Shut up! Straight-talking Anna Soubry socks it to mutinous Tory MPs
Minister says she’s getting sick of ‘silly personal attacks’ by Brexiteers
One of David Cameron's most pugnacious ministers has expressed exasperation with fellow Tory MPs following a string of blue-on-blue attacks.
Anna Soubry has never been afraid to fight her corner - and her no-nonsense approach has meant that she is increasingly being seen as one of the Tory left's most effective media operators.
So who better than Soubry to tell mutinous eurosceptic Tories to "shut up" and focus on the issues in the EU referendum debate?
The minister for small business and enterprise also branded Brexiteers as "older, male and pale" – and then refused to retract the remark.
Tory divisions over Europe escalated over the weekend as Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen broke ranks to declare that Cameron is “finished” as Tory leader and will have to be replaced after the referendum on June 23. Backbencher Nadine Dorries then revealed she had written to the 1922 Committee calling for a leadership challenge to Cameron and veteran Tory MP Sir Bill Cash indicated that he was considering following suit.
But Soubry, who is in favour of staying in the EU, told BBC News on Tuesday: "Look, I can’t be bothered with all this personal stuff, I think it turns people off in their droves - viewers, listeners, whatever it might be, ordinary people - they can’t bear it.
"If people are going to get dirty and get personal they would be better just shutting up. Let’s talk about the real issues; let’s put forward the arguments.
"That’s what it’s all about – winning the debate. I’d like to apologise for all those people in my party who have made these sorts of silly personal attacks. It tends to be the Brexiteers and it’s unnecessary.
"Let’s have a good, honest debate on the arguments and on the facts. If we do that, I’m sure people will vote to Remain in the EU."
Soubry also issued a rallying call to young voters to register to vote in the referendum and to back Remain, with a dig at Leave campaigners – which she subsequently defended on Twitter.
"Often it’s the case some of these Brexiteers tend to be older, nothing wrong with that, but they do tend to be older, they also tend to be male and they tend to be pale.
"I think it’s really important that younger people in particular get out, go and register and then go and vote to stay in the EU.”
Soubry’s blunt intervention will antagonise the Leave campaign, but it is by no means the first time that she has stood up to her opponents on the issue of Europe.
In recent years, the Tory MP for Broxtowe has been one of her party’s most vocal critics of Nigel Farage. Most notably at the end of 2013, when she said on the Andrew Marr Show that the Ukip leader looked "like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it".