Anti-Brexit Tory MP Dominic Grieve has lost a vote of confidence from his constituency association — but instead of moving to deselect the unpopular MP, party elites want to get rid of the local activists.
Despite saying the British people’s vote to Leave the European Union should be respected in the run-up to the 2017 snap election, in which the Tories stood on a “no deal is better than a bad deal” manifesto promising a clean break with the EU Customs Union, Single Market, and associated Free Movement regime, Mr Grieve has worked diligently to hinder the process single his re-election.
Indeed, the former Attorney-General has served as ad hoc leader of a band of “Remain Rebels” within the Tory parliamentary party, able to wield outsized influence and inflict key defeats on the Government, due to its lack of an outright majority in the House of Commons.
Consequently, Brexit-supporting members of the party’s local association in Beaconsfield, which Grieve represents, organised a vote of confidence in him as their representative — which he lost, 182 votes to 131.
Dominic Grieve is deselected because of his beliefs in campaign led by his ex UKIP opponent. The Tory leadership can stop any deselection if it wants – we frequently did. CCHQ should suspend the local party. Otherwise we are heading for a huge, historic split in the Tory Party
— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) March 30, 2019
Rather than agree to step down immediately or before the next general election to make way for a parliamentary candidate who would better represent the views of local members, however, Grieve has insisted he will cling on, and blamed the move to oust him on an activist who once ran against him as a UKIP candidate, but has later joined the Conservative Party.
“The Conservative Party, being a broad church, historically doesn’t seek to expel Members of Parliament for variations of view, otherwise many of my colleagues who currently have good careers in Parliament would never have been able to remain there,” complained the MP, who has been in the House of Commons since the 1990s.
This may have been a reference to the fact that Remainers have been able to secure the majority of the Tories’ parliamentary seats, and an overwhelming majority of posts in the Tory Cabinet, despite the bulk of its ordinary members and supporters being Leavers.
Sad to hear about Dominic Grieve. We disagree about EU but he is a good man and a true Conservative #grieveforbeaconsfield
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 30, 2019
The party elite appears to be taking Grieve’s side against ordinary members, as well, with party chairman Brandon Lewis — a fellow Remainer — intervening to prevent the association from deselecting him.
Party grandee George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who acted as “Scaremonger-General” for the Remain campaign’s Project Fear in the 2016, went a step further, demanding that Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) suspend not Grieve, but the local party.
“The Tory leadership can stop any deselection it wants — we frequently did,” he bragged.
Jon Conway, the former Ukipper accused of orchestrating the vote, denied he was at the centre of any grand conspiracy.
“The fact is, I’ve been a Conservative voter and activist for 35 years, along with 3 million other people approximately. We flirted with UKIP because we thought it was the best way of landing Brexit,” he said.
“Nobody has a divine right to be leader of a country or a constituency without challenge for 20-odd years. And our whole point last night was to say that we don’t have confidence in his view and we would like to be able to consider somebody else.”
Sort of incredible that Dominic Grieve and Boris Johnson are in the same party
— Robert Peston (@Peston) March 12, 2019
Grieve found a perhaps unlikely ally in the form of Boris Johnson, the former Vote Leave frontman, who said the Remainer was a “true Conservative” and tweeted “#grieveforbeaconsfield”.
This contrasts sharply with Grieve’s view of Johnson, with the Beaconsfield MP having vowed he would resign from the party altogether if the Brexiteer ever became leader.