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I beg to move,
That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.
Before I begin, Mr Speaker, I join others hon. Members in thanking you for your long and distinguished service to the House. We may not have always agreed on everything, but I believe you have always acted in what you judge to be the national interest.
I move the motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Last Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn became the first Leader of the Opposition in the history of our country to show his confidence in Her Majesty’s Government by declining the opportunity to have an election with a view to removing the Government. When he spoke last week, it seemed that he might recover his nerve tonight, and I wait to see how he responds. Referring to his surrender Bill, he said last week:
“Let this Bill pass and gain Royal Assent, and then we will back an election”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 664, c. 292.]
The surrender Bill—the surrender Act—has now passed. It has gained Royal Assent. He has done his level best to wreck this country’s chances of a successful negotiation. By his own logic, he must now back an election, so I am re-tabling the motion for an early general election. I do not want one, and I hoped this step would be unnecessary, yet I have accepted the reality that an election is the only way to break the deadlock in the House and to serve the national interest by giving whoever is Prime Minister the strongest possible mandate to negotiate for our country at next month’s European Council.
Labour, too, has accepted this reality. In its own leaflets this weekend, it says:
“We need a General Election now”.
That is what it says, yet throughout the weekend, the right hon. Gentleman’s cronies, together with those of other Opposition parties, have been trying to disguise their preposterous cowardice by coming up with ever more outrageous excuses for delaying an election until the end of October, or perhaps November, or when hell freezes over, in the dither, delay and procrastination that has become the hallmark of the Opposition. Why are they conniving to delay Brexit, in defiance of the referendum, costing the country an extra £250 million a week for the privilege of delay—enough to upgrade more than five hospitals and train 4,000 new nurses? The only possible explanation is that they fear that we will win it, and I will win it, and secure a renewed mandate to take this country out of the EU, a policy they now oppose. That is the sorry tale of this Opposition and this Parliament. For the last three years, they have schemed to overturn the verdict of the British people, delivered in a referendum which, in a crowning irony, almost all of them voted to hold. In fact, they did not just vote to hold it; some of them even—