Theresa May warns Tory activists against deselection 'purges' of anti-Brexit MPs
Theresa May has warned Conservative activists not to indulge in "purges and retribution" against anti-Brexit MPs after three parliamentarians quit to join a breakaway bloc.
The Prime Minister suffered the loss of three vocal opponents of Britain's EU departure this week as Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston resigned the Tory whip and joined the new Independent Group alongside ex-Labour MPs.
Both Dr Wollaston and Ms Allen were facing local efforts to remove them as Tory candidates at the next election because of their opposition to Brexit - a fate that is also dangling over the heads of MPs including Nick Boles and Sir Alan Duncan.
But Mrs May told the National Conservative Convention in Oxford that the Tories needed to remain a "broad church".
"We are not a party of purges and retribution," she said.
"We called a referendum and let people express their views - so we should not be seeking to deselect any of our MPs because of their views on Brexit.
"Our party is rightly a broad church - on that and other issues. And we will only save our country from the threat of Jeremy Corbyn if we remain one."
In their joint resignation letter to the Prime Minister, the three MPs who have joined the Independent Group accused Mrs May of a "a dismal failure to stand up to" hardline eurosceptics in the party.
And they accused Tory bosses fo turning a blind eye to "blatant entryism" by former Ukip members agitating to deselect MPs.
"Not only has this been tolerated, it has been actively welcomed in some quarters. A Purple Momentum is subsuming the Conservative party, much as the hard left has been allowed to consume and terminally undermine the Labour party," they warned.
But Mrs May insisted that the Conservatives still stood for "decent, moderate and patriotic politics".