As a vote on the government’s plan to hold an election beckons, the Prime Minister has made the decision to restore the Conservative whip to 10 of the 21 Brexit rebels. This group collectively lost the whip when they voted for the Benn bill which forced the government to seek an Article 50 extension rather than leave the EU with no deal.
These MPs have been welcomed back following a meeting with Boris Johnson:
- Alastair Burt
- Caroline Nokes
- Nicholas Soames
- Greg Clarke
- Ed Vaizey
- Margot James
- Richard Benyon
- Stephen Hammond
- Steve Brine
- Richard Harrington
Those who have returned to the fold have voted with the government on key votes: for the programme motion and against the Letwin amendment. Of this group, several have already indicated that they do not plan to seek re-election. Those who do can now stand as Conservative candidates in the forthcoming election. In the case of some of these MPs – notably Steve Brine and Stephen Hammond – they are seen to have a much better chance of holding their seats for the Tories than a new candidate.
As for those not on the list, there are 11 Brexit rebels who have not been invited back. This includes Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart. Within government, there is a sense that these MPs have not suggested through their actions that they wish to return to the Conservative party in its current form.
In a recent interview with the Spectator, Jacob Rees-Mogg said that he hoped there would be a route back for some of the Brexit rebels: ‘I would be very much in favour of the Tory party remaining a broad church.’ Nicky Morgan, culture secretary, pushed for their return at political Cabinet. That Johnson now has a Brexit deal has made this possible. The thinking within government is that a Brexit deal (and therefore no imminent no-deal scenario) means there is a much lower chance of Brexit bust-ups with the members of the group.