Tory moderates flex their muscles (and welcome in a few Brexiteers)
Tory Reform Group chairman Owen Meredith and former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan are leading the fightback.
“It’s time for a generational shift,” says rising Tory star Tom Tugendhat in a lively interview in the Spectator calling for his party to move on from Boris Johnson’s generation of politicians.
But the former high-ranking Army officer opts against directly naming his target. “I didn’t get into politics to talk about Boris, there are many more interesting things to talk about,” he insists.
In the Churchill Room in the Commons on Wednesday night it was clear that Tugendhat is not the only Tory MP who has had more than enough of the former foreign secretary's antics.
Around 80 MPs turned up for the Tory Reform Group reception. Those present included moderate suspects such as Tugendhat, Nicky Morgan, Damian Green and Justine Greening. And slightly less usual Brexiteer suspects.
"We were really pleased to see people like Penny Mordaunt, James Cleverly and Paul Scully. It isn’t necessarily the case that the EU stance for MP now defines where they sit in terms of the direction of the party,” one TRG source told TP. "We’ve got a historically pro-Europe approach and it is how we bring the country back together and deliver progressive policies which win voters over which has to be where all Conservatives attention should be focussed on."
In her speech, Morgan called on her colleagues to take the fight to the likes of Johnson: “Those in this room need to help heal division and we have to stand up against the louder voices. It is the One Nation Tories, the broad church, that wins marginal seats and when you are too shrill, too ideologically driven then you lose those voters.
“We believe in the politics of inclusion, not exclusion and we have seen in the United States what happens when we let the politics of exclusion win. The world is not black or white, it is not seen through an ideological prism - we need a pragmatic, realistic Conservative party.”
Chairman Owen Meredith said he was “particularly pleased” that Johnson’s former PPS and Conservative Way Forward Conor Burns had showed up.
“Our two organisations do not always see directly eye-to-eye – but we have been able to work closely together on common campaigns and prove that while like all families we can sometimes disagree about process or nuance, we are united by common values and a desire to do the right thing by our country and party,” he added.
Meanwhile on Twitter, Johnson's pal was at pains to stress that he had not defected to the unofficial 'Anyone But Boris' group...