Tory MP announces he will quit at next election with blast at 'English nationalist' party

Posted On: 
15th July 2019

Conservative MP Guto Bebb will stand down at the next election because the party is trying to "appeal to the extremes", he has declared.

The former defence minister he could not with "any conscience" serve under either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.

The Brexit critic and former minister - who resigned from the Government last year over Theresa May's EU strategy - said the Tory leadership contest had revealed "attitudes within the Conservative party that don’t appeal to me at all".

Speaking to BBC Radio Cymru, the MP said: "I have listened very closely to the two who are challenging for the leadership and I’ve come to the conclusion that I could not, with any conscience, offer myself as a candidate who agrees with the leadership."

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Mr Bebb said the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which he voted to Remain, had revealed "trends within the party that appeal to the extremes".

And he accused the Tories of trying to appeal to English nationalists.

"Despite everything I don’t believe I’m an English nationalist, and what is becoming increasingly clear to me is that the Conservative party appeals to that type of nationalism like that that has seen Ukip’s growth in the past and the Brexit party’s growth recently," he said.

It was reported by the Mail on Sunday that Mr Bebb - a former Plaid Cymru member - had been among Tory MPs placed on "defection watch" by party bosses.

But Mr Bebb told BBC Radio Cyrmu he did not intend to go back to his old party.

"I don’t think Plaid Cymru has changed that much," he said. 

"I don’t believe in some of their economic principles. I consider myself Welsh, I can be completely comfortable with being part of an union in Britain and the European Union. 

"What’s not possible for someone like me is to believe in the type of English nationalism that we are now seeing within the Conservative party.

"I don’t believe in nationalism at its worst in any context and certainly the nationalism I see in the Conservative party currently concerns me."

The blast at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt came as the two Tory rivals prepared to square off in another head-to-head debate.

The clash, organised by The Sun and talkRADIO, will kick off at 7pm.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Johnson said: "More than anything, Sun readers deserve a Prime Minister who answers the difficult questions, and that’s what I intend to do this evening."

Meanwhile Mr Hunt declared: "Fine rhetoric isn’t enough, we need a someone with a plan. Others promised more money for the NHS on the side of a bus, but I actually delivered it. I’ll do the same with Brexit."