Tory MPs warn of 'entryist plot' to make Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson Prime Minister
Tory MPs have warned of an 'entryist plot' aimed at influencing the next election for leadership of the Conservative party.
A raft of Remain-backing Tory MPs have sounded the alarm after campaign group Leave.EU urged its supporters to ‘flood’ the party to be “ready to elect a true Brexiteer.”
Alongside a picture of arch-Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the group tweeted out a message asking its supporters to “help put the spine back into the Tory party.”
They wrote: “A leadership contest is inevitable. Join the huge number of our members already flooding the Tory party, ready to elect a true Brexiteer.”
The latest published figures put Conservative party membership at 124,000 meaning that a relatively small number of activists could shift any leadership contest.
Tory MP Anna Soubry warned that the party could see a surge of former members returning from UKIP to try and influence the direction of the party.
“These people are absolutely dedicated to their cause. And you don’t need an awful lot of people to make a huge amount of difference - so it’s really worrying”, she said.
“Some of it is people who over Europe felt they no longer support us and went off to Ukip and are now rejoining the party.”
Meanwhile, Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill warned that the the party must not be “hijacked by hard right zealots.”
He added: “The Conservative Party has always won when it is the Party of pragmatism and of the common sense, non-dogmatic, middle ground that most British people occupy.”
People joining the party are given voting rights after three-months, meaning that any influx of new members could shift any leadership contest held next year.
Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said that there was “precedent” for the move.
“It does seem like quite a sensible thing for people to do, if they’re ideologically obsessed with Brexit. What we do know is that quite a lot of people joined immediately after Brexit, assuming that there was going to be a leadership contest, so there is a precedent.”
He added: “It’s difficult to believe that the membership would elect a Remainer anyway, so it’s all about the degree of Brexit that they’re going to get from any leader.”