Diane Abbott has indicated Labour could be planning a rapid vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson once parliament returns in September, saying the party was in talks with other opposition groups on how best to proceed.
While the shadow home secretary said it was “above my pay grade” to confirm any plans, she agreed Labour and other parties would need to move quickly when the recess ended to stop a no-deal Brexit before 31 October.
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Labour can rapidly table a simple motion of no-confidence. If passed, it would trigger a 14-day period during which MPs could seek to form another, viable government, or else face a general election.
Given the likely lack of other parliamentary business ahead of the Brexit deadline, it has been seen as one of the most feasible tactics for Labour and other parties to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU.
Asked if Labour would push for this in the week of 3 September, when parliament returns from the summer recess, Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s above my pay grade to say when we’ll move the vote of no confidence.”
She continued: “But, who has confidence in Boris Johnson apart from the people around him? The more he announces these bogus unfunded announcements, I think the less confidence there will be in him in the general public. It’s above my pay grade. But it has to be an option.”
Asked about the idea that such a motion would need to be progress rapidly if no deal was to be stopped, Abbott said: “Yes, it does. But one of the things we have to do is consult with other parties – it’s no good moving a vote of no confidence if the Lib Dems, for instance, are not going to vote for it.”
She added: “We are talking to all of the other parties in parliament and if we move for a vote of no confidence we’ll want to do it with confidence that we can win it.”
Abbott was also asked about the government’s trio of law and order related announcements over the weekend, including a review into prisoner sentencing, more prison places and relaxing rules over police use of stop-and-search powers.
She was scathing about the stop-and-search proposals: “Even the government’s own research demonstrates that random stop and search, in and of itself, does not bring down violent and knife crime.”
In a media round to talk about the new measures the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, denied the wave of recent announcements heralded a likely autumn election.
“I don’t think it’s about election talk. It’s about, actually, a new government getting into its stride,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “I don’t think elections are on people’s minds.”
Challenged on this, Buckland said: “As an elected politician, elections are always going to be on our minds, I accept that. But I think the priority at the moment is getting this government moving. The sense of energy and purpose is there, the sense of drive from the prime minister, and that’s really his main focus at the moment.
“I’m reading it and observing, obviously, all the commentary that you look at very well. But I’m in no better position to say whether there’s going to be an election or not than anybody else.”
If a no-confidence vote was passed, there is speculation Johnson could delay his resignation and time an election so it was held just after 31 October, meaning the UK would leave the EU without a deal by default.
This would be a hugely controversial move, given that under “purdah” rules, governments are not supposed to make significant changes during an election period. Pro-Brexit voices have argued that this would not apply, as the decision to set 31 October as a departure date had already been made.