One of Boris Johnson’s former Cabinet colleagues today urged voters to deprive the Prime Minister of a Commons majority because he would use it to crash Britain out of the European Union on “disastrous” no-deal terms.
David Gauke, who was serving in the Government as Justice Secretary just four months ago, announced he will stand as an independent candidate in his seat.
He said Mr Johnson had to be stopped from causing a “very hard Brexit” and had “boxed” himself in by making commitments designed to appease Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Mr Gauke, right, told the Evening Standard: “I am really worried about the economic implications of a Conservative government that will essentially take us over a cliff edge at the end of 2020.
“A Conservative majority will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit. In all likelihood we would leave the implementation period at the end of 2020 without a deal with the European Union — in effect on no-deal terms. That would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country. Whole sectors would become unviable.”
Mr Gauke said the Conservative Party was “changing before our eyes” with the loss of “so many” One Nation Tories at this election.
The lifelong Tory, the MP for South West Hertfordshire since 2005, was stripped of the party whip in September for backing the Benn Act, the measure Parliament passed to avoid a no-deal Brexit on Halloween.
His dramatic intervention came as:
- A third former Labour minister urged people to vote Conservative rather than have Jeremy Corbyn as PM. Tom Harris, who was a transport minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the Labour leader was an “extremist” and “not someone who can be trusted with the security of the nation”. His call echoed warnings by former MPs Ian Austin and John Woodcock.
- Labour appeared to retreat on its flagship conference announcement of a four-day week without loss of pay after shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it would not apply to NHS nurses.
- A former Tory MP convicted of faking expenses claims stood down as a candidate for Ynys Mon, Wales, after an outcry. Chris Davies stepped aside just hours after his name was announced “following critical comments in the media”.
The Prime Minister visited flood-hit areas in South Yorkshire where he promised more help for homeowners ahead of his first keynote speech of the campaign this afternoon.
He was to appeal to voters to give him a Commons majority on December 12 so that he could “end the groundhoggery of Brexit”.
On a visit to an electric car plant in the West Midlands, he was due to say: “If we can get a working majority we can get Parliament working for you, we can get out of the rut.”
Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove led a fightback against Mr Gauke, insisting the PM was committed to a new trade agreement with the EU.
“Everyone knows that the Prime Minister wants a deal and the Government is determined to secure one,” he said.
Another Cabinet minister dismissed Mr Gauke’s claim that there is no time to negotiate a trade deal in time for the PM’s deadline of December 2020.
“We are already in alignment with EU trade rules, so it is just a question of how much de-alignment we want, and how much market access the EU is prepared to give us,” the minister said. “It is a simple trade-off.”
But Mr Gauke said a trade deal would take “at least three years” because it was subject to highly complex procedures involving all 27 of the other EU states.
He believed that Downing Street had “choreographed” with Mr Farage a government deadline of December 2020 just before the Brexit Party leader announced he would not stand against sitting Tory MPs.
“I have thought long and hard,” he said of his decision to stand. “The easiest thing for me would have been to walk away, find a nice comfortable job in the City and duck out of it. But I believe the right thing to do is stay in the fight and do what I can to make sure we have a sensible parliament.”
Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats today said they would be contesting the seat against him, reducing his chances of winning.
Mr Gauke said he now backs a second referendum. “In my view we are going to have to put this back to the British people.”
He added; “I would like the centre ground to do very well in this general election. I would like the Liberal Democrats to do very well. There are independents as well like Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton I want to see do well.”
Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi said she was “disappointed” that the Tories will not hold a separate inquiry into Islamophobia.
She said: “The complete lack of transparency over the last four years has been shocking.”Mr Gove insisted “we have tackled Islamophobia firmly and clearly”, claiming the Labour Party had not tackled anti-Semitism.