Dominic Raab’s Tory predecessor urges voters to back Lib Dems as he blasts Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans
Dominic Raab’s predecessor as a Conservative MP has ripped into his party and urged local voters to back the Liberal Democrat candidate instead.
In a blow for the Foreign Secretary, Ian Taylor, who served as Tory MP for Esher and then Esher and Walton for 23 years, threw his weight behind Mr Raab’s Lib Dem rival Monica Harding.
The endorsement follows analysis that Mr Raab's thumping majority in the Surrey seat could be vulnerable at the 12 December poll.
Mr Taylor said: “Esher and Walton residents voted convincingly ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum.
“To achieve that objective or even to secure the least harmful Brexit, voting now will need to be tactical rather than by traditional allegiance.
“Monica Harding is, in my personal opinion, the candidate for Esther and Walton best placed to pursue these politics in Parliament.”
Training his fire on the Tories, Mr Taylor - a former chairman of the Conservative Group for Europe - said the party was no longer “a broad church”, and backed a string of candidates standing as independents after losing the whip, including Ann Milton, Dominic Grieve and David Gauke.
“Sadly, I no longer recognise the Conservative Party as it is today,” he said.
“Should I have continued in the House, I fear I too would have become an ‘independent Conservative’. A Party that excludes [Tory former Chancellor] Ken Clarke is not one with which I can identify.”
Mr Taylor also blasted Boris Johnson’s “misleading” election vow to ‘Get Brexit Done’, arguing that the issue would continue to “dominate and harm British politics for years to come”.
“The current Prime Minister has in effect put ‘No Deal’ back on the table by the unrealistic deadline he has set for securing a trade deal by the end of 2020,” he warned.
“This is a really damaging threat which must not go unchallenged.”
And he added: “I hope for a strong performance by my friends (Milton, Grieve and Gauke) who are standing as Independent Conservative candidates.”
Esher and Walton voted 58% in favour of Remain at the 2016 EU referendum, and was held by Mr Raab in 2017 with a majority of around 23,000 votes.
But modelling by polling firm Datapraxis published in the Sunday Times this weekend suggested the Foreign Secretary could be at risk of losing his seat, with his majority on track to be slashed to 3,000.
The intervention from Mr Taylor was quickly seized on by the Lib Dems.
Monica Harding, who is hoping to unseat Mr Raab, told PoliticsHome: "I am extremely grateful for Ian’s support, as I am for all the ever growing support I am receiving from Esher and Walton.
“I am hearing daily from constituents who won’t put up with being ignored and are fed up with the extreme politics of Dominic Raab. Many, like Ian, are laying aside tribal politics and putting our country first.”
She added: “Dominic Raab does not represent the moderate ground in Esher and Walton – I do. As Ian says ‘we must do everything we can to ensure our country keeps its good sense’, I truly believe I can help achieve this.”
Mr Raab has been approached for comment.