Tories risk being infected by the 'poisonous politics of Farage', Heseltine warns

PUBLISHED: 18:31 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:33 30 May 2019

Michael Heseltine discusses the future of British politics during his speech at the Church House in Westminster, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 29, 2019. His speech marks his appointment as the new President of the European Movement. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

Michael Heseltine discusses the future of British politics during his speech at the Church House in Westminster, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 29, 2019. His speech marks his appointment as the new President of the European Movement. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

In a damning speech, Lord Heseltine is warning the Conservative Party against the "narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage".

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The former deputy prime minister, who voted Liberal Democrat in the European elections, will say that he and millions of other Conservatives who supported staying in the EU at the last referendum will never be able to return if the party continues trying to force Brexit on the British people without them being given the final say.

The speech, which marks his appointment as president of the European Movement, reads:

"Turn yourselves into branch offices of Brexit if you wish.

"But if you do so, you are on your own.

"Those upon whom you depend to win power in a general election will not come back. Good luck. Goodbye.

"Indeed, the prospect of a new prime minister being chosen by perhaps little more than 100,000 Conservative Party members in the current circumstances fills me with dread.

"There will be an arms race in which candidates vie against each other for who can be the most Faragiste."

He adds that a new prime minister could easily run down the clock to a no-deal Brexit, given that the EU has ruled out renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement that parliament cannot so far agree on.

"Such a decision, which would deny either parliament or the people a say on a no deal outcome that neither wants, would be nothing short of a democratic and constitutional outrage.

"[...] If successful, the consequences for businesses, for young people and for the integrity of the United Kingdom itself would rightly be hung around the neck of the Conservative Party for a generation to come."

READ: 'They can't take away my integrity' - Heseltine has Tory whip suspended for backing Lib Dems

A general election offers a similarly bleak future for the party and the country while Brexit is unresolved, he adds.

It would either be a minority-led hung parliament that could settle nothing, or Conservatives "in alliance with and captured by the narrow nationalism, phobia-filled and poisonous politics of Nigel Farage," he says.

Barely a week after he was expelled from Conservative ranks in the House of Lords, Lord Heseltine will say he has no intention of being silenced.

"What is it you want me to do? To betray everything I've believed all my adult life? To explain why every Conservative PM except the last one was wrong? Am I to tell the young generation 'go hang'? Or is it that I should stay silent? To wait for Conservative Central Office to send me a little blue book, thumb through the index under Europe and read out the party line? I can think of a party that does believe that. And it does begin with a C. But it is not the Conservative party I know and to which I have devoted my life."

Acknowledging that for Leavers, the EU elections were a protest vote against a party that has not delivered on the referendum result, he says that those promises could never be kept.

"If we've learnt anything over the past year it must be that we now know that we cannot enjoy all the rights of being a member of the EU with none of the responsibilities that necessarily go with it," he says.

"The heady, if intellectually incoherent, claim that we can have our cake and eat it has ended up choking the mother of Parliament itself."

"Today, I want to appeal to every sensible Conservative MP, to potential leadership candidates, even to the Labour leader, not to force Brexit upon us now.

"I ask them to stand up, to speak out for our democratic right to have our say on Brexit.

"Whether you want to leave the EU or to stay in, the only way to unlock the Brexit process in Parliament, the only way secure a stable majority in parliament, the only way to legitimise the outcome so we can build a lasting settlement in the country is to give the people the final say."

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