Tory rebels side with Corbyn bid to topple PM
Former ministers branded ‘un-conservative’ after offering to help prevent a no-deal Brexit
FOUR Tory former ministers yesterday welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to bring down the Government and become a caretaker prime minister in his efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, was described as un-conservative by his own association chairman after he signed a letter with fellow Remainer rebels Sir Oliver Letwin, Dame Caroline Spelman and Nick Boles offering to meet the Labour leader “to discuss the different ways” to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on Oct 31.
Last night, Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, offered to meet Mr Corbyn after initially dismissing as “nonsense” his plan to build a “strictly time-limited” cross-party coalition to force Boris Johnson out of office. Ms Swinson wrote on Twitter: “I’ve offered to meet Jeremy Corbyn to discuss how we can work together on a deliverable plan to stop no-deal, including the option of uniting behind an MP who can command a majority in the House.” Her climbdown could mean that the Tory rebels remain the last obstacle to Mr Corbyn’s plan after the SNP and Plaid Cymru both signalled their support.
Guto Bebb, a Tory MP and former defence minister, also suggested he would rather see Mr Corbyn as prime minister than experience a no-deal Brexit.
Urging MPS to take Mr Corbyn’s plan “seriously”, he said: “A short-term Jeremy Corbyn government is less damaging than the generational damage that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit”.
Last night, Mr Johnson hit back, writing on Twitter: “The referendum result must be respected. We will leave the EU on October 31.” Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, criticised his colleagues, calling it “absolutely extraordinary that any Conservative MP considered even for one minute installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street”.
The four former ministers were included in a letter sent by Mr Corbyn to opposition leaders on Wednesday asking them to unite behind a “caretaker government”, led by him, to stop no deal by extending Article 50. He proposed an alternative government that would call a general election in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum.
Yesterday, Mr Grieve, Sir Oliver, Dame Caroline and Mr Boles wrote back agreeing to talks. The letter read: “We agree that our common priority should be to work together in Parliament to prevent no-deal Brexit and welcome your invitation to discuss the different ways that this might be achieved. We would be happy to meet with you as well as colleagues from other parties.”
The move prompted outrage in Mr Grieve’s Beaconsfield constituency. Jackson Ng, the chairman, said: “The continuous and thoroughly un-conservative behaviour being exhibited by Dominic Grieve has become more worrying. Should he entertain the idea of siding with Jeremy Corbyn or any other government other than the existing Conservative Government being led by Boris Johnson, he will leave us with no choice at all as an association.” A source at Sir Oliver’s West Dorset Conservative Association said: “We are completely at odds with our MP over this.”
Yesterday, Dame Caroline appeared to backtrack on the letter, saying: “I could not support a Corbyn government.”
PHILIP HAMMOND is facing a backlash from local Conservative party members over his attempts to block no deal, with insiders indicating he could soon face a confidence vote.
A subset of pro-brexit members are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to his stance and recent interventions, according to multiple sources.
Insiders in the former chancellor’s local Conservative association have told The Daily Telegraph that anger at Mr Hammond has grown in recent weeks, including among figures on the executive committee.
One source said it was “no secret” that members of the MP’S Runnymede and Weybridge association were “unhappy with what they see as Philip Hammond’s interference”.
Another claimed the views of a “subset” of Brexiteers were hardening against Mr Hammond, warning that they expected tensions to boil over next month when Boris Johnson is widely expected to face a confidence vote in Parliament.
The row comes less than 24 hours after Mr Hammond claimed that no deal would be “as much a betrayal” as remaining in the European Union, adding that he was “very confident” that MPS could still block Mr Johnson from delivering no deal.
His comments have enraged Brexiteers, with Downing Street insiders accusing Mr Hammond of undermining no-deal preparations while in government and privately seeking advice on preparations for a second referendum.
The row within the Conservative Party escalated last night as senior rebels Dominic Grieve and Sir Oliver Letwin agreed to meet with Jeremy Corbyn, after the Labour leader wrote to them asking for their support to topple Mr Johnson.
Dame Caroline Spelman also agreed to talks, but later insisted she would not vote against the Government in a confidence vote.
Guto Bebb, the Tory MP for Aberconwy, also gave the clearest indication yet that he could vote with Labour, after claiming that a “short-term Jeremy Corbyn government” would be “less damaging” than no deal.
‘There are people in the association … in the executive committee, who are not best pleased with some of the things that Philip has said.’
Last night a Number 10 source hit out at the rebels, warning that they needed to think “very carefully” about their next steps. “They will have to explain to their constituents why it is appropriate”, they added.
Separately, Mr Hammond was facing a mounting backlash from local members yesterday, with a Tory councillor telling The Daily Telegraph that he was wrong to undermine Mr Johnson’s negotiating stance.
“If I’d have been in the PM’S position, I would also say there has to be an exit day, irrespective,” they added. “I do believe that in a negotiation you’ve got to have a deadline. To roll this thing over and over is ridiculous.
“My wife said to me this morning, if there was a general election she wouldn’t know who to vote for. We’re now in that camp.”
A local party insider added: “There are people in the association … in the executive committee, who are not best pleased with some of the things that Philip has said.”
Echoing their comments, a second source said: “There is a reasonably sized group who believe in hard Brexit and are not too chuffed with the route Philip has chosen.
“I have no doubt they will be expressing those opinions during the course of September.”
Under party rules, anyone attempting to subject Mr Hammond to a censure motion would need to secure the signatures of 50 association members before a motion can be considered.
However, an ally of Mr Hammond insisted that those framing him as an “arch-remainer” were misguided, adding that he continued to enjoy the support of many Tory members.
“I can understand people saying they don’t agree with his style, but when they say he’s trying to frustrate Brexit I don’t agree with that,” they said.
“Philip Hammond is not Dominic Grieve. [Mr Grieve’s association] has much more of a case for being deeply aggrieved at what their MP has been doing, because even under Theresa May he was making it difficult for the Government to conduct business. “I don’t think Philip is doing that.” It came as two Tory rebels, Sir Oliver and Mr Grieve, joined by Nick Boles, yesterday wrote to Mr Corbyn to say they would be “happy to meet” to discuss the “different ways” Parliament could prevent no deal.
While they stopped short of backing the Labour leader’s bid to become a caretaker prime minister, the pair said they agreed that “our common priority should be to work together”.
Sir Oliver Letwin Former chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Dame Caroline Spelman Environment secretary under Cameron