On Sept. 3, 1939, England declared war against Germany, and Winston Churchill was invited back from political exile to serve as First Lord of the Admiralty and later prime minister in the war against Adolf Hitler. Eighty years later to the day, his grandson said he would be expelled from the Conservative Party for voting against embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Brexit.
Nicholas Soames, a member of Parliament representing Mid Sussex, was among the group of 21 Conservative politicians who defied Johnson’s wishes by voting for a motion that paves the way for Brexit to be delayed till 2020. Hours after the vote Tuesday, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said Conservative MPs who did not support the prime minister “will have the Tory whip removed,” the Financial Times reported, meaning that they would not be allowed to stand as Conservative representatives in Parliament.
Soames, 71, confirmed this in an interview with BBC Newsnight.
“I have been told by the chief whip … that it will be his sad duty to write me tomorrow to tell me that I have had the whip removed,” said Soames, adding that in his 37 years as a Conservative member, he has voted against the party only three times. In the wake of the vote, Soames does not plan to stand for Parliament in the coming general election, he said.
“That’s fortunes of war,” Soames said. “I knew what I was doing.”
Other high-profile politicians who will be booted out of the party include former chancellors of the exchequer, or treasury secretaries, Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, who have both served as Conservative MPs for decades.
Sir Nicholas Soames MP confirms to #Newsnight that he will not stand in the next general election.— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) September 3, 2019
“I have been told by the chief whip… that I have had the whip removed after 37 years as a Conservative MP."
“I’m not going to stand”@NSoames | @maitlis pic.twitter.com/P73srDcU4o
The expulsion of Soames marks a dramatic development in the increasingly fraught debate over Johnson’s “do-or-die” plan to leave the European Union by Halloween regardless of whether there is a plan on the table. Without the 21 rebel MPs, the prime minister’s Conservative Party has lost its voting majority in Parliament. Johnson has called for a general election, which will be discussed Wednesday.
“It is a pity — a great pity — that this has in my view all been planned,” Soames said to the BBC. “This is exactly what they wanted, and they will try to have a general election, which is what they wanted.”
Pundits pointed out that the expulsion of Soames is an ironic turning point for Johnson, who has unabashedly stated his admiration for Churchill throughout his political career.
“When I was growing up there was no doubt about it. Churchill was quite the greatest statesman that Britain had ever produced,” Johnson wrote in an affectionate biography of the prime minister in 2014.
It will be quite something if Boris Johnson withdraws the Conservative whip from Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of his political hero, Winston Churchill— Shehab Khan (@ShehabKhan) September 3, 2019
As The Post’s Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adams reported:
Johnson’s opponents want to avert Britain from leaving the E.U. without an agreement in place to regulate trade, border security and other critical issues. Analysts say a so-called no-deal Brexit could be economically damaging and lead to food and medicine shortages. Johnson has dismissed those predictions as fearmongering.Johnson also said that any delay from the Oct. 31 deadline would disrupt progress on negotiations with the E.U. over an exit deal. And he said it would undercut the government’s negotiating position.
There were shocked reactions at the fate of such a Conservative Party stalwart.
Ruth Davidson, who resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservative Party last week, tweeted, “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for @NSoames?”