Sat. Mar 23rd, 2019

Rebels, malcontents and mavericks: The Tories who switched sides

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They included knights of the shires, ex-ministers, young rising stars and even some of the most die hard Brexiteers in the Commons.

Some 39 Conservative MPs who voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal when she lost by 230 votes in January switched and backed her this time.

But it was nowhere enough to rescue the prime minister from another humiliating defeat, because 75 Tory MPs – Brexiteers and Remainers – voted against her deal.

Most of the switchers announced their change of heart with maximum publicity, either in the Commons chamber or on social media, in a publicity drive no doubt masterminded by Downing Street.

The return to the fold was led by the grand-daddy of Tory grandees, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, in a move the PM must have hoped would persuade other rebels to follow.

It did, up to a point.

But it was a trickle rather than a flood of support for the prime minister.

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And once again she was swept away in a deluge of opposition to her deal.

Some of the names of the switchers were surprising, to say the least: there were serial rebels, malcontents and mavericks among them.

At the same time, some of the Tory MPs whose recent knighthoods prompted accusations that their loyalty was being bought were among the switchers.

This group included Sir John Hayes, Sir Robert Syms and Sir Mike Penning. Other knights who switched included Sir David Amess, Sir Greg Knight and Sir Hugo Swire.

Sir Robert Syms intervened during the prime minister’s croaky speech, telling her: “Given that the clock is ticking, there are millions of people working in businesses up and down this country that want the most certain outcome, and voting for this deal today is the best way of delivering that.

“Voting the deal down will lead to more uncertainty. None of us know where we’re going to end up. So I, for one, will be supporting the Government and Prime Minister.”

Cue cheers from the loyalists, toadies and Whips’ Office narks on the benches around him.

Hardline Brexiteers who voted for the PM’s deal included the former Brexit Secretary David Davis, former Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans and the serial rebels Nadine Dorries and Philip Davies.

Mr Evans said: “I told the prime minister that I will be supporting her tonight. It’s not ideal, it’s not the best deal that I would have loved.

“But I do fear that if we don’t get this through tonight, there is the risk that on Thursday parliament will instruct her to get an extension to Article 50, and that is something I don’t want to see happen.”

Ex-ministers switching also included Tracey Crouch, Greg Hands, Robert Halfon, Tim Loughton, David Davis’s close ally Andrew Mitchell and ex-whips Bill Wiggin and David Evenett.

Mr Halfon wrote on Twitter: “Although I voted against PM deal in Jan, I am #voting for @theresa–may #Brexit deal this eve. Changes made to #backstop are welcome.

“We can be puritanical & risk disaster of 2nd referendum or be pragmatic- get EU deal thru with GB leaving on 29 March & therefore deliver on #referendum.”

Mr Hands said: “I voted against the PM’s deal in January, but I will vote for this improved deal tonight.

“The changes are significant (not nearly as much as I would like), but the other likely options of a Corbyn-style Customs Union Brexit or Article 50 extension are very undesirable.”

Former Chief Whip Mr Mitchell said: “Before, there was time for pressure on the European Commission for change. This time I feel that we have had what change we are going to achieve.”

The rising stars who backed the PM after rebelling in January included former vice-chairman Ben Bradley, ex-postie Scott Mann and former soldier Johnnie Mercer.

Mr Bradley said: “I will support the deal in order to deliver Brexit. It’s a promise we must keep.”

And Mr Mann, a former postman whose campaign slogan is “delivering for Cornwall”, said: “I have decided to vote in favour of the deal despite my deep reservations and concerns about the backstop.

“I am disappointed that we have found ourselves in this position as a country, but there is now a real chance that if we do not take the deal Brexit could be lost.”

And Mr Mercer, in a video on his Twitter feed, said: “In my judgment, the best thing to do today is vote for the deal and try to get this process done.”

Three Labour MPs, Sir Kevin Barron, ex-minister Caroline Flint and John Mann, also voted with the Government.

The full list of Tory switchers is:

David Amess
Bob Blackman
Ben Bradley
Graham Brady
Fiona Bruce
Maria Caulfield
Tracey Crouch
Philip Davies
David Davis
Nadine Dorries
Steve Double
Nigel Evans
David Evennett
Zac Goldsmith
Robert Halfon
Greg Hands
John Hayes
Greg Knight
John Lamont
Tim Loughton
Scott Mann
Stephen McPartland
Johnny Mercer
Stephen Metcalfe
Nigel Mills
Andrew Mitchell
Damien Moore
Matthew Offord
Mike Penning
Mark Pritchard
Will Quince
Julian Sturdy
Hugo Swire
Robert Syms
Derek Thomas
Martin Vickers
Giles Watling
Bill Wiggin
William Wragg

http://news.sky.com/story/rebels-malcontents-and-mavericks-the-tories-who-switched-sides-11663789

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