Nigel Farage and Anna Soubry’s Bust-Up on Politics Live

Unsurprisingly sparks fly…

Blue on Former Blue

The Commons was treated to a patch of blue on former blue this afternoon as Michael Gove made a gentle poke at Anna Soubry’s lengthy questioning. She hit back at him taking aim at Tory cuts to the Legal Aid… which she voted for…

Soubry Accuses May of Having “Personal” Problem With Immigration

Anna Soubry has not held back with her personal criticisms of Theresa May since quitting the Tories and launched into another attack against May on Newsnight last night, accusing her of having a “problem with immigration”. Soubry insisted that it went beyond policy and was “personal”, and even claimed it was the only reason May hadn’t backed the UK staying in the single market. “She just has a thing about immigration”…

While it’s true that May has generally been holding out within Government against more flexible immigration policies favoured by many of her ministers, particularly on students, it’s a bit glib for Soubry to say “I don’t know where the hell it’s come from”. Has she already forgotten about the referendum three years ago?

Soubry’s old comrade-in-arms Dominic Grieve was also on Newsnight, confirming that he would “have to leave” the Tories if they were heading for a no-deal Brexit, although he is clearly not as enthusiastic about the prospect as the three defectors. Between Soubry’s personal attacks on May and Heidi Allen’s comments that there hopefully “won’t be a Tory Party to go back to”, wavering Tories will already be getting cold feet about whether they really want to throw their lot in with them…

Tory Defections: Then and Now

The defection of the three Tory MPs to The Independents Group today has seen an outpouring of comments ranging from sadness to… sadness from their former Tory colleagues. Theresa May is “saddened”, David Cameron is “sad”, Claire Perry is “extremely sad”. All get thanks for their “dedicated service”, with the door being left open for them to return if they change their mind…

So presumably it was the same outpouring of thanks, hugs and condolences all round when Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless left for UKIP in 2014? Don’t be silly…

David Cameron branded Reckless’s decision “senseless and counter-productive” and accused Carswell of helping Labour. Carswell was accused of “betrayal”, “petulance” and “political vanity” by Tory MPs while Reckless was even sued by his former local party. All topped off with Claire “Brexit Jihadis” Perry’s ever classy “Don’t let the door hit your fat arse as you leave”…

Heidi Allen’s Desperate ‘We Haven’t Changed’ Fib To Avoid By-Elections

Earlier today, trying to wriggle out of holding people’s votes of their own constituents, Tory TIGger Heidi Allen said “We haven’t changed. What we stood on, our values, our own leaflets, our own campaigning when we stood in 2017, none of that has changed.” Except that doesn’t ring true with her campaigning in 2017…

  • Allen’s own leaflet said “we must respect the democratic outcome of the referendum and work positively together to ensure we make Brexit a success.” Even on the day of the election, Allen tweeted “I was a remainer, but the EU ref result is final and cannot be rerun.”
  • Her Tory TIGger colleague Anna Soubry also campaigned in 2017 saying she “will continue to honour the EU Referendum result. We are leaving the EU and must now get a good deal.”
  • The other Tory TIGger, Sarah Wollaston told one of her constituents in 2017 that “overall constituency voted leave 54%. I promised to respect the outcome.” Her own website informed her constituents that “Theresa May has confirmed that the Government will not seek to be in the single market. She has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal”

Day one and they’re already in full hypocrisy mode. Fibbing through their teeth all to avoid facing the people…

UPDATE: Guido brings you Sarah Wollaston’s 2017 election hustings highlights. This is what she told her leave voting constituents when they returned her to Parliament…

And here’s Honest Heidi…

No, There Isn’t a ‘Purple Momentum’

The Tory TIGs, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston, and Anna Soubry, have claimed as a key reason for their defections was a “Purple Momentum” that is “subsuming the Conservative Party”. But is there any evidence of this or is it just an after-the event rationalisation?

Brandon Lewis today told the Conservative MPs WhatsApp group that a grand total of zero local associations have initiated deselections. The only association that comes close is Grantham and Stamford, who as far as Guido can make out are simply asking Nick Boles if he wishes to stand as a Conservative at the next election – as he has equivocated on that question in recent months. It’s not a deselection attempt if they’re actively asking you to stay on as a Conservative…

In March 2018 it was revealed that membership of the Conservative Party stands at 124,000 people. There is no evidence that this has changed significantly, despite a big membership drive from CCHQ itself. ConservativeHome did register a tiny bump in membership after Chequers was announced, of about ten new members per association. The 400,000 new Momentum flavoured members who have joined the Labour party it ain’t…

At the TIG press conference today, Sarah Wollaston referenced a “very aggressive and well funded social media campaign that is being waged against many of us, describing us as traitors, all sorts of language. The trouble is that that language has consequences, the deluge of really threatening calls that our staff have to deal with. It’s really horrible.”

