BORIS Johnson yesterday accused Jeremy Corbyn of dropping Britain in the mire — after he refused to allow a General Election to break the Brexit deadlock.
The PM last night lost a Commons vote to enforce an election in five weeks’ time after Labour blocked it.
He gained 298 votes with 56 against and the rest abstaining — so falling well short of the 434 votes he needed to trigger the third election in five years.
Mr Johnson insists voters must decide whether an alliance of opposition MPs and Tory rebels should be allowed to delay Brexit by another three months at least.
And Downing Street says the PM will not be giving up, despite last night’s setback.
He will bring a fresh vote to the Commons on Monday to try to get the backing of the two thirds of MPs he needs to trigger an October 15 General Election.
Labour is itself in disarray — with MPs rowing over the point at which they will back an election.
Some say it should be as soon as a rebel bill outlawing No Deal on October 31 becomes law next week.
Others insist there should be no move until late October.
Earlier yesterday there was uproar in the Commons as Mr Johnson said the Labour leader was terrified of putting himself forward to be judged by the electorate.
He echoed Margaret Thatcher’s famous taunt to a Labour opponent, by asking: “Is he frit?”
And he mouthed across the Despatch Box: “Call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.” Mr Johnson also turned the air blue in the chamber by claiming Labour’s economic strategy was “s**t or bust”.
Mr Corbyn’s decision to refuse to back an election, after months of constantly demanding one, was described as the “mother of all U-turns” by ministers.
His refusal comes after the “rebel alliance” seized control of Parliament on Tuesday. It leaves Britain in no-man’s land — with the PM unable to control the Commons and powerless to turn to the electorate.
Yesterday he told Mr Corbyn he had no coherent strategy of his own — yet was intent of undermining the Government’s EU negotiations by forcing through a bill that rules out an October 31 No Deal.
Mr Johnson added: “What his surrender bill would do is wreck any chance of the talks — and we don’t know his strategy at all.
“Can he confirm now he will allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a General Election on October 15 — or is he frit?”
The PM outlined his plans for police, the NHS and the economy before highlighting comments by Labour’s Angela Rayner. He said: “The shadow education secretary says that their economic policy is, I quote Mr Speaker by your leave, ‘S**t or bust’. I say it’s both.”
Mr Corbyn insisted he would back a General Election — but only once the bill outlawing No Deal had gone through Parliament.
However, behind the scenes, there is a huge row in Labour over exactly when they will back an election.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry admitted Labour could lose if one was held now. She said: “I think we need to have an election when we’re going to win it. I’ll wait a couple of weeks.”
Clive Lewis, another Corbynista shadow minister, said: “The sensible thing will be to say ‘OK, we’ll have a General Election but we’ll do it after we have got the extension signed and sealed.
“In the meantime, let the Tories stew in their own juices.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “We are not dancing to Boris Johnson’s tune.”
But Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson said they could back a vote as soon as the bill is rubber-stamped by the Queen, as early as the weekend. He said: “We are committed to the earliest possible election. We want to be sure of stopping a No Deal crash-out on October 31.”
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the party is also looking at a no-confidence vote in the Government on Monday instead of backing an election motion.
Anti-Boris MPs yesterday used their control of Parliament to vote 329 to 300 in favour of the bill to scupper No Deal. It meant 29 Tory rebels voted against him.
Leading Tories accused Mr Corbyn of running scared of an election. Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The leader of the opposition has said repeatedly that he wants an election.
The Sun Says
FOR two years Labour has goaded the Tories into calling an election. Now, incredibly, the wretched, snivelling coward Corbyn runs away from one.
Every day he and his arrogant Marxist mob sneered “Bring it on!” Until the moment they were finally offered the chance to stand before the electorate.
Corbyn and his greasy sidekick Keir Starmer have concocted wafer-thin excuses for this monstrous U-turn.
The public won’t buy them.
Boris Johnson has reluctantly accepted that voters must now decide whether to go ahead with Brexit, deal or No Deal, on October 31. Or whether Labour and treacherous ex-Tories should be able to enforce an aimless further delay, condemning an exhausted public to more bitter division and costly uncertainty.
Labour isn’t as scared of No Deal as it is of a ballot-box reckoning. Mainly for its MPs in Leave marginals, faced now with campaigning for Remain. Labour no longer respects the 17.4million Brexit voters it has betrayed. But they have to face them in the end. Why not now?
If Corbyn truly believed he was a shoo-in for No10 he would bite Boris’s hand off for the chance to snatch the keys. But his ratings are at historic lows.
He feebly tries to claim the PM wants “to avoid scrutiny”. But Boris is literally inviting it from voters. Corbyn is chicken.
Labour knows its Brexit “policy” — “we’ll negotiate a new deal, then campaign against it” — is comically ridiculous. It knows it is grievously wounded by its anti-Jewish racism, its ruinous economic policies, its fondness for tyrants and terrorists and its idolising of collapsed Latin American dictatorships.
It fears Boris’s Brexit-backing Tories, no matter how weak they now appear.
Corbyn was always an unpleasant dimwit and a liar. Turns out he is a bottler too.
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“It’s perverse of him to say now that he doesn’t want one. It suggests that he’s rather frightened.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon piled on the pressure for Mr Corbyn to back the motion for an election — urging her 35 MPs to vote for it.
She tweeted: “It’s starting to feel like Labour doesn’t want an election at all.” US President Donald Trump last night repeated his support for the PM, telling reporters: “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him.”
- JOHN McDonnell yesterday took a swipe at Boris’s infamous row with girlfriend Carrie Symonds after the PM heckled him. He said: “Last time he was shouting at someone, they called the police.”
Bercow on the warpath
JOHN Bercow renewed his war against No 10 yesterday by slapping down Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid in an hour.
But the Commons Speaker was accused of bias and branded a “windbag” for hitting out at ministers.
Remainer Mr Bercow, pictured, berated the Tory leader for addressing Jeremy Corbyn as “Jeremy” during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Later, he gave the Chancellor a dressing down for talking about Brexit while outlining spending plans. Mr Bercow butted in to say: “It bothers me greatly that you, in the course of a statement, seem to be veering into matters unrelated to the spending round upon which you are focused.”
One angry Tory MP shouted out, calling Mr Bercow a “windbag”.
Another Tory, Andrew Bridgen, stormed later: “John Bercow knows he will no longer be Speaker after the forthcoming General Election. He is on his swansong and determined to go out with a bang playing to his Labour and Remain supporters right to the bitter end. And he is very bitter.”
It comes a day after Mr Bercow told Cabinet minister Michael Gove to “be a good boy” while revealing their kids go to the same school. He said: “When he turns up at our school as a parent, he’s a very well-behaved fellow.
“He wouldn’t dare behave like that in front of the headmaster.”
Bank: We overdid all the gloom
BANK of England boss Mark Carney has admitted the economic hit of a No Deal would be “less severe” than he previously predicted.
The governor rowed back on last year’s figures as he addressed the Treasury Select Committee yesterday.
He told MPs the bank now forecasts a more manageable 5.5 per cent decline — instead of the 8 per cent bandied about before.
The change is due to No Deal preparations — “the impact of which has been to reduce the worst-case scenario”, he said. He also forecast 7 per cent unemployment.
- By Tracey Boles
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