‘It’s the Brexit Party rebadged’: Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke among 21 rebels

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Political grandee Kenneth Clarke – a Commons veteran of nearly five decades – was among those to find themselves politically homeless after voting against the Government.

The Rushcliffe MP had the Tory whip removed, effectively expelling him from the parliamentary party, after joining opposition parties on Tuesday night to wrest control of the Commons agenda to block a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond who, until July 24, served as Chancellor was also among the 21 rebels, alongside Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and former justice secretary David Gauke.

After his sacking, Mr Clarke said he was still a conservative but he had reservations about the party under Boris Johnson’s leadership.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “I don’t recognise this. It’s the Brexit Party, rebadged.

“It’s been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who’s got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy… a Cabinet which is the most right-wing Cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced.”

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke was first elected in 1970 (PA)

The 79-year-old has thrice stood – and thrice been defeated – for the Conservative leadership, with his stance on Europe differing from that of his Eurosceptic party.

Mr Clarke added he was sceptical about whether Mr Johnson was looking for a deal with the European Union ahead of the proposed Brexit date of October 31.

Brexit vote in the Commons
MPs voted in favour of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

“But he’s dug himself in, he assumes he’s going to get no deal. Because he can’t get the right wing of the Conservative Party, many of them now stuck in his Cabinet, to agree to it.”

Sir Nicholas, who was returned alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Margaret Beckett in the 1983 general election, said he would be calling time on his parliamentary career if a snap general election was held.

He said his decision to rebel was “a pity” and not taken “lightly”, but he felt “very strongly” about avoiding a no-deal.

He added: “The fact is I’m satisfied that (the prime minister) himself wants a deal, but the deal he wants is not available.”

Sir Nicholas Soames
Sir Nicholas Soames (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In an interview with ConservativeHome in 2016, he said: “If you have an Alsatian sitting in front of you, and it growls at you and bares its teeth, there are two ways of dealing with it.

“You can pat it on the head, in which case it’ll bite you, or you can kick it really hard in the balls, in which case it’ll run away.

“Successive Prime Ministers, and it’s not the present Prime Minister alone (David Cameron), have never understood that they have to take these people on.”

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