PM faces grassroots revolt as Tories accuse her of Brexit deal ‘propaganda’
Local party chairmen’s protests add to pressure as May rallies support for withdrawal on her terms
THERESA MAY is facing a grassroots revolt over her Brexit deal, with 29 Tory association chairmen accusing her of misusing party funds to distribute “propaganda”.
Senior activists have written to Conservative Party headquarters saying they are “appalled” that their associations have been instructed to canvass voters and press Brexiteer MPS into voting for the agreement.
They are demanding the distribution of paid-for leaflets backing the deal be “stopped with immediate effect”.
The chairmen added that the deal has been met with widespread opposition from grassroots activists, and that funds should not “be used on divisive issues where the majority of members strongly object to a flawed agenda”.
Last week, party members refused to distribute tens of thousands of postcards urging them to write to MPS who have declared their intention to vote the agreement down next week.
The Daily Telegraph understands that boxes of the postcards are now piling up at distribution centres.
Meanwhile, four leading Brexiteers – Boris Johnson, David Davis, Jacob Rees-mogg and Priti Patel – will today address the National Conservative Convention, and are expected to issue a rallying call for local associations to speak up against Mrs May’s deal.
Ms Patel, the former international development secretary, is expected to say the deal “does not deliver for the country, does not deliver for Leave voters, and certainly does not deliver for Conservative Party members”.
She will add: “I cannot vote for a deal that gives away more control to Brussels and threatens our precious Union.”
Mr Davis, the former Brexit secretary, last night joined local chairmen in condemning the use of party funds to lobby MPS opposing the agreement.
“Activists work hard to raise money for our party. That money should not be used to try to pressurise MPS to support a policy that is contrary to the promises they made in our own manifesto,” he said.
The chairmen’s letter, which was published by www.conservativehome. com, says: “We are appalled that associations have recently been receiving promotional literature for distribution to members of the public urging them to lobby MPS to back the Prime Minister’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. You will be well aware how controversial this proposed agreement is. Polls show Conservative MPS, party members and the British public strongly opposed.
“Given these widespread concerns I am sure you understand why it is questionable at best that party members’ funds are now being used to front what amounts to a propaganda campaign to get MPS to back the proposed deal.
“Whether we voted Leave or Remain, or agree with the Prime Minister’s deal or disagree, never should party funds or party-funded CCHQ staff be used to lobby against our duly elected Members of Parliament.”
The intervention by the chairmen represents another setback for Mrs May, who yesterday dispatched dozens of ministers across the country in a last-ditch effort to shore up support for the deal ahead of next week’s vote.
While she hopes to turn the screw on Tory rebels by speaking directly to voters, polls show even higher levels of opposition to her deal among Conservative voters. According to last week’s Yougov poll, just 38 per cent of Conservative leavers back the deal, with 45 per cent opposing it.
Mrs May’s attempt to turn the screw on Tory rebels appears to be backfiring