SENIOR Cabinet ministers yesterday confronted Boris Johnson to call on him to overturn his expulsion of 21 rebel Conservative MPs as the insurrection against the PM grew.
No Deal chief Michael Gove lead the charge from a series of senior figures during a tense meeting of the Cabinet in No10 yesterday.
Pleading for Boris to relent on his tough punishment, they insisted he offer the expelled rebels “a way back” so they can rejoin the Parliamentary party.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also questioned the controversial decision during the tense Cabinet meeting, and asked the PM to spell out how the rebels could “find redemption”.
Northern Ireland Secretary and ex-chief whip Julian Smith, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd also spoke out.
One Cabinet minister told The Sun: “We have to offer them a way back, as we must remain a broad church”.
A No10 source said the PM told the Cabinet ministers he “has sympathy” for their argument but held firm, insisting the rebels would “not support our manifesto” in a snap general election.
But in a sign of the growing pressure, ex-deputy PM Damien Green published an open letter on behalf of the Tory ‘One Nation’ group which includes a number of Cabinet members demanding the whip be restored to the Tory rebels.
Mr Green – whose group claims to be supported by 100 Tory MPs – said: “We cannot support the removal of the whip from principled, hard-working and dedicated colleagues.”
It came in an extraordinary day of Westminster drama…
- The Labour-led bid to block a No Deal by forcing Boris Johnson to ask the EU for extension of the October 31 deadline was formally passed in chaotic scenes in the Commons.
- Tory peers mounted a last ditch bid to stop the new law passing the House of Lords before Parliament is suspended next week by threatening to force a marathon week-long debate.
- Ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond tore into Boris Johnson’s accusations of collaboration with Labour by saying he would rather “boil his head” than hand the keys to No.10 to Jeremy Corbyn.
- Theresa May’s Brexit deal was given a new lease of life as an amendment to the No Deal legislation was passed ‘by accident’ – forcing the Government to look once more at her proposal.
The PM carried out his threat to withdraw the whip from the 21 Remainer rebels – including eight former Cabinet ministers – on Tuesday night when they backed a bid to delay Brexit yet again.
The group, that includes Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and ex-Chancellor Ken Clarke, are also banned from standing as Tory MPs again.
The pressure intensified on Boris as a 22nd senior Tory MP joined the rebellion yesterday.
Dame Caroline Spelman voted for the cross-party bill to delay Brexit by three months when it was passed by the Commons yesterday.
Downing Street sources said she would not lose the whip as Tuesday’s rebellion was a ‘confidence issue’ which transferred parliamentary power to Labour and opposition parties.
Brexiteer backbench Tory MPs also called on Mr Johnson to change his mind yesterday as tension spiralled.
TORIES ROUND ON PM
In more trouble for the PM, he was challenged by several Tory MPs as he addressed a packed meeting of the 1922 Committee yesterday afternoon.
Leave backer Tim Loughton told the PM that “purges never ended well in Roman times” and he should “get them back in”.
And another Tory MP, Daniel Kawczynski, was booed during the tense meeting for attacking the suspended rebels.
But under fire Boris repeatedly said he “can’t undermine the chief”, a reference to the Chief Whip who carried out his order.
In a fig leaf to the rebels, Caroline Spelman was allowed to keep the Tory whip yesterday despite her vote against the government.
But doubling down last night party chiefs issued an edict to local Conservative associations for the expelled rebel MPs – demanding they pick a new candidate for the seat as soon as possible.
In an email to local party members in Philip Hammond’s Runnymede and Weybridge seat, the local association said: “Last night, Philip Hammond had the Conservative whip removed by the chief whip.
“This means that he is no longer a Conservative MP and will not be eligible to stand as the Conservative candidate for Runnymede and Weybridge.
“A new Conservative candidate will be selected by the membership in due course.”
And Neil Clarke, chair of Ken Clarke’s Rushcliffe Conservatives association, said he was in talks with the party to get somebody in place “pretty damn quick”.
Other Tories also demanded Mr Johnson fire controversial top aide Dominic Cummings, holding him responsible for the aggressive strategy.
Grandee MP Sir Roger Gale said: “I think it’s been handled appallingly. I think the fact that you have at the heart of Number 10, as the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, an unelected, foul-mouthed oaf throwing his weight around is completely unacceptable”.
Former Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for @NSoames?”
Members of the Young Conservatives also protested the decision outside the Tories’ Westminster HQ yesterday evening.
In yesterday’s charged No Deal Commons debate, the Tory rebels sacked from the party on Tuesday night launched a passionate defence of their actions.
REBELS FIGHT BACK
Ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond said he would rather “boil my head” than hand power to Jeremy Corbyn – and insisted it was the PM who was heightening the risk of a Labour government.
An emotional Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, claimed it was Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers “serial disloyalty” under Theresa May that proved the rebels’ inspiration.
He said: “I have always believed that the referendum result must be honoured and indeed I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement on every occasion, which is more than can be said for the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and several members of the Cabinet, whose serial disloyalty has been such an inspiration to so many of us.”
And Sir Alistair Burt, Theresa May’s former Foreign Minister, warned other Tories they could be next to be “purged” by Downing Street.
He earned applause from opposition benches as he defended his rebellion on Tuesday and said: “I leave here looking at the sky, rather than down at my shoes”.
Earlier Labour’s Hilary Benn insisted his bill to block No Deal was nothing more than an attempt to prevent a “crash out” Brexit – and buy Britain more time to negotiate a deal.
Speaking in the House, he said: “If someone says you can jump off a cliff in a couple of weeks’ time or we could put it off a few months the sensible course of action is to put it off.
“I accept we need to find a way forward, but that is not the purpose of that today.”
But Tory MPs lined up to demand he be “honest” with the public about his intentions.
Conservative backbencher Steve Double stormed: “Can we be clear – this Bill does not stop No Deal, it simply prolongs how long we take to leave.
“If you want to stop Brexit, revoke Article 50 and be honest with the country.”
The Sun says
WHY should Boris reinstate the Remainers who crippled him?
We’re all for a Tory Party with a range of opinions on most issues. Brexit is different. It must be delivered. With no deal Parliament will back, No Deal it is.
How could the PM hand back the whip to those who crashed his Government? How could they stand on a new manifesto with No Deal in it?
Consider, too, their demeanour since defeating their PM: Smirking on TV, branding ex-colleagues “extremists”, vowing to fight them at election time.
What rehabilitation do they deserve?
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And Labour ‘leaver’ Caroline Flint – the MP for Don Valley – said her Europhile Labour colleagues bore as much blame for the “crisis” in the country as arch Tory Brexiteers.
Referring the 2016 Referendum vote, Ms Flint said: “A decision we delegated to the British people has been dominated by a lack of compromise.
“Hardline Leavers and hardline Remainers have turned this into a crisis and are eroding the trust of the British people.”
Former Attorney General Jeremy Wright also hit back at his former colleagues – insisting that while Vote Leave hadn’t campaigned for a No Deal in the Referendum, “neither was it put to the electorate that we would only leave if there was a deal with the EU”.
He added: “The truth is that Parliament set out the rules for the referendum in the referendum act and we stressed it was the public’s decision to make.
“I’m afraid on this fundamental point I cannot agree that we do not have a mandate for no deal.”
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