Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has made yet another anti-Brexit intervention, describing some European Research Group MPs within the Conservative Party as being “extreme” and labelling them “zealots” whilst speaking out on former UKIP members joining the party. Just like Tony Blair, Sir John increasingly comes across as an out-of-touch figure trying to cling on to the past.
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Speaking at a lecture delivered in Glasgow yesterday, he said of the new influx of pro-Brexit members in the Tory Party: “The rationale for extremists joining mainstream parties is logical: from within them, they can influence policy; from without, they very rarely can.
“At the moment, there are people who – for now – may have their boots within the Conservative or Labour parties – but not in their minds, nor their hearts.
“The Conservative Party membership appears to be ‘hollowing out’ traditional Conservatives, while former UKIP members strengthen the anti-European Right of the party.”
When it comes to pro-Brexit MPs in Parliament such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, Sir John clearly isn’t a fan: “In Parliament, the European Research Group has become a party within a party, with its own whips, its own funding and its own priorities.
“Some of its more extreme members have little or no affinity to moderate, pragmatic and tolerant Conservatism.
“The ERG does not represent a majority view but – with a minority government, as now – can determine policy simply by being intransigent: which is precisely what it is doing.
“Some – who can fairly be called zealots – seem incapable of looking beyond the one issue of Europe.
“It’s not just that it dominates their thinking – it seems to obsess them.”
And he spoke positively of the second referendum-supporting MPs who have quit Labour: “Yesterday, seven moderate MPs left the Labour Party. I admire their courage and their conviction. But I hope they have not cut themselves adrift forever.
“Labour needs moderate MPs, and the country needs a moderate Labour Party.”
The Conservative grassroots are not overwhelmingly pro-Brexit, with two-thirds preferring a WTO Brexit to the deal Theresa May brought back from the table.
Most sensible Conservatives must surely be happy to have an influx of new members and MPs representing the mainstream pro-Brexit view. Sir John Major, as with Tony Blair, needs to accept that British politics has moved on.
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