Father of the House Ken Clarke branded the party he had been an MP for from 1970 until last night the “Brexit Party rebadged” as it tore itself apart over Brexit.
The Tory grandee was one of 21 Conservative MPs who Boris Johnson unceremoniously ordered out of the party last night, after they voted to give MPs control over the order of affairs in Parliament to debate a bill to delay Brexit if the Prime Minister doesn’t negotiate a deal with the EU by mid-October.
The MPs said they would put country over career in a day of drama when leaks in the Telegraph newspaper revealed that Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings called Johnson’s empty assurances that he was close to a deal “a sham.”
After the humiliating defeat for Boris Johnson in his first Commons vote as PM, Andrea Leadsom suggested that Tory rebels would be given another chance to stop them voting for the bill to ensure Johnson doesn’t crash the country out of the EU with no deal.
But Downing Street slapped down the minister and insisted the rebel MPs were all sacked from the party last night.
Minority government now a minority of -22
This, after Tory MP and former Justice Secretary Philip Lee left the Tory Party to join the Liberal Democrats earlier, means that Boris Johnson in one day went from a working majority of 1 with the DUP to a minority government of – 22.
If he wanted Parliament to take control of the Brexit process off him he could not have done a better job. Johnson vowed to seek a General Election, in which the MPs would not be allowed to stand for the Conservative Party.
But he needs two-thirds of the Commons to vote for an election. Now, as Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry pointed out last night, few trust Johnson not to move the General Election date at the last moment so that Britain crashed out of the EU with no deal first.
Johnson’s reaction sacking 21 MPs for defying the whip, despite his Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg having defied the Tory whip dozens of times in his career, now means that the Labour Party, Lib Dems and SNP could actually seize control with no need of a General election.
The three parties now have a notional majority of five and will be weighing up the unexpected benefit of a Vote of No Confidence now.
Ken Clarke sums up Boris Johnson’s strategy
Political grandee Kenneth Clarke – a Commons veteran of nearly five decades – was among those to find themselves politically homeless after voting against the Government.
The former minister under Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor of the Exchequer among other ministerial posts, was expelled from the parliamentary party after joining opposition parties on Tuesday night to wrest control of the Commons agenda to block a no-deal Brexit.
Earlier, during the emergency debate, the Rushcliffe MP summed up the PM’s tactics.
“The PM’s extraordinary knock-about performance today merely confirms his obvious strategy: To set conditions which make no-deal inevitable. To make sure that as much blame as possible is attached to the EU and this House.
And then as quickly as he can, fight a flag waving election before the consequences of no-deal would be too obvious to the public.”
“It’s the Brexit Party rebadged”
After his sacking, Clarke said he was still a conservative but he had reservations about the party under Boris Johnson’s leadership.
He told BBC’s Newsnight: “I don’t recognise this. It’s the Brexit Party, rebadged.
“It’s been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who’s got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy… a Cabinet which is the most right-wing Cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced.”
Ken Clarke first entered the Commons in June 1970 – on the eve of Johnson’s sixth birthday and served in the Cabinet for the 18 years of Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s rule.
The 79-year-old suggested that Boris Johnson is misleading the country when he insists that he is trying to negotiate a deal with the European Union by the Brexit date of October 31 which he keeps insisting on.
Ken Clarke told the programme: “He’s obviously not trying to get a deal. I’m sure he’d prefer one if he thought he could get one past his right-wing supporters.
“But he’s dug himself in, he assumes he’s going to get no deal. Because he can’t get the right wing of the Conservative Party, many of them now stuck in his Cabinet, to agree to it.”
Who are the MPs who lost the Tory whip?
Two former chancellors and the grandson of Winston Churchill are among the 21 Tories who have been stripped of the Conservative whip and effectively barred from standing at the next general election in retaliation for rebelling over Brexit.
As well as Father of the House – Parliament’s longest serving MP Ken Clarke, these are the other 21 MPs brutally culled to turn the Tory Party into a minority government.
Sir Nicholas Soames
Sir Nicholas, who was returned alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Margaret Beckett in the 1983 general election, said he would be calling time on his parliamentary career if a snap general election was held.
The grandson of Winston Churchill, sacked from the parliamentary party on the 80th anniversary of World War II, said his decision to rebel was not taken “lightly”, but he felt “very strongly” about avoiding a no-deal.
The Mid Sussex MP’s views on Europe were similar to that of Ken Clarke and he had previously lamented former Conservative leaders and their reluctance to take on Brexit extremists in the party.
In an interview with ConservativeHome in 2016, he said: “If you have an Alsatian sitting in front of you, and it growls at you and bares its teeth, there are two ways of dealing with it.
