Lord Heseltine: Tories risk 'being captured by poisonous politics of Nigel Farage'
The Conservatives risk being captured by "the narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage" over Brexit, according to a party grandee.
Lord Heseltine - who was suspended by the Tories after admitting he was going to vote Lib Dem in the European elections - said the party would be out of power for a generation if it becomes the "branch offices of Brexit".
The former Cabinet minister said the Tory leadership contest fills him with "dread" as the candidates battle it out to emulate the Brexit Party leader.
And he also called on "sensible" Tory MPs to back a second EU referendum on the final Brexit deal.
Speaking as he was appointed president of the pro-EU European Movement, Lord Heseltine told the Conservatives: "Turn yourselves into branch offices of Brexit if you wish. But if you do so, you are on your own. Those upon whom you depend to win power in a general election will not come back. Good luck. Goodbye.
"Indeed, the prospect of a new Prime Minister being chosen by perhaps little more than 100,000 Conservative Party members in the current circumstances fills me with dread. There will be an arms race in which candidates vie against each other for who can be the most Faragiste."
On the prospect of a general election, Lord Heseltine said: "The consequence would either be a Tory-led or a Corbyn-led minority hung Parliament that would settle nothing, or the prospect of the Conservative Party – the party of Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan and Thatcher – in alliance with and captured by the narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage."
He said a no-deal Brexit "would be nothing short of a democratic and constitutional outrage" and added: "The consequences for businesses, for young people and for the integrity of the United Kingdom itself would rightly be hung around the neck of the Conservative Party for a generation to come."
The Tory grandee insisted his suspension from the Tory Party would not stop him campaigning for a so-called People's Vote.
"I want to appeal to every sensible Conservative MP, to potential leadership candidates, even to the Labour leader, not to force Brexit upon us now. I ask them to stand up, to speak out for our democratic right to have our say on Brexit," he said.
"Whether you want to leave the EU or to stay in, the only way to unlock the Brexit process in Parliament, the only way secure a stable majority in Parliament, the only way to legitimise the outcome so we can build a lasting settlement in the country is to give the people the final say."