Wednesday 23 October 2019

May warned: go or destroy party

Rees-Mogg says majority of Conservatives will vote for Farage party

Borrowed time: British Prime Minister Theresa May at an event in London Photo: Victoria Jones/Pool via REUTERS
Borrowed time: British Prime Minister Theresa May at an event in London Photo: Victoria Jones/Pool via REUTERS

Lizzy Buchan

Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to quit to end the "complete vacuum of leadership" as he claimed the majority of Tory members he meets say they would vote for the Brexit Party.

The staunch Brexiteer MP said he did not "see how a leader can go on" with so little support from party faithful, saying Mrs May had lost the backing of Conservative associations across the country.

As a remarkable new poll put the Conservatives in fifth place in the upcoming European elections, Mr Rees-Mogg said the activists he was meeting were saying they would vote for Nigel Farage's insurgent outfit.

The YouGov survey ahead of next week's contest placed the Tories on just 10pc, some 24 points behind the Brexit Party, and trailing Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of backbench Brexiteers, told LBC: "I've never known the Tory Party in this position.

"Normally when you go and speak to Conservative Associations and you're not fully supportive of the leader of the party, whoever that leader happens to be, you're not the most popular person in the room. At the moment, nobody is saying anything supportive of the leader or of the leader's policy.

"The majority of the people at associations I'm addressing - and these are members of the party - tell me they're voting for the Brexit Party. I don't see how a leader can go on so removed from the support base of the party membership."

Mr Rees-Mogg admitted the upcoming polls would be "difficult" for the party and appealed to voters to keep the faith.

In a message to Tories, he said: "I would appeal to their loyalty, to their tradition, and to say that the Conservative Party will get a new leader at some point."

He added: "We want that new leader to have a base on which he or she can build and if we find that we are getting under 15pc of the vote, if we are coming fifth behind the Greens, then it will be harder for that figure to rebuild."

His comments came as fellow Conservative Huw Merriman warned his party was in for "an absolute mauling" in the elections after the deadline for Britain's exit from the EU was delayed to October.

Mr Merriman, a parliamentary aide to Chancellor Philip Hammond, told BBC Radio 4's 'Westminister Hour': "The public will blame the Conservative government because we were the party that brought forward the referendum.

"So for those that didn't want it and wanted to remain, they will blame us for having tried to take us out and those who voted to leave, they will blame us for having not got the country out of the EU.

"So we are at the perfect storm. Yes, I think we will get an absolute mauling."

Mrs May is due to meet Tory backbench leaders on Thursday, when she is expected to set out the roadmap for her departure from Downing Street.

Mrs May promised her angry party in March that she would resign once the first phase of Brexit was delivered, a pledge her advisers say she is committed to honouring.

But cross-party talks with Labour have entered their seventh week without progress amid calls from both sides on their leaders to walk away from the negotiations.

The Conservative Home website, an influential voice within the party, said the powerful 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers should be prepared to signal the end of Mrs May's leadership by changing the party's rules to allow a fresh challenge to her position.

The website's editor Paul Goodman, a former Tory MP, said they must act. (© Independent News Service)

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