'The Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Ed Davey has suggested his party could back Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn as head of a government of national unity, to be installed instead of a general election if the government lost a no-confidence vote.
The Lib Dem contender admitted he had not spoken to Cooper or Benn about the plan and said the unity government’s sole purpose would be to oversee a second referendum and then dissolve parliament and hold a general election.
Davey said the plan would “take some persuasion” but could be a way to attract Conservatives to vote down their own government if they were wary of their actions leading to Jeremy Corbyn winning an election.
Cooper, who has been at the forefront of cross-party efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit, has never endorsed a second referendum.
Speaking to journalists at a hustings with his Lib Dem leadership rival Jo Swinson, Davey said it was an “extreme option” and said he had not done the numbers.
“I think it has to be a Labour MP because most MPs supporting the Queen’s speech in this government of national unity would be Labour. Ultimately, it’s a challenge to my Labour colleagues,” he said.
“I’ve not held talks, I’ve not done a tally. The last time we held an indicative vote for a people’s vote we had 280 people voting for that. I’m as confident as I can be there are six cabinet ministers who would have voted for that, as well as junior ministers. We would need some Tories to come over … I think they are there.”
During the hustings, both Swinson and Davey said they were confident about the possibility of new MPs joining the party, after Chuka Umunna joined the Lib Dems.
“I have and will continue to have private conversations,” Swinson said. “I’m keen to grow the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party in a variety of ways.”'
Read more: Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn should lead unity government to halt Brexit – Ed Davey
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2 July 2019
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