When Boris Johnson announced that Tory MPs who rebelled against the government this week to stop a no-deal Brexit would be deselected at the next election, the prime minister was clearly hoping that the raised stakes would deter at least some of his colleagues from rebelling.
This morning though, it seems that the threat has not worked on the most hardline members of the anti-no deal faction in his party, who are not going down without a fight. Former Chancellor and Gaukeward squad ringleader Philip Hammond was on the Today programme this morning, and in his harshest rebuke yet, hit back at the prime minister’s decision, saying he intends to stand as a Conservative at the next election and if Boris Johnson tries to stop him:
‘There will certainly be the fight of a lifetime if they try to… A lot of my colleagues have come under immense pressure, some of them have responded to that pressure by saying: enough, I’m going. That is not going to be my approach.
This is my party. I have been a member of this party for 45 years. I am going to defend my party against incomers, entryists who are trying to turn it from a broad church into a narrow faction.’
"This is my party, I am going to defend my party against people who are at the heart of this government who care nothing about the future of the Conservative party" – Former Chancellor @PhilipHammondUK says he will "fight" to stand in the next election #r4Today pic.twitter.com/siv1btyks1
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) September 3, 2019
UPDATE: It looks like Hammond’s fight of a lifetime may be more difficult than he first thought. Adrian Hilton, who was sacked as a parliamentary candidate in 2005 by Michael Howard, notes that CCHQ has the ultimate right to prevent candidates from standing. Hilton even took the Conservative Party to the High Court to protest his deselection, which he then lost.
Since I'm the expert on this (empirically and [with the only copy of a High Court judgment] legally): if a local assoc acquiesces to CCHQ (cf Howard Flight, 2005), the candidate is sacked. If an assoc resists, the candidate is still sacked and so is the association (cf me, 2005). https://t.co/PCjOXTkzCv
— Adrian Hilton (@Adrian_Hilton) September 3, 2019