“You can pat it on the head, in which case it’ll bite you, or you can kick it really hard in the balls, in which case it’ll run away.
“Successive Prime Ministers, and it’s not the present Prime Minister alone (David Cameron), have never understood that they have to take these people on.”
Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson who recently stood down said on Twitter: “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for @NSoames? #anofficerandagentleman.”
Theresa May’s chancellor until July, and previously foreign secretary, defence secretary, transport secretary. MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, he promised the”fight of a lifetime” if the leadership tried to block him from standing as the Tory candidate at the next election.
He branded the decision to sack rebel MPs “staggeringly hypocritical” as several members of the current Cabinet repeatedly rebelled against the government over Brexit when Theresa May was Prime Minister.
He tweeted: “If true, this would be staggeringly hypocritical: 8 members of the current cabinet have defied the party whip this year.
“I want to honour our 2017 manifesto which promised a “smooth and orderly” exit and a “deep and special partnership” with the EU. Not an undemocratic No Deal.”
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Tory rebels earlier in the day asked Boris Johnson yet again what had he done so far to negotiate with the EU, and what alternative to the Backstop he refuses to countenance he had come up with. But still there were no reassurances to prevent them from having to vote to stop Johnson crashing the country out of the EU with no deal.
Gauge was justice secretary under Mrs May, and previously held Cabinet roles as work and pensions secretary and Treasury chief secretary. MP for South West Hertfordshire.
He explained his decision with the chilling assessment that Johnson has been misleading MPs on how negotiations with the EU are going: “Having met the Prime Minister earlier today, I was unconvinced that he had a plan to reach a deal on Brexit. No proposal has been submitted to the EU. We were told that if it had been submitted, the EU would have dismissed it. But that talks were ‘going well’.”
MP for Tunbridge Wells, he served in the Cabinet under Mrs May and David Cameron as communities secretary and then business secretary.
“As a former Business Secretary I know the harm that an abrupt no deal Brexit would do to our country and to my constituents. Parliament must be able to prevent that harm. So I voted for the legislation tonight, fully aware of the personal consequences” he tweeted last night.
Sir Oliver Letwin
MP for West Dorset, and one of the leading figures in the rebel group. Oliver Letwin played key roles in the Cameron government as Cabinet Office minister and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
In yesterday’s emergency debate, Sir Oliver Letwin explained: “the government’s intention, or willingness, to lead the country into a no-deal exit is a threat to our country.”
He described Johnson’s strategy as “someone standing on one side of a canyon shouting to people on the other side of the canyon that if they do not do as he wishes he will throw himself into the abyss.
“That is not a credible negotiating strategy,” Sir Oliver added, “ given that the rest of us are to be dragged over the edge with the Prime Minister.”
Putney MP, former education secretary, international development secretary and transport secretary. She explained: “For me no-deal was always the most profoundly un-Conservative policy you could possibly have.”
The Beaconsfield MP and former attorney general has been behind a series of rebel moves to block a no-deal Brexit.
“A No Deal would be uniquely damaging to the country,” he warned ahead of the vote. “This is an unacceptable outcome,” he added saying there was no mandate for a damaging no-deal Brexit.
He called for politicians to work with each other politely to stop the “evils of a no-deal,” and said Johnson’s removing of MPs’ whips to bully them into stepping behind him would be “treated with the contempt it deserves.”
The Penrith and The Border MP and former international development secretary stood against Mr Johnson in the Tory leadership race. He insisted that he would not be stepping down as an MP.
The North East Bedfordshire MP is a former Foreign Office minister. He said it was a “policy of insanity” to strip the whip from so many senior Conservatives.
“I think tomorrow morning the public will wonder what on Earth the Conservative Party is doing,” he told ITV News.
The East Surrey MP, a former education minister reacted:“I’ve enjoyed being a Conservative member of Parliament but voting to stop a no-deal was the right thing to do.”
Wimbledon MP and former health minister.
The Aberconwy MP is a former defence minister. He laid much of the blame at the feet of Johnson’s new chief strategist Dominic Cummings. “This is what happens when you have a chief adviser to the Prime Minister who despises the Conservative Party,” he told Sky News.
The Newbury MP is former minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Winchester MP is a former junior health minister.
Watford MP, held a series of junior ministerial roles, most recently in the Business Department.
Stourbridge MP, former digital policy minister.
Guildford MP, former minister for women and education minister.
MP for Romsey and Southampton North, immigration minister in Theresa May’s government.
Eddisbury MP, the only one of the rebels not to have held a frontbench position.
Wantage MP, culture minister under Mr Cameron.