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Analysis

Tories rally behind right to vote

by Nick Kent | 18.01.2019

10 Tory MPs have now endorsed a People’s Vote with launch of a distinctive campaign aimed at Conservative voters – the Right to Vote. It shows opinion is shifting on the Conservative benches after the failure of May’s deal

Six months ago, few Conservative MPs were prepared to back a People’s Vote.  As Phillip Lee said yesterday at the launch of the campaign to rally Conservatives behind a new referendum, it felt very lonely when he resigned as a Justice Minister last summer.

Lee was joined on the platform by another former Minister who had resigned over the government’s Europe policy, Sam Gyimah, and by the backbencher Heidi Allen. In the audience were leading Tory parliamentary supporters of a People’s Vote, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

Their aim in creating the Right to Vote, as Lee explained, is to create a rallying point for the four million Conservatives who voted Remain in 2016 but they hope that some of those who voted Leave will join too.  All three speakers argued that with the prime minister’s deal dead in the water, parliament in deadlock and the party divided, holding a new referendum was the only way to resolve this crisis. But they also pointed out that it was the only way for the Conservative Party to heal its own divisions.  

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The launch coincided with the release of an opinion poll that shows that more than half of voters in Conservative-held seats support a new referendum. This is true in a whole series of seats held by Leave-supporting MPs. In Mrs May’s Maidenhead constituency it is almost 60%; it is much the same in Boris Johnson’s seat of Uxbridge or Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford.

The polling emphasises why Allen was right to say to Conservative MPs who are afraid they would be de-selected by their local party if they backed a People’s Vote: “To hell with your associations, it’s your voters you should be worried about”.

The launch of Right to Vote, inspired and led by MPs, is part of a broader coming together of those Conservatives who voted Remain. The disagreements about the way to take control of the agenda if the government will not abandon both its bad deal and no deal, have been at least partly overcome.  Conservative MPs hitherto in different factions are increasingly working together. And they are reaching out across the House to like-minded MPs in other parties.  

Slowly, painfully, parliament is working its way towards voting for a new referendum.  And as Sam Gyimah said at the Right to Vote launch, “in a crisis of our democracy, more democracy cannot be a bad thing”.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Tories rally behind right to vote”

  • Revoke A50. Best and cheapest way out of this mess we are in. A people’s vote will open the door to the public opinion manipulators and they have a LOT of money and power behind them. Aside from the small fry like Murdoch, JRM and a host of other similar tw*ts, both Russia and our good friends USA would like to see the EU fail. Warm their toes on an EU failure fire would make them happy as can be.

    Withdraw A50 ASAP and stop the Tories pouring our money down the brexit promotion plug hole, not to mention all the other nefarious activities they are engaged in.

  • Thank God for sensible Tories like Heidi, Anna, Philip, Sam, Sarah et al.
    Dominic Grieve for emergency PM please. Corbyn, get your act together or else….