EXCL Number 10 urged to make it 'abundantly clear' Tory no-deal Brexit rebel Guto Bebb will lose whip

Posted On: 
16th August 2019

Downing Street has been urged to make it "abundantly clear" that any Tory MP who backs Jeremy Corbyn to thwart a no-deal Brexit will be kicked out of the party amid calls for rebel Guto Bebb to lose the whip.

Peter Bone, Boris Johnson and Guto Bebb.
Credit: 
PA

Brexiteer Tories told PoliticsHome that Number 10 needed to act "swiftly and permanently" against colleagues considering the Labour leader's plea to a back him as head of "strictly time-limited" government which would extend Article 50 and trigger an election.

The interventions came amid mounting pressure on party bosses to act against former minister Mr Bebb, after he called on no-deal opponents to "seriously" consider Mr Corbyn's offer.

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The former defence minister on Thursday said a short-term government led by Mr Corbyn would be “less damaging” than "the generational damage" of leaving the European Union with a deal.

But that triggered an angry response from longstanding Eurosceptic MPs Peter Bone and Nigel Evans.

Mr Bone said: "Boris Johnson was elected as leader of the Conservative Party with two thirds of the members supporting him.

"He promised to take the country out of the EU by 31 October, come what may. It is the duty of Conservative MPs to support the Prime Minister in this endeavour."

The Wellingborough MP added: "Whilst the Conservative Party has always been a broad church, with varied opinions, it has always been united in its determination to keep a Conservative government in power.

"If Guto Bebb, or any other Conservative MPs,  work with Jeremy Corbyn or other opposition leaders to bring down the Conservative government, or worse still, allow the opposition to take over the order paper and thereby instigating an alternative government, they must lose the whip and be expelled from the Conservative Party."

And he said: "Number 10 must make it abundantly clear that this will happen swiftly and permanently if they cross this line."

Fellow Brexiteer Nigel Evans meanwhile pointed out that former Tory MP Rupert Allason had had the whip removed "for a considerable amount" of time after he accidentally missed a 1993 vote of no confidence in then-Prime Minister Sir John Major.

"Now if that happened under John Major, I am sure that there should be some consistency here," he told PoliticsHome.

The Ribble Valley MP added: "I've known Guto for a long while. His constituents voted for him in 2017 to deliver two things: one was to deliver Brexit and the other one was to stop Jeremy Corbyn. It seems as if now Guto wants to stop Brexit and put in Jeremy Corbyn to do so.

"That is clearly absurd, and I think the chief whip has got to make it absolutely known to all of these people who seem to be talking to Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and other people that they should be listening to the 17.4 million people - many of whom were their own constituents - who want us to get out of the European Union...

"At what stage are they going to accept democracy? My own view is quite simply this: if they dare to try and undermine the premiership of Boris Johnson by even comtemplating voting for Jeremy Corbyn then they should lose the whip, absolutely."

'DISENGAGED'

The calls came as Lee Canning, deputy chair of the Welsh Conservatives, urged party bosses to move within "days" to decide Mr Bebb's fate in the Tories, as he claimed the Aberconwy MP had become "disengaged" from local activists.

"It's well known that the Prime Minister is at a mathematical disadvantage and to remove the whip would lead to the loss of our majority, but party members in the past have had their membership revoked for supporting an opposing political party," he told PoliticsHome.

The senior Conservative added: "Mr Bebb does not reflect the views of his association, has become disengaged from the local Conservative Association and is quite selfishly trying to hold the Government to ransom.

"Over the next few days the party centrally will have to decide is now time to ask Mr Bebb to leave.

"I am thankful that the local Conservative Assocation are committed to the Prime Minister's plan to leave the EU."

Bernard Gentry, deputy chairman of the North Wales Association, which encompasses Aberconwy Conservatives, meanwhile said: "We would much prefer him to change his mind and support the Conservative Government he was elected part of. Residents in Aberconwy did not vote Conservative in 2017 to have Jeremy Corbyn put into Number 10."

He added: "It is incompatible for any Conservative MP to vote against the party in a motion of no confidence and retain the Conservative whip.

"If he votes against in a no confidence motion then it will have to be withdrawn - same for any Conservative MP."

Mr Bebb - who resigned from the Government last year over Theresa May's EU strategy - announced in July that he would not be standing again for the Conservatives, accusing the party of trying to "appeal to the extremes".

"Despite everything I don’t believe I’m an English nationalist, and what is becoming increasingly clear to me is that the Conservative party appeals to that type of nationalism like that that has seen Ukip’s growth in the past and the Brexit party’s growth recently," he told BBC Radio Cymru.