Red Wall Tory backlash that could kill off veteran Tory backbenchers
The furious Red Wall Tory backlash that could kill off brigade of veteran Tory backbenchers who battled for Brexit dubbed The Spartans
- Former Cabinet Minister David Davis and Rees-Mogg facing Red Wall fury
- Red Wall MPs raging about political capital spent on protecting Owen Paterson
- Predictions that it will catalyse generational ‘changing of the guard’ in party
It is being described in Westminster as ‘the end of the Spartans’ – the brigade of veteran Tory backbenchers who battled for Brexit and made Theresa May’s life a misery but ended up dying on the hill of Owen Paterson’s business interests.
But just as Spartan society collapsed in ancient Greece when it was sacked by the Visigoths in 396 AD, so the likes of former Cabinet Minister David Davis and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg are facing the fury of the new generation of ‘Red Wall’ MPs: they are raging about the amount of political capital they spent trying to protect Mr Paterson from the consequences of breaching lobbying rules over his £500,000 of outside earnings.
Those close to Downing Street, where Boris Johnson’s allies were shaken by the scale of the uproar over the Paterson saga, predict that it will catalyse a generational changing of the guard within the parliamentary party. A source said: ‘They started with good intentions, but as so often with the Spartan MPs, it was ill-thought through and ultimately self-defeating. They have lost the confidence of the new generation in the Commons.’
‘The Spartans’ – a warrior class – was the name given to the most hardcore members of the European Research Group (ERG) who pressurised David Cameron into calling the EU referendum and then defied Mrs May over the Brexit deal she tried to negotiate with Brussels, securing a harder Brexit and helping to pave the way for Mr Johnson’s premiership.
In Government, blame for the fiasco is being placed at the feet of Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured), Chief Whip Mark Spencer and No 10 Political Secretary Declan Lyons.
In September, the core members met at the Carlton Club for a reunion dinner of smoked trout salad with boiled quail’s egg, capers and cucumber followed by lamb rump with confit peppers, sun-dried tomato and couscous.
There have been no such celebratory banquets following the events of last week, which have left the Prime Minister bruised and facing a by-election in the departing Paterson’s North Shropshire seat. MPs from the Red Wall seats – former Labour bastions which fell to the Tories for the first time in 2019 – have been exchanging bitter messages on their WhatsApp groups about the ‘arrogance’ of the Spartans and Mr Johnson’s failure to avert the disaster.
One member of the new intake, Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, is said to have called Paterson a c*** in the division lobby, while others spoke darkly about the Prime Minister having ‘lost’ the party.
In Government, blame for the fiasco is being placed at the feet of Mr Rees-Mogg, Chief Whip Mark Spencer and No 10 Political Secretary Declan Lyons.
The likes of former Cabinet Minister David Davis (pictured) and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg are facing the fury of the new generation of ‘Red Wall’ MPs: they are raging about the amount of political capital they spent trying to protect Mr Paterson from the consequences of breaching lobbying rules over his £500,000 of outside earnings
Sources say that Mr Rees-Mogg acted as a ‘vector’ for the pressure from his fellow Spartans and by talking in emotional terms about the toll taken on Mr Paterson by his wife’s suicide.
Despite the misgivings of a number of No 10 aides, including Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield, Mr Lyons agreed that Mr Paterson’s suspension should be blocked – linked to a simultaneous overhaul of Parliament’s standards system – while Mr Spencer took the disastrous decision to whip it through the Commons and obtained the support of Mr Johnson, just back from a hectic round of appearances at the COP26 summit in Glasgow followed by a late-evening dinner with former colleagues from the pro-Paterson Daily Telegraph.
Labour then secured an easy political ‘win’ by refusing to back the proposed new standards committee.
A source said: ‘Spencer will never be trusted by MPs again. After this, how can they ever be sure that when he argues for a cause of action it is the right thing to do, and it won’t blow up in their faces?’ However, allies of Mr Spencer challenge the claim that he was gung-ho about forcing through the vote.
The chaos was seized upon by Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former adviser and nemesis, who claimed that it was a pre-emptive strike against Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, in case she decides to join the Electoral Commission in investigating the use of Tory donors to fund the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat.
The saga has renewed familiar calls for ‘more grey hair’ in No 10 and the appointment of ‘a Willie Whitelaw figure’ – Margaret Thatcher’s seasoned Deputy – who can ‘horizon scan’ for problems and deter Mr Johnson from making any more ill-fated decisions.
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