Johnson and Corbyn poisonous, says Welsh Lib Dem MP

Image copyright
Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Image caption

Jane Dodds won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in August

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are “quite poisonous” in the way they manage their parties, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader has said.

Jane Dodds said that was why so many MPs had defected to the Lib Dems “because they want to be part of an open and tolerant party”.

The Welsh MP was addressing her party’s conference in Bournemouth.

Delegates there voted to scrap Brexit if they win an early general election.

Ms Dodds said she supported the move: “If we get a majority we’ll revoke [Article 50], if we don’t we’ll campaign very, very strongly to make sure there’s a People’s Vote.”

When asked if her comments about Mr Corbyn meant Labour would have to change leader to get Lib Dem support in government, Ms Dodds said it would be support for another referendum that would be key.

“We’ll be saying on Brexit we want a People’s Vote, we will remain separate parties on all of the other issues.

“But on Brexit we’re saying People’s Vote and we want to see Jeremy Corbyn, if he’s still leader, and Labour, support that position.”

Image caption

Jane Dodds and Jo Swinson both spoke at the conference

The MP has also backed calls for Wales to remain part of the UK but have its own “meaningful” government.

She said she wanted a “truly equal family of nations”.

It comes after several Welsh independence marches, organised as the UK is set to leave the European Union.

Ms Dodds won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election last month, overturning an 8,038 majority to beat Conservative Chris Davies by 1,425 votes.

Party members backed UK leader Jo Swinson’s call to revoke Article 50 – the formal process to leave the EU – without asking the public, as the referendum has got the UK “into a mess”.

Until now, the party’s policy had been to campaign for another referendum, but Ms Swinson said the party’s anti-Brexit message should be “unequivocal” in any possible general election campaign.

Analysis – BBC Wales political editor Felicity Evans

Wales may have voted to leave in 2016, but the Lib Dems say if they win a majority in a general election they’ll cancel Brexit, if not they’ll continue to campaign for remain.

Why are they doubling down on a position that alienates so many Welsh voters?

  • When politics is polarised it helps to pick a side – taking a strong remain position has rescued the party from the doldrums
  • The clarity of their position puts Labour’s divisions into sharp relief – Labour agrees it wants a referendum, but that’s pretty much where the agreement stops. Welsh Labour says it would campaign for remain whatever’s on the ballot paper. Jeremy Corbyn says he’d negotiate a new Brexit deal and put it to a vote, but he won’t say which option [a Labour deal or remain] he would campaign for. Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet also seems split on this issue
  • The Lib Dems are not really worried about a backlash from leave voters because they’ve lost them anyway
  • An electoral pact with Plaid Cymru could help both parties shore up support (except in the Plaid/Lib Dem marginal of Ceredigion)
  • Unlike Plaid, the Lib Dems are a unionist party – allowing their Welsh leader to argue they’re the only party unambiguously committed to keeping Wales in two unions – the UK and the EU

But this strategy is based on the assumption the general election will come before the UK leaves the EU.

If the prime minister can present a deal after the Tory party conference, get agreement from EU member states at the mid-October summit and get it through Parliament the week after, he could still meet his “do or die” Brexit deadline.

This is challenging but not impossible and would leave leave the Lib Dems looking for a new unique selling point.