AMBER RUDD has warned that moderates are being purged from the Tory party in a move that could cost them a majority at the next election.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show her decision to suddenly quit as work and pensions secretary on Saturday was influenced by Boris Johnson’s sacking of 21 Tory rebels, who she described as ‘good moderate Conservatives’.
The Hastings & Rye MP said she took the added step of quitting the party to ‘make the point that the Conservative party should be a moderate party which accepts people with different views on the EU’.
In her resignation letter, she said she ‘no longer believed leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective’.
Mr Johnson last week sacked a slew of senior Tories after they supported opposition moves to block a no-deal Brexit.
They included former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames. Ms Rudd said she had confronted the Tory leader ‘several times’ over the past week to raise concerns about the direction of the party but chose to resign after failing to change his mind.
‘It’s not just 21 individuals, it’s a big symbol that the Conservative party doesn’t embrace moderate people,’ she said.
‘Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, these great Conservatives. I kept on arguing against it, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.’
Ms Rudd — who has been replaced by Therese Coffey, an environment minister and MP for Suffolk Coastal — issued a stark warning to the PM.
She said any lurch to the right would damage his chances of securing a majority at the next election, despite a YouGov poll in The Sunday Times suggesting the Tories had taken a 14-point lead over Labour.
‘If we become a party which has no place for the type of moderate that I am, then we will not win,’ Ms Rudd said.
But she said the issue was not confined to her own party, with Labour’s Diana Johnson facing a deselection battle in Kingston upon Hull North.
‘Both parties are having difficulty maintaining their moderate side,’ she added.
Ms Rudd told the BBC she hoped the Tory whip would be restored to her and the sacked MPs before an election. She said: ‘I’m actually not leaving the Conservative party. What I am doing is surrendering the whip.
‘I couldn’t carry on in the Conservative party at such a high level and see 21 of my colleagues, who are good, moderate people who also want a deal, excluded from it. I hope we will all be returned before a general election so we can stand as Conservatives. I am a Conservative.’
Yesterday, foreign secretary Dominic Raab defended the prime minister’s actions, saying he was ‘right to restore some discipline’.
He added: ‘It’s been a rough week but the reality is the prime minister is sticking to his guns on what he said to get us out of this rut that we’re in.’