In Brief

Jeremy Corbyn to meet civil servants for election planning

Launch of discussions indicates UK voters may return to the polls as early as next month

Election speculation is growing after Jeremy Corbyn was given the go-head to hold talks with the head of the civil service on policies for a future Labour government.

Boris Johnson has written to Corbyn explaining that he has asked Sir Mark Sedwill to open discussions with Labour on its plans for the government ahead of a potential general election campaign in November, The Times reports.

Sedwill is believed to have suggested the talks, in light of the Government’s preference for an election should the prime minister be forced to delay Brexit.

It is a “longstanding convention” that the civil service discusses “political priorities” with shadow ministers ahead of a general election, to prepare paperwork for whichever party wins at the ballot box, explains the newspaper.

However, the green-lighting of the Corbyn talks may not necessarily signal an imminent poll. According to the Institute for Government think tank, such discussions can be held anywhere between two and 16 months ahead of a general election.

For instance, then PM Gordon Brown authorised contact between David Cameron and the civil service 15 months in advance of the 2010 election. On the other hand, when Theresa May announced a snap general election in 2017, the Labour Party had just 51 days in which to communicate its ideas to the mandarins.

News of the meeting comes a day after The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee wrote that Johnson is “desperate for a general election” and that a return to the ballot box “looks certain”. The Tory leader had previously called for Britain to go to the polls on 15 October but failed to win the support of two-thirds of MPs as required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

A Labour spokesperson said Corbyn and the shadow cabinet are “looking forward to using these access talks to prepare for a transformational Labour government” that would “bring key utilities into public ownership, boost people’s pay and tackle the climate emergency”.

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