CHRISTCHURCH Conservatives have been enraged by their MP, Sir Chris Chope, indicating he could side with Labour in a vote of no confidence against the government over Brexit.
Sir Chris, who is facing local party moves to deselect him over his habit of blocking popular private members’ bills in parliament, attacked Theresa May’s administration in the House of Commons as a “laughing stock”.
Asked by Labour MP Graham Stringer whether that meant he would back an opposition vote of no confidence, Sir Chris replied: “Frankly, I would seriously consider that issue.”
He went on: “I expressed no confidence in the Prime Minister when we had a vote within our own parliamentary party and my considered opinion now is that, were a similar vote to be held, there would be an overwhelming vote against the Prime Minister and an expression of no confidence in her.”
He added: “The feeling on the Conservative benches now is really strongly against the Prime Minister and her team. She has lost control, and at this most critical moment in our modern peacetime history, we need to change the general.”
Sir Chris has voted against the Prime Minister’s EU withdrawal both times and looks set to do so again if it comes back to parliament this week.
He said it was “pure fantasy” that she would win on an agreement that he claimed would tie the UK to the EU even more tightly.
His comments sparked angry questions over his future as the party’s local candidate by Rhys Gadsby, who is vice-chair of Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association and chair of the party’s Highcliffe branch.
Mr Gadsby tweeted: “Objections, supporting independent candidates over our own, and now he would consider working with the opposition to bring down the government. Seriously, what more does he have to do?”
Mr Gadbsy’s comments were retweeted by former Christchurch Borough Council Cllr Ray Nottage. He has previously clashed with Sir Chris over the MP’s opposition to the authority being merged in April with Bournemouth and Poole.
The latest internal Tory spat follows six Christchurch councillors being suspended by the party’s London HQ for threatening to stand as Independents in the local elections on 2nd May in protest against the merger.
There have been tensions emerging publicly among New Forest Tories too, with loyalist Cllr Fran Carpenter – a district and county councillor who wants either Mrs May’s deal or no-deal – using social media to attack those opposing the Prime Minister as a “disgrace”.
Brexiter Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, has twice rebelled against Mrs May’s deal. This week he was among 23 fellow Tories who signed a letter in The Telegraph saying they would not vote for two “unacceptable choices” of the deal on offer or a delay.
Another New Forest district councillor, Neil Tungate, branded Mrs May a “traitor” on Facebook and called for her to resign over her Brexit deal.
He said: “We are headed for EU colony status. May must go!”
New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne has voted for Mrs May’s agreement both times, fearful that if it does not go through Brexit might end up being blocked.
Promising to “listen and reflect”, Sir Desmond indicated he would maintain his support, saying on his website: “My current assessment is that the risk of no Brexit is greater than the risk of being trapped in a customs union with the EU consequent upon the PM’s agreement.”