Moderate Tory MPs 'could join breakaway party' if right-wing Brexiteer succeeds Theresa May
Moderate Tory MPs could quit to help form a breakaway party if a hard Brexiteer like Jacob Rees-Mogg succeeds Theresa May as leader, a minister has claimed.
Senior figures have openly discussed the possibility of joining a new centrist movement alongwith around 30 Labour MPs.
Deep splits within both the Conservatives and Labour have been exposed by the result of the EU referendum.
One Tory minister said it "could be all over" for his party if it lurches to the right when the Prime Minister stands down.
Arch-eurosceptic Mr Rees-Mogg has been talked about as a potential successor, despite never having had a frontbench job, although he has sought to distance himself from the speculation.
Most Conservative MPs believe Mrs May will quit shortly after Britain officially leaves the EU in March 2019.
A leadership contest would be held that summer, with the new leader announced at the party’s annual conference in October.
The minister said the election of someone from the Tory right wing could finish them off as an electoral force, leading to the creation of a new party.
He said: "The trigger for this is if we choose the wrong leader. There is a lot of space in the political centre and if we choose someone from the right it could be all over for us.
"I think there are probably 30 Labour moderates ready to jump, but they are waiting for us to move first."
The minister also dismissed those who suggest that a new party is doomed to fail, as the SDP ultimately did in the 1980s.
"People talk about the SDP as if it was a failure but it was a success," the minister said. "They went from nothing to getting 25 per cent at the election. And that was at a time when tribal loyalties were much stronger and there was no social media.
"We would have money pouring in from businesses who want a moderate government. We could do much better."
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly been forced to deny that he could join a new centre party.
Rumours continue to swirl around Westminster that Labour MPs unhappy with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn are also prepared to form a breakaway movement.