Prominent Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie quits party, citing 'abject failures' in government

'I'm just glad that Mrs Thatcher cannot see what her party has become'

Prominent Conservative political activist and commentator Tim Montgomerie has quit the party, launching a scathing attack on the government.

The Times columnist and creator of Conservative Home joined the party 28 years ago. He established the Centre for Social Justice as a mechanism to advance ‘compassionate conservatism’ and has been described as “one of the most influential Tories outside the cabinet.” 

However, in a column for The Times, Mr Montgomerie has renounced his ties to the party, arguing: “This charade over the EU is the final straw and it follows abject failure on immigration, deficit reduction and inequality.”

He writes: “[David Cameron] promised to bring down immigration but despite Theresa May’s hollow rhetoric, it’s rising. And that defining mission to eliminate the deficit? The Treasury is still borrowing £75 billion a year- a burden on the next generation that would once have shocked and shamed us, and still should. The national debt is up by more than 50 per cent, but this hasn’t seen our armed forces rebuilt. They’ve been cut to the bone.

“What about the fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with Brussels that the PM pledged, promised and vowed to deliver? The 69 per cent who think he got a bad deal are right. The newspapers that called the deal a “joke”, “conjuring trick” and “delusion” weren’t exaggerating.

“… and nothing registers more strongly on the social justice front than recommending staying in the EU. It remains the greatest source of social misery on the continent- requiring intense austerity in countries such as Greece and causing terrible youth unemployment across southern Europe from which millions will suffer lifelong scars. I’m just glad that Mrs Thatcher cannot see what her party has become.”

Last month, David Cameron announced that Conservative MPs would be given free rein to campaign on either side of the EU referendum debate. A number of leading ministers have indicated that they will campaign to leave the EU, including Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and Chris Grayling. Other prominent politicians have yet to declare which way they will vote and campaign. 

Mr Cameron is due to arrive in Brussels for two days of talks on how the UK’s relationship with the EU can be negotiated. Core items to be discussed are expected to include restricting benefits received by non-UK EU nationals, such as how to cut the amount of child benefit which EU migrants can send back to their home countries. Other key items include whether regulation can be rolled back and a single market extended, as well as enabling UK parliaments to block EU legislation.