Boris Johnson's third attempt at general election fails - but PM to take another shot tomorrow

Boris Johnson will have another shot at calling a general election tomorrow after he failed to get a super majority for his plans in the Commons tonight.

MPs yesterday rejected Mr Johnson’s third attempt to force an early general election to end the Brexit deadlock.

The Prime Minister had urged the Commons to back his plan for a poll on December 12 - which would have provided time to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before the campaign starts.

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But MPs voted 299 to 70, short of the two-thirds majority needed, in favour of a snap election.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA

The PM will now make a fresh attempt to drive legislation through the Commons which would only require a simple majority, and set aside the provisions of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

It comes after the Liberal Democrats and SNP indicated over the weekend that they would back such an approach if the poll was held on December 9.

Mr Johnson was pushed to the move after European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday confirmed the EU would grant a third Brexit extension, taking the UK’s leaving date to January 31.

The announcement put an end to Mr Johnson’s pledge to take the country out of the EU by October 31 “by whatever means”.

He previously said in a speech in Wakefield he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than remain in the EU past Halloween.

Raising a point of order tonight Mr 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.”

He added: “This House cannot any longer keep this country hostage.”

Mr Johnson concluded: “Now that no-deal is off the table, we have a great new deal, and it’s time for the voters to have a chance to pronounce on that deal and to replace this dysfunctional Parliament with a new Parliament that can get Brexit done so the country can move on.”

Earlier in the day the Liberal Democrats and the SNP had put forward a tightly-drafted Bill that would grant an election on December 9.

Lib Dem sources said they would need to see any Bill brought forward by the Government before deciding whether to support it.

One source said that it had to contain protection against a no-deal break, with the date of the election stipulated in the legislation.

“It is about making sure that Boris Johnson in some cunning fashion cannot engineer a situation where we crash out of the EU without a deal,” the source said.

MPs in the Independent Group for Change will not vote for a general election before Christmas, its leader Anna Soubry confirmed.

“I am really disappointed that my Lib Dem and SNP colleagues,” she said.

However Jeremy Corbyn did not rule out voting for the bill.

Mr Corbyn, whose MPs were whipped to abstain on the vote tonight, said: “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 because he has some form on these matters and taking this country out of the EU without any deal whatsoever, knowing the damage it will do to jobs and industries all across this country.”

He said Labour would “consider carefully” any legislation which “locks in” the date of an election.

He said a December 12 election is “less than a fortnight before Christmas” and said “in parts of this country it will be dark before 4pm. Many students will have just finished their term and gone home for Christmas.”

He said: “People having the right to vote is what an election is all about. They (students) risk being disenfranchised. The latter point may not be the case on December 9 and we will consider carefully any legislation proposed that locks in the date.”

However Mr Johnson may not need Labour’s support, if the Liberal Democrats and the SNP back the bill.

SNP leader in the Commons Ian Blackford said his party was “ready for an election”, but “not ever on the Prime Minister’s terms”. He warned the Labour Party “don’t be the handmaidens of the Prime Minister’s Brexit”.

Mr Blackford said the party would not back the motion for a December 12 election but would support efforts for a December 9 poll.”

Mr Blackford added: “We will support the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for an election before Brexit can happen, with no reintroduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“Because given the way that some Labour MPs voted, we cannot trust Labour to block the Bill in future.”

He went on: “It’s not an issue of three days between election dates, it’s an issue of whether we are in the EU or out of it, that is fundamental. We are ready for an election, but it must be on those terms, not, not ever on the Prime Minister’s terms.

“In that election, we want to see votes for 16 and 17-year-olds and for EU nationals and when the election comes, we will fight the Tories on Brexit, on the rape clause, on austerity, on the harm they have done to people’s lives or livelihoods and yes, we will fight them on the right of Scotland to choose our own future rather than be dragged through this Westminster mess ever again.”

Mr Blackford issued an appeal to Labour to co-operate, adding: “It is about the opposition parties coming together and taking the keys of Number 10 Downing Street away from a Prime Minister that we can’t trust. So my message to the Labour Party is, ‘Let’s face an election, let’s do it on our terms, let’s make sure that we take the Prime Minister and his toxic Tory Government out of office’."

However the Lib Dem support was wavering as leader Jo Swinson said: “If Boris Johnson wants a general election he could have supported our bill for a GE on December 9. Instead he has chosen to stick to his original plan for December 12 which we have already rejected.”

A Downing Street source said a one-clause motion to amend the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) to call for a general election with the specific date of December 12 would be tabled. But it is believed this date could be changed under an amendment.

The source also said that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to implement Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal will not be put back to MPs.

The No 10 source said: “Tonight we are laying a one-clause motion to amend the FTPA and call an election with the named day of December 12. The bill is very similar to the LD/SNP bill.

"The WAB will not be put back.

“This is the way to get Brexit done so the country can move on.”