Sunday shows: Abbott sets out conditions for election as Ashworth slams Lib Dem “stunt”

Interviews on the Sunday shows today focussed on reports of a plan created jointly by the Liberal Democrat and SNP leaderships that would see MPs vote for a Monday 9th December without proceeding with the withdrawal agreement bill.

The Andrew Marr Show

Diane Abbott represented Labour this week. The Shadow Home Secretary described the party as “up for an election”, but confirmed that it was still waiting on the EU response to the UK’s extension request before making a final decision. She also argued against the stigmatisation of migrants, though said Labour would take into account migrants’ economic utilities despite the immigration motion passed by conference that rules out such considerations.

On an election and Brexit…

  • On an election: “We are up for an election. We have a half a million members, and they want an election.”
  • On the Lib Dem/SNP proposal: “We haven’t had a chance to discuss it with [Jo Swinson] or the SNP. We saw it at the same time that you saw it.”
  • On Labour backing a December election: “We need to know what sort of extension the EU is going to give.”
  • What would the Prime Minister have to do to get the Labour Party to support an election? “If he were to come to parliament and unequivocally say that he’s not going to crash out without a deal, we’d be satisfied with that.”

On immigration policy…

    • What Labour would do to prevent incidents such as the 39 people killed in a lorry: “Thermal imaging, more border guards but we need to look at the security in these east coast ports because that’s clearly a problem. The other thing we would do is we need to have a lot more international cooperation.”
    • On whether to distinguish between migrants fleeing from war/famine/being persecuted because of their sexuality or religion and migrants “who simply want a better life”: “It’s not for us to discriminate between those groups, no… The EU three million in this country, that’s a Windrush scandal waiting to happen.”
    • On the type of immigration system Labour wants: “Let’s look at what this country’s needs are. Let’s look at how we can have a more efficient immigration system, but above all… how we can have an immigration system which reflects this country’s values.”

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson promoted her election plan and confirmed that the intention was for the bill to be “simple” (i.e. not amended). James Cleverly called the Lib Dem/SNP proposal a “gimmick” and argued against it on the basis that the Brexit bill would not be debated in the Commons under that plan.

Ridge on Sunday

Jonathan Ashworth branded the Lib Dem/SNP election plan an “opportunistic stunt”.

  • On the Lib Dem/SNP election plan: “It is entirely ridiculous. It would need cross-party support to get through the House of Commons procedures and then it would be subject to all kinds of amendments, particularly when it gets into the House of Lords. It’s just a stunt so the Lib Dems can get on the telly today.”
  • On Labour wanting an election: “We are waiting for the clarification from the EU about the extension date because we don’t trust Boris Johnson… Of course we want a general election but we have got to make sure that we get those absolute reassurances that Boris Johnson won’t use a general election and the campaign to crash us out of the EU with a disastrous no deal Brexit.”
  • Is the truth that you are stalling about a general election simply because you don’t trust people to vote the way that you want? “No, no, not at all… I know you’ll say to me, look at the opinion polls, they’re terrible and they’re not great for the Labour party, I’m not daft, I can see that but they weren’t that great in the last general election and we made up a lot of ground.”

Nicky Morgan called the Lib Dem election bill a “stunt”. Chuka Umunna, now a Lib Dem, conceded that it was “highly unlikely” that this parliament would approve another EU referendum, and pointed out that Morgan “did not rule out the government necessarily not playing ball with this bill”.

Frank Field, also an ex-Labour MP but one who now sits as an Independent, said Labour MPs are “pretty sick at the thought of having an election”. He predicted that they would resist a snap poll because “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”.

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