David Gauke tells Boris Johnson to consider sacking Dominic Cummings as top aide after Amber Rudd quits
Former Justice Secretary David Gauke has urged Boris Johnson to consider sacking Dominic Cummings as his top Downing Street aide or risk the Tories becoming the "Vote Leave party".
The ex-Cabinet minister likened the party's "hardline" direction to the official 2016 Brexit campaign spearheaded by Mr Cummings following the dramatic resignation of Amber Rudd as Work and Pensions Secretary on Saturday night.
Ms Rudd - who also resigned the Conservative whip as she quit the Cabinet - had accused Mr Johnson of “an assault on decency and democracy” over the sacking of 21 Tory MPs who backed moves to halt a no-deal exit from the European Union.
Her departure followed the resignation from the Government by Mr Johnson's brother, Jo, who said he had becoome "torn between family loyalty and the national interest".
Mr Gauke, one of those sacked in the Number 10 crackdown, called on the Prime Minister to consider removing former Vote Leave strategist Mr Cummings from his post amid mounting anger on the Tory benches over the move.
"A change of strategy would also involve a change of strategist and this is a decision that the Prime Minister has to make," he told the BBC's Westminster Hour.
"But he must have been asking himself this weekend as to whether he was pursuing the right strategy and if he had the right advice."
The ex-Justice Secretary praised Ms Rudd for choosing to "take a stand" against the Government over the sackings - as he warned that more Conservative MPs could follow her out the door.
"I know a lot of MPs, a lot of ministers, have been wrestling with conflicting loyalties over recent days, unhappy with some of the decisions that have been made by the Government and clearly in the end, for Amber, she felt that she had to take this stand," he said.
The former Conservative MP added: "I dare say some must be questioning very significantly some of the decisions that have been made and the direction the party appears to be taking, which is to transform itself into a Vote Leave party, taking a very hard line on Brexit and moving in a more populist direction."
MORGAN: I WILL 'STAY IN THE ROOM'
Mr Gauke's intervention came as Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan made clear that she would not be among those quitting the Cabinet and insisted Mr Johnson's "priority" was still to strike a deal with the EU.
Writing for the Daily Mail, the Culture Secretary said: "Watching talented colleagues walking away from the Cabinet table is never easy. I am sorry to see Amber Rudd and Jo Johnson decide to do so in recent days. I respect their decision, but the Prime Minister has been clear from the start that we must leave on October 31 - deal or no deal."
Making clear she intended to stay "in the room where it happens", Ms Morgan said the Prime Minister needed "the necessary support to fulfil his priority of agreeing a deal with the EU as we leave by October 31".
But, in what will be seen as a warning to the PM, she added: "With our support, the Prime Minister now needs to show he’s serious about getting a deal.
"More transparency, such as that laid out by the Brexit Secretary yesterday, on the discussions is needed to ensure everyone is left in no doubt about how a deal is possible and the effort which is being put in to making sure a deal happens." '
'DAMAGING RULE OF LAW'
The intervention comes amid a bitter row over whether Number 10 intends to abide by the anti-no-deal legislation passed by Parliament last week.
Mr Gauke - a longstanding critic of plans to leave the European Union without an agreement - accused the Government of acting in a way that was "damaging to the rule of law" amid suggestions that ministers will turn to the courts to try and challenge the cross-party bill.
He said: "It should be a perfectly straightforward thing for all ministers to say ‘we believe in abiding by the law and that is what we will do’. And just that element of uncertainty and ambiguity as to what the Government’s position is, is in itself damaging to the rule of law."
He added: "The rule of law is essential as to what we are about as country, it is central to our institutions and it is something which all ministers have a particular duty to uphold.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday suggested the Government would "test" the legislation - due to receive Royal Assent on Monday - before deciding on its next move.
He told told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "We're always going to behave lawfully as a Government, of course you'd expect that, and anyway it will be challenged in the courts, but what we are going to do with that legislation is test very carefully what it does and doesn't require, and that's not only the lawful thing to do, I think it's the responsible thing to do."