Aides for UK Prime Minister Theresa May have begun contingency planning for a possible snap election in November, the Sunday Times reported.
Two senior members of her political operation began “war gaming” an autumn vote in a bid to win public backing for a new Brexit plan. One person in her inner circle told cabinet members she’ll probably stand down next summer in a move designed to stop them from resigning now in protest at her leadership. The Sun newspaper later quoted a Downing Street official decrying the Times article as “utter hogwash.”
The latest speculation may further energise the Labour Party conference that started this weekend in Liverpool.
In an interview with the Mirror, leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wants a general election rather than a second Brexit referendum but will be “bound” by the decision of his party conference when it votes on Tuesday on the issue. Party officials were working on a compromise in a private meeting on Sunday morning after more than 100 local parties submitted motions on Brexit to Labour’s annual gathering in Liverpool, northwest England. Many called for a referendum on the divorce deal reached with Brussels while others demanded another vote on the basic question of staying in or leaving the bloc.
“Our preference would be for a general election,” Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “I’m there elected as leader of this party in order to bring greater democracy to this party. Obviously I’m bound by the democracy of our party.”
The party is split over Brexit and Corbyn is trying to balance the debate to prevent alienating voters he would need to win an election. While a majority of Labour lawmakers oppose Brexit, much of the party’s heartlands voted for it. Corbyn himself opposed EU membership when Britain joined in the 1970s. A poll of 1,054 Labour Party members carried out by YouGov for the People’s Vote campaign and published on Sunday found that 86 percent want a referendum on the final divorce deal with the EU.
The party leadership—backed by Unite, its biggest trade-union backer—wants a so-called composite motion that would keep the option of a second vote open but not tie the hands of Corbyn’s team.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s business spokeswoman, said the difficulty of holding a second referendum without a general election would be that Theresa May’s government would get to set the terms of the vote.
“If the current government was in power, they would hold the pen,” Long-Bailey told Sky News. “I would rather push the government into a general election.”Corbyn refused to say which way he would vote if there was another referendum.
“It’s conjecture what the question would be,” he told the BBC. “We don’t know what it would be. In the referendum, I wanted to remain and reform the EU.”Corbyn said the party is ready with a suite of policies for a socialist government that would re-nationalise rail, water, energy and mail services and improve opportunities for the poorest in society.
He also said he would introduce a tax on second homes to fund the building of social housing. Properties used as holiday homes would be subject to “a national levy based on the value of the property, equivalent to double the current rate of council tax,” the party said in an email. As many as 174,000 properties could be affected and the levy could raise more than 560 million pounds ($732 million) a year, Labour said. The highest concentrations of properties affected would be in rural boltholes such as Cornwall and north Norfolk, along with urban areas like the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the party said.