I say in The Sun this morning, it is hard to see this happening. First, this wouldn’t be a government of national unity as its sole purpose would be to extend our membership of the EU which would make it one of the more divisive governments in living memory. But more importantly, Jeremy Corbyn won’t back anyone else for Number 10 while Tory rebels and the Lib Dems aren’t prepared to support him. This means that it is very hard to see how the numbers could add up for a GNU.

There are three reasons why Corbyn won’t send his MPs through the lobbies to make anyone but him PM. If he supported another Labour figure for the job, he’d be suggesting that they’d be a better leader than him: if they’re more able to win over the Commons, why not the country?

But if he backed a Tory, he’d be weakening his whole argument about ‘Tory austerity’.

If Corbyn allowed in anyone else, he’d also be creating a precedent. This is dangerous for him as there’s every chance that the next election returns a messy result and Labour’s only chance of governing would be as part of a multi-party coalition. If he had stepped aside previously, it would be easier for, say, Jo Swinson to demand that he did so again to allow a government to be formed.

So, whatever happens when parliament comes back in September it is highly unlikely to result in some cross-party government.