Boris Johnson
UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
  • Members of Parliament in the UK reject Prime Minister's bid for an early general election.
  • Johnson had challenged opposition parties to authorise an election on October 15.
  • However, Johnson's opponents voted against a motion to hold an early poll due to suspicions he would use the timing of the election to trigger a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

LONDON - Boris Johnson was dealt another blow to his authority on Wednesday after MPs rejected his attempt to force a snap general election.

The prime minister had tabled a motion calling for an early election after MPs voted to block Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit in October, a move that Johnson said left him no choice but to go to the polls on October 15, just weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, the government would require two-thirds of MPs - in this case, 434 - to back the motion for an election to be called. Labour and other opposition parties abstained on the motion, meaning that it did not pass.

Labour have called repeatedly for a general election since the last in June 2017, but their MPs were instructed not to approve the plan designed to stop a no-deal Brexit had entered the statute books, which is not likely to happen until at least next week.

It must first be approved by the House of Lords before heading back to the Commons, where it would receive final approval.

Nick Brown, Labour's chief whip, reportedly told a meeting of Labour MPs on Tuesday evening that they wanted Johnson to "stew in his own juices" before they backed an election.

Johnson called on Corbyn to reflect on the "unsustainability" of Labour's position in opposing an election.

"He has become the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election. I can only speculate as to the reasons behind his hesitation. The obvious conclusion is that he does not think he will win."

Confusion over Corbyn's election position

The Labour Party is divided over whether to vote for an October 15 election or to force Johnson to hold a later one.

Jeremy Corbyn indicated on Wednesday afternoon that he would back an October election, and would vote for one as soon as the prime minister is legally required to seek a Brexit extension by October 19.

"We want a general election," the Labour leader's spokesman said.

"We want to be sure of stopping a no-deal crash-out on the 31st. We want to be sure of the government being unable to change the date or allow a crash-out during an election campaign and pre-empt the decision of the people in an election campaign. We have been attempting to find the mechanisms to do those three things. We think we can do those three things."

He said Corbyn would agree to an October 15 once the bill is law, which would be next week.

But Corbyn's position seems to be at odds with many other Labour MPs, including Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary.

At a meeting of Labour MPs on Wednesday morning, many insisted that they did not want an election bill until Boris Johnson had actually been forced to delay Brexit beyond October 31 because it would weaken his position.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, said it was the "unanimous view" of Labour MPs that they "won't vote for a pre-November election."

His stance appears to be backed by Keir Starmer, who told the meeting that "the bill has to be implemented, not just passed, before a general election," according to a PoliticsHome report.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and Corbyn's key ally, also indicated that he was not committed to an October 15 election, saying that Labour was considering "a range of options."

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