Tory grandee Michael Heseltine vows to vote for Liberal Democrats in European elections
Tory heavyweight Lord Heseltine has vowed to vote against the Conservatives in the European elections over their stance on Brexit.
The former deputy Prime Minister said he would be voting against the Conservatives for the first time because of the "poison" of Brexit, and revealed that he will instead vote for the Liberal Democrats.
Lord Heseltine, who has been a vocal advocate for a so-called 'People's Vote' on the issue, endorsed the pro-Remain party as he blamed the Tories for becoming "infected with the virus of extremism".
Writing in The Sunday Times, the former deputy prime minister added: "The reason for my experiment with the Lib Dems is, of course, the Government's position on Brexit.
"I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government."
But he refused to countenance quitting the party, adding: "I have no intention of being forced out - or resigning from - a party that has been such an important part of my life.
"I will remain a member of my local association and, unless told otherwise, will continue to take the Conservative whip in the Lords."
Lord Heseltine's comments were echoed by ex-Prime Minister John Major, who told the paper that the need for a moderate Tory party was "greater than ever".
"The middle ground of politics is empty," he added.
The endorsement of the pro-Remain Liberal Democracts comes on the back of a successful local election campaign earlier this month which saw the party gain 703 seats, with leader Sur Vince Cable saying every vote for his party was a "vote for stopping Brexit."
A fresh poll meanwhile shows that the Lib Dems are outpolling the Tories ahead of Thursday's EU-wide vote.
The latest Opinium poll for the Observer puts Nigel Farage's Brexit Party on 34%, with Labour in second place on 20%, the Liberal Democrats on 15% and the Tories on 12%.
Labour MPs have also expressed concern that the party's position on Brexit is fuelling support for Sir Vince's party.
One senior Labour source told The Observer: "If the consequences of Labour's Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that's a real problem."
Meanwhile, Shadow Treasury Minister Clive Lewis said the party's Brexit position had given the Lib Dems the "political equivalent of a resuscitation".
He warned: "The Liberal Democrats were flatlining, rightly tainted with their association with austerity and the Tory government.
"Ultimately, the position we've taken on a confirmatory vote means that lifelong Labour voters are seeing the European elections as a kind of EU referendum part two - to send a message to the two main parties."