Former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine has said he will not back the Conservatives at the European elections – and will instead vote for the Liberal Democrats because of their Brexit stance.
The Conservative peer said that his party had become “infected by the virus of extremism” and he cannot endorse its support for leaving the EU.
In an article for the Sunday Times, he said: “The reason for my experiment with the Lib Dems is, of course, the government’s position on Brexit.
“I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government.”
Lord Heseltine made clear he would resist any attempt to force him out of the party over his stance on the European elections.
“I have no intention of being forced out – or resigning from – a party that has been such an important part of my life,” he wrote.
“I will remain a member of my local association and, unless told otherwise, will continue to take the Conservative whip in the Lords.”
He suggested the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit, or a “Marxist government” led by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, would be for the Conservatives to put any final deal to the public in a second referendum.
He added: “With the prospect of a descent deeper into this darkness for our party, it is the only way to solve the riddle, to secure a stable majority in parliament and a lasting settlement for the country.”
Meanwhile, the same newspaper claimed that Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge had told an audience they should vote for pro-European candidates in the elections even if that means not supporting her party.
The newspaper said the Barking MP was asked if she agreed with a panellist who was against tactical voting and said all members should vote Labour, to which she replied: “I think taking whatever action you need, within your locality, that gives you the best likelihood of electing somebody who will be a pro-European MEP, I think is the way you should go, I really do.”
When asked later about the comments, Dame Margaret told the Sunday Times: “I probably misspoke then.
“I would never advocate voting against the party.”
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman, asked if Dame Margaret should be expelled for her reported comments, told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live: “That’s going to be a matter for the chief whip.
“I think it’s very disappointing and I think she should consider her position within the Labour Party.”