Millions of Conservatives will vote for the Liberal Democrats because ‘they will not swallow’ the party’s attempt to attract supporters of Nigel Farage, Lord Heseltine has warned.
The former Tory deputy prime minister and vocal Remain supporter said it was this “audience” Boris Johnson’s government should be concerned about.
Lord Heseltine said it was “unbelievable” a Conservative government was risking the future of the UK “on a dogma which was driven by extreme populism”.
He also said the idea that US president Donald Trump would offer Britain a generous trade deal just as he was seeking re-election was “a delusion of the most naive sort”.
Lord Heseltine made his withering criticism during a debate in the House of Lords on withdrawal from the EU, as Johnson unveiled a blueprint aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.
Referring to the Tory leader’s speech earlier to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the non-affiliated peer said Johnson was “without any shadow of doubt the best music hall turn in politics”.
He added: “But also it revealed very clearly what the strategy is and what is has been since day one of his premiership.
“It is to combine an agenda of right-wing hardline politics with Brexit to try and get it through a general election campaign by attracting back Nigel Farage’s supporters.
“It is as blindingly as obvious as that.”
Lord Heseltine said the main problem for the Conservatives was not Jeremy Corbyn, but the Tories themselves given the internal party divisions.
He added: “There are millions of Conservatives who are now voting for the Liberal Democrats because they will not swallow the line that is peddled about Brexit.”
Criticising the position taken by Brexiteers, he said: “The idea that president Trump is going to do a soft-option for Britain’s trade in a pre-election period in America is a delusion of the most naive sort.
“The idea that the Conservative government is risking the future of the United Kingdom itself on a dogma which was driven by extreme populism is to me unbelievable.”
Pressing for a second referendum, Lord Heseltine said: “We need to go back to the people for an endorsement of the decision and much better its rejection.”