LABOUR is backing away from granting Boris Johnson a general election next month despite calling for one for most of the past couple of years.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party has made a general election a central priority to as part of its strategy to solve the Brexit impasse. Only on Monday, at a rally in Salford, the Labour leader made clear he wanted an election, declaring “I’m ready for it, you’re ready for it, we’re ready for it”.

So there was huge surprise when hours later key figures in the party opposed one.

The reason they gave for the change of mind is that they believe Johnson is planning a trick.

They suspect he may promise an election on 14 October – if MPs succeed today in passing a bill to require him to seek a new extension – but then later change the date to the beginning of November.

An election in early November would mean the UK falls out of the EU at Halloween without an agreement, which is the legal default.

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“We are not daft enough to see a tactic dictated by PM Johnson which is designed to land us with a No-Deal Brexit and to fall for that,” Tony Lloyd, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, explained on Monday night.

“Will we fall for Boris Johnson’s trick? No we won’t. Boris Johnson is a man who has got form for reneging on his promises.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, expanded on the argument yesterday, in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

The National: Andrew Marr interviewing Shami Chakrabarti

“The priority this morning ... is we get this legislation locked down ... A locked-in guarantee that Britain would not crash out of the EU in an election campaign period,” she said.

“We’ve also got to try as best as possible to ensure it would not be possible for this sitting, squatting Prime Minister in this period to set a general election and then change the date, so the priority this morning is preventing this No Deal crash out.

“And then of course, if we get the sequencing right, and we get sufficient support across the House we live and breathe for a general election.”

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As the second largest party Labour’s support for a general election is crucial as under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act two-thirds of all MPs must agree to a snap election. Even then, the Prime Minister has the power to change the election date by proclamation.

A No Deal Brexit would allow Johnson to keep the promise he has made to Leave supporters and Brexiteer Tory MPs that the UK will leave the EU at the end of October “come what may”, “do or die”.

He could then go to the country having fulfilled his pledge and see off any election threat from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which has promised to stand against Tory candidates if Johnson does not keep to the Halloween Brexit deadline.

One plan is for Labour to try to attach the condition of any vote on having a general election that polling day can only take place if an EU extension has been granted.