No.10 gives Labour the go-ahead for pre-election talks with civil servants

Labour confirms Corbyn has requested talks as Johnson fails to call election for second time

Jeremy Corbyn Photo: PA

No.10 has given the green light to talks between opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and civil servants to prepare for the possibility for an election in the coming months.

The Labour Party has confirmed that Corbyn has requested meetings with cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and other high-level officials to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to a new government if the party wins the next election.

No date has yet been set for the meetings, but prime minister Boris Johnson has approved the talks.


The approval came in the same week Johnson tried and failed to trigger a general election for the second time. Only 293 MPs backed the motion, far below the two-thirds threshold required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

Corbyn has said he will back an election once the government agrees to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

The meetings, which require prime ministerial approval, routinely take place before an election to enable opposition parties to ask questions about the organisation of government departments, and tell civil servants about any organisational changes they would want to make if they were to win.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “It is standard practice when the possibility of a general election arises for the prime minister to authorise pre-election contact between the cabinet secretary as head of the civil service and the opposition."

In recent weeks, Labour has been setting out some of structural changes it plans to take if the party wins the next election.

Last month, Corbyn said he would scrap the Department for Work and Pensions, along with the government’s controversial flagship welfare reform Universal Credit, and replace it with a new department for social security.

In a speech last week in Universal Credit architect Iain Duncan-Smith’s constituency, Corbyn called the reform an “unmitigated disaster” and said his revamped ministry would “provide real security”. DWP’s predecessor department was called the Department of Social Security from 1988 to 2001.

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

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