THE chair of the New Forest East Conservative Association has said he would be willing to see the destruction of his party in order to deliver Brexit.
James Binns made his comments to more than 7.3-million listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning
He was among a group of 10 New Forest Tories giving their views to the flagship news show about Tuesday’s leadership debate, with most apparently backing frontrunner Boris Johnson.
Mr Binns said: “Brexit must be delivered and if that means, unfortunately, the downfall of the Conservative party and the emergence of a new Conservative-minded party then, I’m afraid, so be it.”
Mr Binns was the cabinet member for leisure on Tory-controlled New Forest District Council before losing his Butts Ash and Dibden Purlieu seat to the Liberal Democrats in the May local elections.
Talking to the A&T afterwards, he said his comment had been in the context of a question about a YouGov poll of what party members would accept to deliver Brexit.
He said: “As I said on the Today programme, if the Conservative party delivers on Brexit then I believe that the party and the country will have a bright future – deservedly so.
“I am loyal to the Conservative and Unionist Party. However, I am more loyal to my country and if the party cannot or will not deliver on the largest democratic mandate ever given by the people, in any election or referendum, then the Conservative party will face an existential crisis from which it might never recover. And yes, that might mean we are replaced by another party.
“But all of this is avoidable and the overwhelming majority of party members I speak to on a regular basis rightly agree with my opinion on this issue.”
The chair of the neighbouring New Forest West Conservative Association, Cllr Alan O’Sullivan, said of Mr Binns’ on-air remark: “It would not be a comment I would put.”
Cllr O’Sullivan told the A&T: “My opinion is yes, we do need to deliver Brexit as soon as possible and by 31st October. I feel that once that’s been delivered then the Conservative Party can move forward again.
“But I do not think it’s a case of the party splitting into two. There’s a case for both sides – remainers and leavers – to go forward once we have left the EU.”
The BBC debate on Tuesday was the first such appearance for Mr Johnson, who had skipped the one on Channel 4 on Sunday.
Mr Binns also told the Today programme: “It was the first time I have seen a weakness in Boris. He did not know how to answer something.
“Sometimes he is so quick to say and not so quick to think that he opens himself up to massive attack.”
Fellow pro-Brexit Tory Cllr Derek Tipp added: “We have already been led up the garden path once, so we are going to be much more sceptical now, aren’t we, listening to these people.”
Another former councillor, Dan Poole, compared leadership contender Rory Stewart to a character in the Wizard of Oz. One voice questioned if the international development secretary was even in the right party.
New Forest MPs Sir Desmond Swayne and Julian Lewis are backing Mr Johnson for the leadership.
Christchurch MP Sir Chris has previously identified Esther McVey and Dominic Raab as his preferences, who have both been knocked out of the contest.