Anti-Brexit Tory MP Phillip Lee suffers local no-confidence vote
An anti-Brexit Tory former minister has suffered a vote of no confidence by his local party association.
The move against Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee is symbolic but could lead to a deselection process that would see him dumped as the Conservative candidate at the next general election.
He blamed pro-Brexit campaigners who had joined the party in recent months and had “done nothing but spread hatred, intimidation and distrust over a single issue”.
Dr Lee was the first minister to quit the Government over Brexit and back a second EU referendum. He has since become chair of the Conservatives for a People’s Vote campaign.
Some 200 members of the Bracknell Conservative Association held a meeting at midday today and the vast majority voted against the MP, a source who was in the room told PoliticsHome.
Members spoke out against his refusal to accept the 2016 vote for Brexit while others complained he was “arrogant”.
Association Gerry Barber said afterwards: “The result of the vote was that a majority of members present were in agreement with the motion, which was therefore passed, and the result has been communicated to Dr Lee and to the full membership.
“I will be discussing the meeting with Phillip later this week.”
The executive of the association will hold a meeting next month and will likely discuss whether to order Dr Lee to reveal whether he hopes to stand at the next election – the formal start to a deselection process.
But the MP said he would not be “forced into taking a decision” on his future by an “orchestrated, destructive campaign from outside the party”.
He added that his constituents could “rely on my absolute commitment to serving our area's best interests in Parliament, without fear or favour, and then take into account my full record at the next general election”.
Former Tory MP Stewart Jackson said it was a "typically charmless and arrogant response from Philip Lee" [sic].
He added: "You can't renege on solemn promises and try to pretend it's fine. It isn't. The forelock tugging era is over."
The confidence motion was triggered after 53 local members signed a petition saying the association "has no confidence" in the MP. But Dr Lee said more than half of the signatories had joined less than a year ago.
Critics have accused pro-Brexit tycoon Arron Banks of encouraging campaigners to join the Tories to oust MPs who they accuse of trying to frustrate the UK departure from the EU.
Patrick Lohlein, national organiser of the Conservatives for a People’s Vote campaign, told PoliticsHome after the vote today: “I’ve spoken to the association president and he told me there were quite a few faces he didn’t recognise”.
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