Pro-EU Tories Brand Grassroots Deselection Campaign ‘Purple Momentum’

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Pro-EU Tory MPs are panicking over a grassroots campaign for their local constituency associations to deselect them as parliamentary candidates.

Some EU loyalists within the Tory parliamentary party, effectively led by former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve MP, have gone a step further than their largely Remain-voting colleagues by openly repudiating the British people’s vote to Leave the European Union and calling for a second referendum.

They could now face the axe at the hands of ordinary party members in annual local association meetings which must be held by the end of March, when the United Kingdom is scheduled to formally leave the European Union — at least for now.

“If we don’t have a special general meeting beforehand then there will be a motion put down for the annual general meeting for the Beaconsfield association saying we have no confidence in Dominic Grieve, that he should not stand for re-election at the next general election and the association should commence proceedings for selecting a new candidate,” said John Strafford, a member of the Remainer ringleader’s constituency association, in comments to the Telegraph.

Moves to deselect EU loyalists — which are not just limited to Grieve — have been enthusiastically embraced by the Leave.EU campaign.

Leave.EU was the largest of the two major Brexit groups during the 2016 referendum, and has previously called on its supporters to join their local Tory associations in order to influence the party’s policies, help decide who it puts up for elections, and participate in leadership elections.

The group compiled a video montage of statements from Mr Grieve and fellow europhiles Heidi Allen, Nick Boles, Anna Soubry, and Sarah Wollaston showing them first claiming that they accepted the Leave vote and recognised that Brexit must be delivered, and then — with the exception of Boles — reneging and calling for a second referendum, after the 2017 snap election in which they stood all stood on a “No deal is better than a bad deal” manifesto was out of the way.

The contrast between Grieve stating “We should be proceeding to give effect to the express wishes of the British electorate” and then changing tack to recommend “[Going] back and ask[ing] them to reconsider their decision” appears particularly egregious.

Anna Soubry, who is perhaps the most recognisable of the Tory Remainers, has complained the efforts to deselect her and her fellow-travellers are evidence the party has been infiltrated by what she describes as a “Purple Momentum” — after the UK Independence Party’s traditional colours and Labour’s hard-left Momentum group, which acts as something of a Praetorian Guard for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose old-fashioned socialism is often at odds with the neoliberal globalism to which most Labour MPs subscribe.

Calls for Brexiteers to be prevented from joining the Tories would be difficult to implement, however, considering the party is at least nominally committed to delivering Brexit — and in any case, polls indicate that over 70 percent of Tory supporters backed Brexit in 2016, before the calls for more Leave voters to get involved.

To some, this suggests that it is the “capture” of the Tory parliamentary party by Remainers like Soubry, rather than UKIP entryism, which is responsible for the current fractures within the party.

The Telegraph lists the Tory faction which has supported Dominic Grieve’s parliamentary schemes to undermine Brexit as follows:

Heidi Allen (South Cambs)
Guto Bebb (Aberconwy)
Richard Benyon (Newbury)
Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford)
Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk)
Richard Graham (Gloucester)
Damian Green (Ashford)
Justine Greening (Putney)
Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
Oliver Heald (NE Herts)
Jo Johnson (Orpington)
Phillip Lee (Bracknell)
Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford)
Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)
Nicky Morgan (Loughboro)
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst)
Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury)
Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex)
Anna Soubry (Broxtowe)
John Stevenson (Carlisle)
Edward Vaizey (Wantage)
Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)

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