Rebel ex-Tory MPs are complaining of ‘unconstitutional’ treatment by their party and are planning to stand at the next election as Conservatives, I have learned. The MPs who lost the whip last night when they backed a motion to take control of the Order Paper were this morning told all their constituency data had been taken away from them, and that they must remove the Conservative logo from their websites, correspondence and so on. But despite this, a number of them want to say that they are Conservatives at the election, and are preparing for a dramatic legal battle with the party.
As I reported earlier, all the rebels took their seats on the Conservative benches at Prime Minister’s Questions today, partly to say to colleagues that they regarded the loss of the whip as a temporary gesture. But Philip Hammond has already been deselected by his local association, and for two other MPs, the selection process for a Tory candidate to replace them has already opened.
Rory Stewart told Coffee House: ‘The words “withdrawing the whip” are too mild. This is a deselection process. It is doubtful whether any of that is remotely constitutional. I’m going to stand as a Conservative MP at the next election: the whole thing is uncharted territory and we will go into a full-on legal fight on this. I will say I was simply acting on our manifesto which talked about an orderly withdrawal from the European Union.’
Stephen Hammond similarly said: ‘I am a Conservative and intend to stand as such.’