No MP should receive threatening phone calls, nonetheless loopy phone calls do not amount to a ‘Purple Momentum’ deselection attempt. Sadly, all MPs receive threatening phone calls no matter what party they are in. There is no actual evidence that an infiltration has taken place beyond an entirely underwhelming Arron Banks social media campaign that was always more about self promotion than changing the Conservative Party.

The first iteration of Banks’ attempted ‘Blue Wave’ movement to infiltrate the Conservative Party has not been active since November. Now Leave.EU are trying it themselves, but to little success. Guido hears that the clickthrough rate from Leave.EU links to purchase Conservative Party membership are laughably low…

Don’t believe the ‘Purple Momentum’ bogeyman that these three Remain MPs have convinced themsleves exists. Don’t believe that Theresa May’s ‘Austerity is over’, high taxing, fiscal discipline abandoning, pro-tariff, ban-happy Conservative Party has somehow lurched to the right. It’s a convenient figment of their imaginations, all to justify their increasingly desperate quest to stop Brexit.

Tory Defectors Cross the Floor

The Tory defectors have crossed the floor to sit on the opposition benches with The Independent Group, following in the footsteps of Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler who crossed the floor to join the SDP in 1981. Auspicious…

Interestingly, the Independent Group’s press release claimed the trio had formally joined, while their own resignation letter only said they would sit “alongside” TIG and would still back the Tories in certain votes. Surely splits can’t be emerging already…

Theresa May “Saddened” by Tory Trio Breakaway

Theresa May has put out a statement in response to Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston choosing to quit the Tory Party, saying she is “saddened” by their decision. Many Tory MPs – including Brexiteers – share the same sentiments…

Three Tories ‘On the Verge of Defecting’ to Join Labour Splitters’ Group

Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, and Anna Soubry are said to be on the verge of leaving the Conservative Party today. Rumours are swirling that the three could jump ship to join the Labour splitters’ ‘The Independent Group’ as early as in time for the start of Prime Minister’s Questions today.

This morning none of the three are responding to requests for comment about joining The Independent Group. Soubry, normally a prolific Twitter user, hasn’t tweeted since Monday morning. Tory whips last night told Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt that the three had gone “very, very silent” and yesterday Soubry failed to vote in three Commons votes, without telling her whips and despite not seeking a pair.

Wollaston and Allen have never fitted in to the Conservative Party, rebelling against the leadership since they got in to Parliament on a wide array of issues. Wollaston opposed tax cuts that even John McDonnell supported. Soubry on the other hand is aligned with the Tory Party on everything bar Brexit. Her leaving would not be something to celebrate…

Labour MP Joan Ryan’s defection last night took The Independent Group’s numbers up to eight. Three more MPs joining would make their Parliamentary group as large the Liberal Democrats…

Bercow Selects Soubry Amendment for Debate

Bercow has called just three amendments to be debated and voted on today. Which will come as a small relief to everyone with Valentine’s plans tonight…

The specific wording of the Government’s motion itself has drawn the ire of the ERG and Remainers alike, as it means MPs would in effect be endorsing the Spelman amendment against no deal as well as the Brady amendment calling for an alternative to the backstop, although it would be purely symbolic. The ERG are likely to abstain although Guido understands that various reports that they have already come to a firm decision are slightly “premature”…

Guido gives you a quick rundown of what today’s amendments are:

  • A (Jeremy Corbyn): Fairly pointless Labour frontbench amendment calling for the Government to move another motion by 27 February. Which they have already committed to…
  • I (Ian Blackford): SNP amendment with Lib Dem support calling for the Government to immediately begin negotiations with the EU to extend Article 50. Looks like they already have been
  • E (Anna Soubry): Cross-party amendment from the usual Remainer suspects – calls on the Government to publish the most recent official Cabinet briefing document on the implications of a no-deal Brexit. Will be the closest vote but it won’t be legally binding…

Bercow sparing the People’s Vote campaign’s blushes for today by not selecting any of the no-hoper second referendum amendments…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

How Top Tories Responded to Brady’s Victory

Top Tories gave their reaction to last night’s votes on Newsnight – Graham Brady insisted that it was the Commons that had given May a mandate, not himself. A forceful Steve Baker told people to “wake up to the reality” that “that backstop is not getting through the House of Commons, not ever.” Boris reiterated that his support for May’s deal was conditional on the backstop being removed and replaced with alternative arrangements.

