Remain-voting Tory parliamentarians will lose the party whip and be deselected if they back efforts by the left-liberal opposition to force yet another Brexit delay, according to reports.
“The whips are telling Conservative MPs… a very simple message — if they fail to vote with the Government on Tuesday they will be destroying the Government’s negotiating position and handing control of Parliament to Jeremy Corbyn,” a Government source suggested.
“Any Conservative MP who does this will have the whip withdrawn and will not stand as Conservative candidates in an election,” they warned, adding that there is one last chance to secure a deal on October 17th “only because Brussels realises the Prime Minister is totally committed to leaving on 31st October. All MPs face a simple choice on Tuesday: to vote with the Government and preserve the chance of a deal or vote with Corbyn and destroy any chance of a deal.”
Alex Wickham of BuzzFeed later reported that a Tory MP had confirmed to him that “[Downing Street] has decided [former Chancellor of the Exchequer] Philip Hammond, [former Justice Secretary] David Gauke, [former Attorney-General] Dominic Grieve and co will have the Conservative whip withdrawn if they do not vote with the government on Tuesday” — prompting former Foreign Aid Secretary Rory Stewart to pipe up: “And me too I hope.”
And me too I hope
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) September 1, 2019
Gauke, who gives his name to the so-called “Gaukeward Squad” of anti-Brexit Tories, appears ready to run the risk of deselection, having responded to the claims by complaining that “if it is the position now that defying a whip on a European vote is a matter that you lose the whip for the Conservative Party, then I think there’s quite a lot of Conservative MPs who over recent months would have lost the whip.”
He added that, in his view, “sometimes there is a point where you have to judge between your own personal interests and the national interest, and the national interest has to come first” — implying that the national interests would be best served by MPs preventing the result of a public referendum from being implemented.
But Johnson spelled out the choice as he sees it for Conservative MPs — who, like their opposition colleagues, are mostly former Remain voters, if largely committed to respecting the referendum result at least on paper — in an interview with The Sunday Times:
“I just say to everybody in the country, including everyone in parliament, the fundamental choice is this. Are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum; are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people and plunge this country into chaos? Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda. That’s the choice.”