'It's a pity both sides can't lose': Former Tory chair suggests he wouldn't vote for his own party

PUBLISHED: 15:53 03 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:53 03 December 2019

Lord Chris Patten, former Tory party chairman. Photograph: Ian West/PA.

Lord Chris Patten, former Tory party chairman. Photograph: Ian West/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The former chair of the Conservatives has suggested he would find it hard to vote for his own party in this election.

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Lord Chris Patten told the BBC that both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump share an "elastic relationship with the truth", and accused either the prime minister or his aide Dominic Cummings of turning the Tories into a "rather narrow sectarian English nationalist party".

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Lord Patten made an extraordinary admission about the election by repurposing remarks about the Iran-Iraq war made by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Paraphrasing Kissinger, Patten said: "It's a pity both sides can't lose" the upcoming election.

He added: "The thing you can't do in our electoral system unfortunately, the thing you can't do, is vote for a hung parliament."

Lord Patten - who cannot vote as a member of the House of Lords - indicated that, if he had a vote, he would find it hard to vote Conservative.

He said: "I couldn't vote for any candidate who had voted in the past for a no-deal Brexit.

"Nor could I vote for a candidate who wouldn't make it clear that in the future he or she wouldn't vote for a no-deal Brexit.

"Now I'm sure there are some Conservatives who feel quite strongly that they wouldn't accept a no-deal Brexit, in which case I could support them.

"Otherwise I would be looking on the ballot paper for who would be sensible about Brexit over the next months and years, and who also represented integrity and principle across the board."

Lord Patten has previously spoken out on the potentially tragic consequences of a hard border in Northern Ireland.

WATCH: Former Tory minister warns people risk being killed in Northern Ireland if Brexit goes wrong

Lord Patten added that he does not believe a "huge trade deal" can be done with the US.

"No, I don't think we can. We may be able to do some side deals but it won't be something which is better than the market which we've got in Europe at the moment," he said.

As the conversation turned to Donald Trump, Patten gave a sotto voce "oh God" as the president's visit was raised.

Asked why Trump and Johnson appear to like each other so much, Patten said: "I think they share some of the same characteristics.

"I think both of them have a certain, rather elastic relationship with the truth.

"I think that, for them, the issue is not governing, it's campaigning.

"Mr Trump is campaigning the whole time and I think Boris campaigns most of the time without thinking about what the consequences of what he says may be."

He said he felt it is a "terrible shame" that Johnson appears to show no concern when the British public demonstrates how little they trust him.

He added: "I think it's pretty awful and very sad for our democracy."

Accusing Johnson or Cummings of turning the Tory Party into a "narrow sectarian English nationalist party", he added: "I think that's grist to Mr Trump's mill. I think he likes seeing nationalists and he's prepared to support anybody who is a nationalist, even people like [Turkish premier] Mr Erdogan."

Lord Patten said that he believes this election campaign has been overshadowed by "spectacular delusions" and had involved "spectacular mendacity".

He added: "There's always a degree of spin that goes on, and not everything that's said is entirely truthful.

"But I think this campaign has been marked by spectacular delusions and spectacular examples of mendacity along the way, right from 'Get Brexit Done' in the first place, the arguments for holding the election, which were spurious; the fact that even the Queen was involved I think in a dishonourable way in the attempt to set up the election - I think all that is very bad for us."

He said the country has lost a sense of "good guys" and that lines are being crossed.

Despite his reservations about the present-day Tory party, he criticised Jeremy Corbyn and said there are currently no circumstances "more propitious" for the Tories to win the election.

"I don't think [Corbyn] is a bad person, I just think he's hopeless. The Venezuelan economics that he's offering people would I think be a real disaster," he said.

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