Up to 20 expelled MPs could stand against Boris Johnson's Tories as Independent Conservatives, Amber Rudd says

Warning comes as chief whip sends some of the MPs instructions on how to appeal their expulsion

Up to 20 MPs stripped of the Tory whip could stand as Independent Conservatives at the coming election, former cabinet minster Amber Rudd has said.

Her comments came as Boris Johnson reached out an olive branch to some of the 21 rebels he expelled for voting to block a no-deal Brexit, with chief whip Mark Spencer writing to inform them of the process to reapply to join.

It is unclear whether any have yet commenced appeals against their expulsion, which will prevent them from standing as official Conservative candidates in the election expected in November or December.

As prominent anti-Brexiteer Dominic Grieve confirmed that he has not yet received an approach from the chief whip, Ms Rudd warned that any readmission offer should apply to the whole group and not just a select few..

It is understood that letters are going to all 21 MPs, with information on the appeal process going to those who have asked for it, while others will receive responses to issues they have raised.

Ms Rudd’s comments make clear the scale of the threat facing Mr Johnson if he is unable to find a way for at least some of the rebels to return. Although few may stand much chance of retaining their seats, their presence on the ballot paper risks splitting the Tory vote and allowing other parties through.

The former work and pensions secretary, who quit the cabinet and the Tory whip in protest at the expulsions, said she will not contest her Hastings & Rye seat, where she had a majority of just 346. There has been speculation she may take on Mr Johnson himself in Uxbridge & Ruislip South, where she could eat into his 5,000-vote majority.

(REUTERS)

Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was “looking at options” for a constituency to contest, potentially under the Independent Conservative banner.

“I will not be fighting for another party,” she said.

“I hope to be fighting as a Conservative, and, if not, with up to 20 people as an Independent Conservative, depending on whether or not the whip has been returned."

She said she now formed part of an “effectively organised” group of 22 independent former Tories opposed to a no-deal Brexit, also including former chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke and ex-cabinet minsters Rory Stewart, David Gauke and Justine Greening.

“I would like to see the Conservative whip put back to all of that group so we can be part of the Conservative government going forward,” she said.

“I think that the chief whip is acting on the instruction of Number 10 and I think the group needs to be considered as a whole to be brought back.”

Mr Grieve said he was being “realistic” about his prospects of readmission.

“I have heard nothing from the chief whip,” he said. “I have always had the friendliest of relations with him, but I think we have to be realistic.

"The Government is conducting itself in a thoroughly un-Conservative way, trashing the constitution and … saying the most extraordinary things, including allowing Number 10 to launch attacks on the judiciary until they were stopped by the Lord Chancellor.

"This, I have to say, is not a party I recognise. I would love to co-operate with my Conservative colleagues and, indeed, with the Prime Minister to try to find a sensible way out of the Brexit crisis that can be acceptable to everyone, including those who voted Leave and are still promoting Leave."

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