Boris Johnson offers sacked Tory rebels chance to return after wave of Brexit expulsions
Boris Johnson has offered Conservative rebels an "olive branch" after they were stripped of the party whip for voting against the Government on Brexit.
The Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister has ordered the chief whip to write to all 21 MPs ousted in the cull setting out the party's appeals process following a furious backlash from senior Tory figures over the move.
The ousting of veteran MPs including Ken Clarke and Sir Nicholas Soames helped prompt the Cabinet resignation of Amber Rudd, while former Conservative leader William Hague branded it “the most egregious and counterproductive act of self-harm committed by the party leadership that I can recall in my lifetime”.
Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson meanwhile warned Mr Johnson the move had made the party "less of a broad church".
At least three versions of the chief whip's letter have been sent to sacked MPs, with Cabinet ministers said to be keen to see Steve Brine, Anne Milton, Richard Benyon and Stephen Hammond reinstated.
Mr Benyon, who has announced he will not stand again as an MP, told the paper: "The Prime Minister has rebelled a great many times, the Leader of the House more than 100 times and the Chief Whip many times, so the way we have been treated is extraordinary.
"We have been invited to apply to an appeals process and that is what I have done and I think most of the others will do, but I don't think any of those who have said they will not stand again have changed their minds on that."
A spokesperson for former Chancellor Philip Hammond meanwhile said: "The letter reads like an olive branch of sorts. If that is the tone that Number 10 is taking, that is a welcome one."
According to The Telegraph, Cabinet ministers Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid have all urged the Prime Minister to reestablish ties with some of the MPs removed in the cull, which came after the rebels backed legislation aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit.
Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland are also reported to be keen to allow some rebels back into the party provided they back the Government.
A Conservative party source said the party's appeals process offered a "ray of light" to those sacked in the party clampdown but added: "The chief whip made it crystal clear before they decided to rebel that they would lose the whip and would be deselected at the next election.
"We are not going to pre-judge the result of the appeal, because the chief whip would not send out those letters if there was not an actual process."