Former minister Philip Lee slams Tory 'entryism' as he faces confidence vote
A former minister has claimed the Conservatives are being infiltrated by right-wing Brexiteers after a vote of no confidence was called in him by local party members.
Dr Philip Lee accused opponents who only joined the Tories last year of trying to "intimidate" him in an attempt to force him to change his anti-Brexit views.
The Bracknell MP - who quit as justice minister last year over the Government's Brexit strategy - said the confidence vote, which will take place on 1 June, was "an unpleasant sideshow with zero practical effect".
The GP blamed the attempts to oust him on "entryism" by anti-EU campaigners who he said would ensure the Tories are never in power again unless they were stopped.
"I regret that this vote has been called - in reality it’s an unpleasant sideshow with zero practical effect because nothing happens as a result," he said. "I’m the Conservative MP for Bracknell now and I’ll still be the Conservative MP for Bracknell afterwards.
"It is part of a broader, coordinated campaign by wealthy individuals and organisations in this country and around the world to manipulate democracy for their own ends. For many months I have warned of this malign influence.
"Well-funded advertising campaigns have explicitly encouraged people to join the Conservative Party in order to get rid of elected Members of Parliament who do not share their narrow view on the type of Brexit this country should adopt.
“Such entryism has never been a feature of Conservative politics in this country. I’m sad that it appears we are vulnerable to the sort of public manipulation that I believe also influenced the outcome of the EU referendum.
“This entryism is helping to make sure that elements of the current membership are increasingly out of touch with the views of the electorate. And it is helping to create a climate of fear and intimidation. If these elements prevail, we can be sure that the public won’t choose a Conservative Government again.
“At its root, this meeting is an attempt to intimidate me and change my stance on the most important issue this country has faced for over 70 years."
Under Conservative Party rules, a special general meeting must be held if a petition is signed by 10% or 50 local association members, whichever is higher.
Resigning to back the campaign for a second referendum last year, Dr Lee said: "In my medical experience, if a course of treatment is not working, then I review it. I also have a duty to get my patient’s informed consent for that action."
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve - who also backs a second referendum - lost a vote of no confidence in him in March, while Nick Boles quit the Tories before facing one in his Grantham and Stamford constituency.