LORD CRUDDAS: Tory members must get a vote to tear up PM's resignation

Tory members must get a vote on whether the Prime Minister’s resignation should be torn up, writes LORD CRUDDAS 

The ousting of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister by a minority of MPs is deeply anti-democratic. It defies the will of the country and the Conservative Party members who elected him.

It amounts to a coup. I am ashamed that this can happen in Britain, the birthplace of modern democracy. If that’s what politics has become, we’re living in a nation I can barely recognise any longer.

That’s why this week I helped to launch a petition to give the Tory faithful a vote on whether to accept Boris’s resignation. Already, 7,000 members have signed it with hundreds more every hour – despite attempts by hackers to shut the website down.

I don’t want to see the PM as a candidate in the race to be the next party leader. I want the membership to vote on whether we accept his resignation in the first place. If we don’t – and I strongly expect that to be the case – it will be revoked and Boris will continue in No 10.

It’s what the country demanded, by a colossal margin, at the general election in 2019. Under his leadership, the Conservatives won a landslide majority in the Commons of 80 seats, the widest margin since Margaret Thatcher’s third victory in 1987.

Boris Johnson delivers his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street on July 7. His ousting was deeply anti-democratic, defying the will of the country and the Conservative Party members who elected him. It amounts to a coup, writes Lord Cruddas

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is comforted by his wife Carrie and their children after delivering his statement in Downing Street resigning as the leader of the Conservative Party

Even more remarkable, the Tories took 43.6 per cent of the popular vote, the strongest showing for any party in 40 years, since Maggie first came to power.

A swathe of former Labour strongholds fell, as 14million people across the country voted for Mr Johnson’s Conservatives. He had been party leader for just five months, after nearly two-thirds of the 160,000 membership backed him over ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

That is the most emphatic mandate possible. It is disgusting that a cabal of 30 to 40 plotters in Westminster can overturn it.

The contempt this shows for ordinary Conservative members appals me. These people are stalwarts, serving the party for decade after decade – one person with whom I work in the House of Lords is 92 and has been a member for around 70 years.

People like that are both the backbone and the muscle of the Conservatives. They’re the ones who go out in rain and snow to campaign at every election, who dig deep into their own pockets as well as devoting endless energy to fundraising activities.

Their efforts are not merely being taken for granted. They are being ignored and disenfranchised. No wonder that the bulk of members are furious.

The betrayal of Mr Johnson – what he might call, with his relish of colourful language, a ‘defenestration’ – was orchestrated by the 1922 Committee, a low-key but powerful collective of backbench MPs.

Their plotting harks back to the 1960s and the era of ‘men in grey suits’ who quietly decided the nation’s fate without reference to the voters. I thought we’d left that elitist, undemocratic system far in the past. Apparently I was wrong.

Now the 1922 Committee is orchestrating the leadership battle between Sunak and Truss. That reeks of corruption. The very backbenchers who forced Boris out now oversee the election of his successor.

Under Boris Johnson’s leadership, the Conservatives won a landslide majority in the Commons of 80 seats, the widest margin since Margaret Thatcher’s third victory in 1987

They shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it – the conflict of interest is blatant.

It’s the 1922 Committee that is trying to block our petition.

They say the Conservative Party rules forbid a Prime Minister to stand in the leadership contest after resigning. But we don’t want him to run again. We want his resignation torn up. It’s a totally different thing.

And in any case, the party rulebook is clear: Article 17 says the board of the party has the right and freedom to override any other clause, if that is in Conservative interests – including ‘the resolution of any disputes within the party’ and ‘the replacement or removal from office’ of any official.

That’s a clear-cut mandate: If the members refuse to accept Boris’s resignation, the 1922 Committee can halt this Tory civil war right now.

Our campaign is gathering speed. Over the next few days, we’re going to exert maximum pressure, and I urge every Tory member to sign the petition. We’re well-funded and ready to fight. I was expecting to donate £500,000 to the party coffers but that money will now cover the legal fees for this battle.

It will also pay to keep our website up, despite the constant assaults by hackers. Since Tuesday, multiple ‘denial of service’ attacks have taken us offline for a total of 15 hours.

That symbolises how democracy is being strangled in this country, and we won’t give in. Somebody has to make a stand and resist political corruption.

The will of the people must be paramount. If that goes, God help us all.

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch is a former Conservative Party Treasurer

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