NEWS
29/10/2019 7:55 AM AEDT | Updated 29/10/2019 9:13 AM AEDT

Boris Johnson In Fresh Push For Christmas Election Despite Commons Failure

UK prime minister tables new legislation to get round requirement for two-thirds majority of MPs.

Boris Johnson has made a fresh push for a pre-Christmas general election despite failing to win the backing of MPs.

The UK prime minister announced he would bring forward a new bill to remove the requirement to win the support of two-thirds of the Commons before holding an early election.

Earlier he lost his third attempt to get a pre-Christmas general election after Labour MPs refused to give the plan the backing it needed.

The House of Commons voted by 299 to 70 for a December 12 election, well short of the 66%-plus majority required under the law.

The latest government defeat followed Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to whip his MPs to abstain on the motion tabled by the prime minister.

However, the PM revealed he would table a new bill on Tuesday to change the rules to lower the bar for an election so he needs just 51% of MPs to go ahead.

It would take just one smaller party like the SNP or the Lib Dems to back the legislation for it to pass.

Johnson said: “We will not allow this paralysis to continue, and one way or another we must proceed straight to an election.

“So later on this evening, the government will give notice of presentation for a short Bill for an election on December 12 so we can finally get Brexit done.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the party would support the new plan for a December 12 election if the PM gave a “cast-iron guarantee” he would not revive his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).

PA Wire/PA Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the election debate ahead of the vote in the House of Commons, London.

A No.10 source said the Brexit legislation would not now be brought back before parliament: “The bill is very similar to the LibDem/SNP bill. The WAB will not be put back. This is the way to get Brexit done so the country can move on.”

HuffPost UK understands that the government has ruled out the December 9 date suggested by the LibDems and SNP because there would be too little time to get Royal Assent by this Friday, as required under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

The two parties had backed the earlier date because they felt it would give more students the chance to vote before their term time ends. Many students are registered to vote at their university rather than their home address.

Crucially, immediately after the latest government setback, Corbyn refused to rule out agreeing to the new bill.

“We will obviously look and scrutinise that Bill and we look forward to a clear, definitive decision that no deal is absolutely off the table and there is no danger of this Prime Minister not sticking to his word,” he told MPs.

In a statement, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson was equivocal but suggested her party may now not back the new bill. “He has chosen to stick to his original plan for December 12, which we have already rejected,” she said.

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, at least 434 out of the Commons’ 650 MPs are needed to trigger an early general election before the current set date of May 5, 2022.

Johnson had tried twice before to get a snap election and was defeated both times by a similar cross-party refusal to grant the support he needed.

His hopes of holding a polling day this year now rely on whether opposition parties support a fresh attempt to bypass current legislation.