Tory rebels side with Cor­byn bid to top­ple PM

Former min­is­ters branded ‘un-con­ser­va­tive’ af­ter of­fer­ing to help pre­vent a no-deal Brexit

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Camilla Tominey as­so­ciate ed­i­tor

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

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