Tory MPs talk of leaving the party as Rees Mogg rises up
Rees Mogg is 'incredibly charming but not the modern face of the Tory party', according to Heidi Allen.
The prospect of Jacob Rees Mogg becoming the next Conservative party leader is gaining traction among Tory activists.
And this weekend, the man himself declined to rule out standing as a candidate in the next Tory leadership contest.
"I wouldn’t put any money on it,” he told Radio 4’s Broadcasting House on Sunday, when asked why two Sunday newspapers were running stories saying he would like to succeed Theresa May.
"I think it’s a reminder that it’s August. People don’t have a huge amount of pressing UK political news to write about, and therefore there’s this jolly stuff about me."
But at least one Conservative MP is terrified by the idea of Rees Mogg taking the Tory leadership.
Heidi Allen told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: "This is going to sound very dramatic because I don’t believe this will happen so I’m hoping this is completely hypothetical – I couldn’t be in the Conservative party if he was my leader."
The independent-minded South Cambridgeshire MP added: "That’s nothing nasty or to slight Jacob at all, he’s incredibly charming, very generous, has been very welcoming to me as a new MP, we often sit quite close together… He is not the modern face of the Tory party that we are desperate – or I am certainly and colleagues are desperate – to prove is out there. Eighteenth century, he’s a moderniser if he’s the minister for the 18th century!"
"He’s fabulous in his own right but he is not the future and I am desperate for us to find that future."
It comes as a poll of Tory activists for the ConservativeHome website last week found Rees Mogg, a committed Brexiteer, in second place as their preferred next party leader, just behind Brexit secretary David Davis. This was despite the fact that Rees-Mogg was not included in the survey. Rather his supporters had to enter his name themselves in the “other – please specify” category.
Allen becomes the second Conservative MP in as many days to tout the possibility of defecting after former minister Anna Soubry floated the idea of joining a newly-formed centrist party if the government pushed through a so-called hard Brexit.
"Mrs May is making a great mistake if she allows her policy to be dictated by the Brexit ideologues. They effectively brought down John Major, David Cameron and, arguably, Margaret Thatcher – and will not hesitate to do the same to her," she wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
"I am proud of my loyalty to my party and my country. People have asked me two questions, if the worst happened and we staggered recklessly towards a ‘Hard Brexit’ that would destroy the lives and livelihoods of my constituents: Could I ever see myself joining with like-minded people who want to save our country from such an appalling fate? And has that moment arrived yet?
"The answer to the first question is ‘it is not impossible’; the answer to the second is ‘no’.
"But I would be betraying my principles if I did not make it clear that country must always come before party."
However one moderate Tory MP has pledged allegiance to the Conservatives.
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan said a new political party would be "a very bad idea". Writing for ConservativeHome, she added that likeminded Tories should stay put and push for a more centrist policy programme.
"If liberal Conservative MPs allow ourselves to be drummed out of the Conservative Party, whether by heeding the calls for a new Party or by accepting that our views no longer have a place within our Party, then that would send a terrible signal, not only to the electorate but also to the tens of thousands of Tory members, councillors, donors and supporters who share our views and want us to lead the charge in putting forward a mainstream agenda which appeals to the centre-ground of British politics and, in particular, to younger and future voters."