Jeremy Corbyn is still prepared to vote for an election this year, despite growing concerns in his party about the practicalities of a pre-Christmas poll and speculation that it could end up being pushed into early 2020.
His shadow cabinet discussed Labour’s readiness for a poll in late November or early December at a meeting on Tuesday. Corbyn has repeatedly said he will vote and whip for an election as soon as a no-deal Brexit is off the table.
The earliest an election could be scheduled is 28 November if Johnson tabled a motion for one next week and enough opposition MPs supported it to give him a two-thirds majority. There are then only two subsequent Thursday dates – 5 December or 12 December – on which an election could be held given that a date any closer to Christmas would be logistically impractical, according to civil service advice.
If Corbyn were to try to get an election by tabling a motion of no confidence in the prime minister, a two-week period would follow in which various parties could try to form a government, ending in an election automatically being triggered if none could be found. This would result in a December election date.
However, senior Labour figures involved in planning for an election are worried about the motivation levels of their activists and voters so close to Christmas, as well as the increased possibility of bad weather on a winter polling day.
Ian Lavery, the party’s chair, and Andrew Gwynne, the national election coordinator, received a sceptical reception from MPs when they outlined the party’s election plans on Monday night.
One Labour MP said: “One of the things to come out of that was there is no proper organisation for an election and no appetite for an election among MPs.”
Several Conservative cabinet sources said they believed it was now just as likely that an election would get shifted to early next year, raising the prospect of a minority Johnson government limping through another three months without being able to pass most legislation. However, this would depend on either a Brexit deal having been passed, a technical extension to pass a deal or a longer extension from the EU than three months.
Caution in Labour party ranks embraces a number of shadow cabinet figures who are pushing for a second referendum to come first to get Brexit out of the way. There are concerns that Labour is behind the Conservatives in the polls because the Liberal Democrats have won support from remain-backing voters.
The uncertainty over an election comes at a time of internal wrangling over the selection of candidates for key marginals and seats being vacated by MPs.
Local candidates and campaigners said they were being overlooked and bumped off longlists drawn up by the party’s ruling body. However, Labour denied this was happening and said it was obvious unsuccessful candidates were going to be disappointed.
More than 140 members in Liverpool West Derby have written to the party’s national executive in protest that longstanding campaigner, councillor and national president of the centre-left Co-operative party, Nick Crofts, did not make the longlist.
With current MP Stephen Twigg standing down at the next election, there was an uproar that leftwing councillor Ian Byrne did make it on to the list. Byrne, a Corbyn supporter, was forced to publicly apologise in September after it emerged he had made offensive jokes on social media.
In a letter of complaint written to the party entitled Stop the Stitch-up, the members said Crofts deserved to be on the list because he had campaigned in the area for 11 years.
Stephen Pound, the outgoing Labour MP for Ealing North in London, said he was keeping a close eye on the longlisting process for his constituency and was concerned that someone with no connection to the area could be parachuted in.
In Bassetlaw, Nottinnghamshire, there were complaints that Simon Greaves, who has led Bassetlaw council since 2012, had not been included.
Josie Potts, a Labour councillor in Bassetlaw, said: “This is not a stitch-up, it’s a bloody tapestry.”
A Labour party source said: “The purpose of longlists is to narrow the field, so clearly not everyone can be on that list. This is a hotly contested seat with many high-quality applications and of course unsuccessful candidates will be disappointed. Obviously if we didn’t narrow them down, we would never pick a single candidate.”
Labour said a very large number of high-quality applications had been received. A candidate’s application forms and personal statements, their background and experience and their record of Labour party activity are all considered in the longlisting process, a source said.
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