Senior Conservative Party members have warned that having such hardline Brexiteers as Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab installed at No 10 would amount to electoral “suicide”, The Times reported.
Former Tory Chairman Patrick McLoughlin has launched a verbal assault on staunch Brexit candidates, warning that their “ideological” sympathy for a “no-deal” Brexit is “reckless”.
“Defining ourselves as the Brexit party, pursuing the hardest form of Brexit with a parliament that will not deliver it, is a recipe for paralysis in government and suicide with the electorate. We are and must remain the Conservative Party, not the Vote Leave party”, he penned in The Sunday Times.
According to the media outlet, his comments may likewise be interpreted as a jab at Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who reportedly met a group of MPs last week supporting his candidacy to run.
For McLoughlin, the next UK prime minister should be someone who voted to remain in the EU but supports the need to leave – something which reflects the position adopted by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, as well as his potential competitors Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“While some have tried to claim this only means having voted leave in the referendum, I prefer the qualities of those who have worked tirelessly to deliver it and voted consistently with the government to make it happen in parliament”, he said, adding that the country’s future relationship with the European Union “is best delivered by someone who believes in Brexit”.
McLoughlin’s remarks follow reports that Conservative MPs are plotting to remove UK Prime Minister Theresa May as the head of the party by 23 May in order to appoint her successor before parliament’s summer recess commences on 20 July.
In a parallel development, Lord Spicer and Lord Hamilton of Epsom, both former chairmen of the 1922 Committee, warned that the current rule suggesting that only one no-confidence motion can be brought against the head of the party in a 12-month period, could be changed.
“It is reported that in order to change this rule the whole Conservative Party constitution must be opened, a national convention called and even a petition of 10,000 members is required. This is not the case. Conservative MPs are responsible for their party. If they wish to change these rules there is nothing standing in their way”, they penned in the Sunday Telegraph.
Health Secretary Hancock also warned the Conservatives need a "kick up the a***" to appeal to younger voters at a London event earlier this week, adding Tories would be "finished" if they became the "Brexit party".
She noted that she knew that the MPs did not want her to lead the next phase of Brexit negotiations "and I won't stand in the way of that".
The UK was supposed to leave the European Union on 29 March, but May opted to request a deadline extension for she repeatedly failed to gain support from British lawmakers for the withdrawal deal.