Liz Truss added that yesterday’s results were a “significant way forward” that showed that “there is a majority for the PM’s deal plus some changes to the backstop.” The EU have already launched a media blitz to insist it’s not possible but behind the scenes they have no choice but to digest the significance of the result…

Meanwhile on Planet Anna Soubry, it was all “deeply concerning” as she saw her party “drifting over to the right”. Cheer up…

Bitter Anna Soubry Heckles Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan intervened on Theresa May’s opening speech to confirm the “surprising” news that Tory Remainers and Leavers had formed an unlikely alliance around the ‘Malthouse Compromise’.

One MP who obviously didn’t have much to offer the constructive cross-partisan discussions was Anna Soubry, who was caught grumbling loudly “would have been nice to have been told that” as Morgan spoke. Given that she’s doing everything she can to derail Brexit altogether, Guido isn’t really sure why she’s surprised to be left out. How times have changed…

Soubry Scorches Corbyn

Any suspicions that Tory Remainers could unexpectedly side with Corbyn to inflict a shock confidence vote defeat on May have firmly been put to bed with Anna Soubry nailing her colours to the Tory mast and tearing into Corbyn as he presented his motion of no confidence in Parliament. Hard to see how she could justify siding with the “most hopeless opposition leader we’ve ever had” in any subsequent confidence votes, even if no deal is approaching…

The ERG are also firmly on board. May will be fine this time round…

Soubry’s Searing Attack on Bercow

A furious Anna Soubry has torn into John Bercow for his handling of the “stupid woman” incident. Bercow is visibly rattled as he tries to shout down angry MPs. Is his grip finally starting to slip?

Soubry vs the ERG on May

Various Tory factions have been setting out their stalls ahead of tonight’s confidence vote in the Prime Minister. The ERG’s Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker have said:

“Theresa May’s plan would bring down the government if carried forward. But our Party will rightly not tolerate it. Conservatives must now answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”

The unspoken fear is that If May wins today she will fight the next election – and Tories will be slaughtered. The DUP will not support the government if May leads it on the current course. So “Vote May, get Corbyn.”

Meanwhile, Anna Soubry has hit out… at the ERG itself, attacking them as:

“A rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers. They should have been booted out by previous leaders. They behave appallingly and only represent themselves and their warped ideology. They need to get a life but they don’t have lives because they’re obsessed with Europe.”

A bit rich from Soubry given that she’s rebelled vastly more times than Brexiteers over the last two years…

Mogg Youth

Anna Soubry on the Young Conservatives

“The problem is they all look and sound like mini Moggs.”

Halfon: Soubry’s Saying 17 Million Leavers are Extremists

Robert Halfon tells PoliticsHome

“My constituency voted 68% to Leave the EU. I learnt a lot from this. Most of them are just decent people, not extremists at all. They believed the argument about taking back control. They wanted more money spent at home and not on the EU. And they wanted control of the borders – they’re not extremists. What Soubry’s doing with this argument is saying that every one of the 17 million people who voted leave are extremists. That’s the logic of this. That’s where it leads to. I’ve met some of the new members. They seem to be moderate Brexit, some of them. But if some Brexit people decide to join because they believe that this party is going to keep the referendum promise – well, I’m delighted. And this is from someone who voted Remain.”

Soubry: Burka is a “Peculiar Concept”

This was Anna Soubry on Question Time in 2013 after Ken Clarke called the burka a “bag”. She had no words of criticism for Clarke. Indeed, she backed him and said the burka is a “peculiar concept”. The Boris outrage is rank hypocrisy from Remainers who have said similar about the burka themselves in the past…

Soubry Defeats Deselection Plot as Association Chairman Resigns

Anna Soubry has defeated an attempt to deselect her – as the association chairman behind the plot resigned his post. Guido has previously reported how John Doddy, chairman of Broxtowe Conservatives, was on manoeuvres to remove Soubry as the Tory candidate for the next election.[…] Read the rest “Soubry Defeats Deselection Plot as Association Chairman Resigns”

+ READ MORE +

Seen Elsewhere

Another Child’s Letter to Tusk Another Child’s Letter to Tusk