Former Tory chairman: The PM is acting like Dr Strangelove - the scientist obsessed with nuclear destruction

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 Conservative chairman Lord Patten has criticised Theresa May's handling of Brexit, and believes that a People's Vote is the only way to stop Brexit self-harm.

The Conservative peer is urging MPs to reject Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and block a no-deal Brexit saying it should be “put out of its misery as soon as possible”.

He is arguing that if MPs are then unable to agree a new plan for a future relationship with the EU it is only a People’s Vote that can break the impasse.

Lord Patten compared the prime minister to Dr Strangelove, the scientist in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire about nuclear destruction.

He told Radio 4 Today: “There used to be the Doctor Strangelove argument that sometimes you could threaten people with doing crazy things in order to get them to back down. That’s really what’s being suggested at the moment.

“I don’t think Mrs May actually thinks that it makes any sort of sense whatsoever to go ahead without a deal.”

Patten, who has previously said he hates referendums, used a People’s Vote speech in London to say another vote may be required.

“The whole sorry shambles began with a decision to call a referendum in order to try to manage the English nationalist right wing of the Conservative Party.

“It may be that we can only end this divisive and impoverishing argument by holding another referendum.

“That may prove to be the only and the best way for Britain to avoid an act of self-harm that would betray the aspirations of so many not least the younger citizens of this country.”

Lord Patten does not agree with the prime minister that Britain will crash out of the EU if MPs do not back her deal.

He continued: “I don’t believe that the prime minister or many members of her Cabinet think that this would be remotely responsible. It would be very damaging.

“These are similar to the tactics made famous by Dr Strangelove: if you threaten that something crazy will happen, your opponents will back down.

Lord Patten took a swipe at Liam Fox as he branded the international trade secretary “impertinent and offensive”.

He said: “Dr Fox said... ‘it’s a sad fact that there are a number of people who would rather see Britain fail than Brexit succeed’.

“I think that’s impertinent and offensive. I think it’s a sad fact that delusion and even mendacity have got us into this position.”

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