A defiant MP has said he quit his local Tory party because he would not be ‘bossed around by a very small number of people’ hankering for a no deal Brexit.
However Nick Boles said he wanted to stay within the Conservative Party nationally, so he and other more progressive Tories can ‘start flexing our muscles’ and take on members of the European Research Group (ERG).
The Grantham and Stamford MP has been in a long-running dispute with his Conservative association, most notably over his position that Britain should not leave the European Union without a deal in place.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that a ‘certain amount of pressure was applied’ where his association ‘wanted me to tell them now, three years before the next election, whether I wanted to be their candidate in that election’.
Boles, who will now continue as a member of the Conservatives nationally, added: ‘The party nationally made clear to me I didn’t need to tell them for a year or two.
‘I just concluded that our relationship had reached a point where there was no point pretending that we could patch things up and that we’d better just part company in what I hope is a reasonably amicable way and then they can go and select a candidate more to their liking at the next election.’
He said the disagreements with his local party were not on whether Britain should leave the EU, pointing out that he has ‘voted for Theresa May’s deal every time it has been offered’.
But he said: ‘The only thing, and in truth the real area where I fell out with some members of my association, was in my efforts to stop a no deal Brexit.
‘My view is that is actually going to make it more likely that Brexiteers will vote for the prime minister’s deal and that we actually do get Brexit.’
He admitted that many people in his former association might be happy with a no deal Brexit.
But he added: ‘I represent 100,000 people in parliament I have roughly 500 members of my local association and roughly 16 people on my executive.
‘I’m afraid I’m going to claim the right to interpret what is in the best interests of the 100,000 people I represent and I’m not going to be bossed around by a very small number of people with very ideological views.’
He still plans to continue taking the Conservative whip and said that even though he considered sitting as an independent, he concluded that was not the right thing to do.
‘I would feel like I have ratted on my constituents because they voted for me as a Conservative,’ he said.
‘Ultimately I’m not ready to give up on the Conservatives just yet.’
He pledged to be a progressive, liberal-minded Conservative rather than ‘an ideological, reactionary Conservative’.
And he said people in his wing of the party need to start ‘flexing our muscles’, adding: ‘We need to start demanding a Conservative Party that responds to what we believe in and not just what members of the ERG believes in.’