Theresa May hits back at Tory splitters as she denies party has become ‘warped like Labour’
Theresa May has insisted the Conservative party is not "warped" like Labour after three MPs who dramatically resigned the whip argued it had shifted to the right.
The self-styled “three amigos” Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston left the Tories on Wednesday morning to join the eight Labour MPs in the centrist Independent Group that was launched on Monday.
In a letter to the Prime Minister announcing their decision, the Remain-supporting trio said they could not stay in a party whose policies were “so firmly in the grip” of the right-wing European Research Group and the DUP.
They added that Brexit had redefined and undone “all the efforts to modernise” the Conservative party, and blasted the “dismal failure” of the leadership to stand up to pro-Brexit hardliners.
And they said the party had been hit by “blatant entryism” from the right, akin to a “purple Momentum” – in reference to the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign associated with Labour.
But in a response letter today, Mrs May fired back: "I do not accept the picture you paint of our party."
She added that the Tory record in government "shows that we are the moderate, open-hearted Conservative Party in the One Nation tradition".
The PM added: “I was sorry to read, and do not accept, the parallel you draw with the way Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left have warped a once-proud Labour party and allowed the poison and anti-Semitism to go unchecked...
“I am determined that under my leadership the Conservative party will always offer the decent moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve. I hope we can continue to work together on issues where we agree.”
Mrs May vowed to work with colleagues to ensure those who do not share the party’s values are not able to join as members.
“An open broad party should always welcome new members and supporters with a range of views, including those who have previously supported other parties,” she said.
“However, the Party Chairman and local Associations must ensure that people who are joining our party support the values and objectives of the Conservative party – as the party Constitution makes clear.
“[Party Chairman Brandon Lewis] wrote to all Conservative MPs last week to highlight this and will work with any colleagues who have any concerns they wish to raise.”
Mrs May also met today with pro-EU MPs Philip Lee and Justine Greening, amid fears they could be in line to quit the party and join the Independents Group.