Lord Heseltine tonight serves warning that the Conservative Party is in grave danger of being captured by the “narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage”.
The former deputy Prime Minister, who voted Liberal Democrat in last week’s European elections, will say that he and millions of other Conservatives who supported staying in the EU at the last referendum will never be able to return if the party continues trying to force Brexit on the British people without them being given the final say.
In a speech to mark his appointment as President of the European Movement, he will tell his former party:
“Turn yourselves into branch offices of Brexit if you wish. But if you do so, you are on your own. Those upon whom you depend to win power in a general election will not come back. Good luck. Goodbye.
“Indeed, the prospect of a new Prime Minister being chosen by perhaps little more than 100,000 Conservative Party members in the current circumstances fills me with dread. There will be an arms race in which candidates vie against each other for who can be the most Faragiste.”
Pointing out that any effort to renegotiate Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is likely to fail and, in any case, the maths in Parliament stacked against agreeing any form of Brexit will remain unchanged, Lord Heseltine will say a new Prime Minister could then run the clock down to a default No Deal departure from the EU:
“Such a decision, which would deny either Parliament or the people a say on a No Deal outcome that neither wants, would be nothing short of a democratic and constitutional outrage… If successful, the consequences for businesses, for young people and for the integrity of the United Kingdom itself would rightly be hung around the neck of the Conservative Party for a generation to come.”
A General Election offers a similarly bleak future for the party and the country while Brexit is unresolved, he will say:
“The consequence would either be a Tory-led or a Corbyn-led minority hung Parliament that would settle nothing, or the prospect of the Conservative Party – the party of Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan and Thatcher – in alliance with and captured by the narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage.”
Barely a week after he was expelled from Conservative ranks in the House of Lords, Lord Heseltine will say he has no intention of being silenced.
“What is it you want me to do? To betray everything I’ve believed all my adult life? To explain why every Conservative PM except the last one was wrong? Am I to tell the young generation ‘go hang’? Or is it that I should stay silent? To wait for Conservative Central Office to send me a little blue book, thumb through the index under Europe and read out the party line? I can think of a party that does believe that. And it does begin with a C. But it is not the Conservative party I know and to which I have devoted my life.”
Although he will acknowledge that for many people who support Brexit, the European election results this week were a verdict on the Government’s failure to deliver promises made in the last referendum, Lord Heseltine will say those promises could never be kept, adding:
“If we’ve learnt anything over the past year it must be that we now know that we cannot enjoy all the rights of being a member of the EU with none on the responsibilities that necessarily go with it. The heady, if intellectually incoherent, claim that we can have our cake and eat it has ended up choking the mother of Parliament itself.”
“Today, I want to appeal to every sensible Conservative MP, to potential leadership candidates, even to the Labour leader, not to force Brexit upon us now. I ask them to stand up, to speak out for our democratic right to have our say on Brexit.
“Whether you want to leave the EU or to stay in, the only way to unlock the Brexit process in Parliament, the only way secure a stable majority in Parliament, the only way to legitimise the outcome so we can build a lasting settlement in the country is to give the people the final say.”