Anyone in any doubt that there is a concerted attempt by Brexit extremists to take over the Conservative party should toddle along to the Leave.EU website. There you will find these full instructions on deselecting Tory MPs you don’t care for.
Under the heading “DESELECT THE TORY TRAITORS. THE TIME IS NOW. WHO’S NEXT?” you will be invited to fill in a form giving your contact details, (consenting for them to be shared), your membership number and when you joined:
“We are putting together a group of activists in each target constituency. As soon as we’ve gathered enough interest, we shall put everyone who has agreed to participate in touch with a local organiser who will get the process underway.”
The answer to the question “WHO’S NEXT?” is David Gauke, Lord Chancellor and secretary of state for justice, who has represented South West Hertfordshire since 2005. Tonight he faces his tormentors at the Kings Langley Community Centre.
His crime, as set out in the motion put down for tonight’s special general meeting by the hard men and women of Tring, Rickmansworth and Berkhamsted is to have “obstructed” Brexit. Certain members, the motion says, now have “No confidence in our MP, David Gauke, on account of his wilful obstruction to the implementation of the result of the 2016 referendum, and his refusal to act on the commitments in the Conservative manifesto at the time of the last election, and on which he was elected”.
No matter that Gauke has in fact voted for the May Brexit deal three times, just the same as Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt did, or that Bros Johnson ended up voting for it at the third time of asking too. No matter that no one in the Conservative minority government has been able to “act on” their 2017 manifesto because they lost their majority. Why not deselect Theresa May?
Gauke has made it clear that he will not support a no-deal Brexit. Previous briefings to the press from him and other like-minded cabinet colleagues, such as Amber Rudd and Greg Clark, indicated that they would, or did, block no deal in May’s cabinet. Leave.EU did not like that.
Gauke is one of their latest targets, along with Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry (who has since left in despair), Heidi Allen (ditto), Sarah Wollaston (ditto), Nick Boles (ditto), Ed Vaizey, Greg Clark (business secretary), Oliver Letwin and Sam Gymiah.
Gymiah hardly ingratiated himself to them for his stand on a second referendum (inevitable as it happens, but still). In his East Surrey constituency the Leave.EU gang have gleefully amassed the needed 50 members to inflict the harassment of a deselection process on the man they call “Smarmy Sam”.
It’s entryism, as Gymiah shrewdly points out, but “hiding in plain sight”. Leave.EU makes no bones about their strategy, tweeting: “With a new leader and potential election, now is the time to make the Conservative party conservative again. If we fail? The Brexit Party wipes the floor with them. Win win! “
The evidence suggests that this influx of new Conservative members, strangely at a time when it is in decline on every other metric, are the “Blukip” or “Blue Wave” surge of hard Brexiteers, there to capture the party, and fairly brazenly, setting up their own organisational structure – a party within a party.
As the excellent research conducted by the academic Tim Bale makes clear, these newer members are markedly more Eurosceptic and pro-Brexit than the older vintage.
All that said, it has also to be admitted that these people are mostly Tories in heart and spirit. They are, indeed, much like Nigel Farage and Arron Banks, ex-Tories for whom everything started to go wrong when Margaret Thatcher was deposed in 1990. They drifted away in the 1990s and 2000s towards Ukip and, to borrow a phrase, now want their party back, shorn of John Major’s desire to be “at the heart of Europe”, David Cameron’s green fetishes and political correctness, and Theresa May’s hopeless leadership.