Rory Stewart warns Tories would lose millions of Remain voters by trying to ‘out-do' Nigel Farage
The Conservatives risk losing the votes of millions of Remain voters if they pursue a harder line on Brexit, Rory Stewart has warned.
The International Development Secretary said there would be an exodus of voters in Scotland and London if his party lurched toward a no-deal Brexit in a bid to see off the threat from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday programme, the vocal ally of Theresa May said: “It’s very important to understand that in 2017… most Brexit voters voted for the Conservative Party.
“But four million Remain voters also voted for the Conservative Party.
"If the Conservative Party make the mistake of trying to out-do Nigel Farage, which I am sure we won’t, but it is something that a few of my colleagues are talking about, then we would lose those four million Remain votes.
"We’d lose young people, we’d lose Scotland, we’d lose London and we’d lose a lot of the most energetic parts of this country.
“We've got to be a broad party…”
Pointing to results from Thursday’s local elections, the newly-appointed Cabinet minister said the “torturous, endless Brexit thing” had contributed to the party’s record loss of over 1,300 councillors.
“Look at where the Conservatives were really losing their votes. Most are in the moderate centre-ground seats,” he said.
“I believe we have to work very, very hard to get them back and we have to reassure them, above all, that we are not going to give an unnecessary no-deal Brexit, but that we can get a Brexit that is pragmatic, works well and keep us close to Europe economically.”
He added: “The future of the party… is in the centre ground of British politics.”
But he dismissed calls from senior Conservative figures for Mrs May to stand down, accusing them of being “naive”.
“If George Clooney suddenly became Prime Minister, I don’t think he’d be able to charm his way through this problem,” he said.
“The problem is not the individual.”
Elsewhere on the programme, Mr Nigel Farage responded to reports that Mrs May was ready to offer Labour a “temporary customs arrangement” to break the deadlock, saying it would be “the final betrayal”.
“If they push forward with this, it will be seen as a coalition of politicians against the people and I think millions of people will give up on both Labour and the Conservatives,” he said.
“This would be the final betrayal. If May signs up to this, I don’t see the point of a Conservative Party even exisiting. What’s it for?”
Mr Farage also called for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to face him in a public debate ahead of the European Parliament elections later this month.
He said: “There are five million voters out there, Labour voters, who voted to leave, particularly in the Midlands, the north, and south Wales.
“I would love between now and polling to have a debate with Jeremy Corbyn about this because people are very confused about what Labour are standing for.”