Tory MP compares party infighting to ‘Mad Max or Lord of the Flies’

Language being used by Conservatives MPs ‘is a disaster for us electorally’, warns former deputy chairman

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Saturday 15 December 2018 13:52 GMT
Theresa May wins vote of no confidence by 200 to 117

A senior Tory MP has compared the row engulfing the party to the deadly clashes between feral schoolboys in the novel Lord of the Flies.

Robert Halfon, who chairs the Commons education committee, warned that the “awful” language being used by Conservative MPs to describe each other was making the Tories look like “the nasty party” again.

He also likened the divisions to the tale of murder and social collapse depicted in the film Mad Max.

The vicious infighting over Brexit would be a “disaster” for the party at the next election, the Harlow MP predicted.

It comes as Theresa May faces continued anger from her own backbenchers over her Brexit deal.

The prime minister was forced to call off the Commons vote on the proposed agreement on Monday amid opposition from over 100 Tory MPs. Many have savaged her negotiating strategy and called on her to resign.

The divisions deepened this week when Eurosceptics in the European Research Group (ERG) triggered a vote of no confidence in Ms May, prompting a furious backlash from loyalist Tories.

One unnamed MP said they wanted to “punch the ERG in the face”, while Philip Hammond, the chancellor, was forced to clarify his remarks after calling Brexiteers “extremists”.

The next day, another minister loyal to Ms May, Alistair Burt, claimed that all that will remain after the apocalypse “will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe and their leader”.

MPs have also been criticised for using violent language in anonymous briefings about Ms May, including suggestions she should “bring her own noose” to a meeting of Tory MPs and predictions that “she’ll be dead soon”.

Mr Halfon, a former deputy chairman of the party, told The Times: “Just compare our language to the language coming from Labour about poverty and compassion. Ours is awful, it could not do more damage to our party. It makes us look like we are in Mad Max territory or Lord of the Flies.

“This is a disaster for us electorally. It is not just that there is intemperate language, it is also that there is so much of it that it seeps through to the public. And it reinforces all the negative stereotypes about us as the ‘nasty party’.”

He added: “The attacks on Mrs May are also not because she is a woman, but this talk does make it harder to attract women voters, even though we have a female prime minister.”

The Tories are not the only party to be embroiled in a row over offensive language this week.

On Tuesday, SNP MP Stewart McDonald accused veteran Labour backbencher Dennis Skinner of calling him a “a piece of s***” in the Commons chamber.

In response, Mr Skinner said he had wanted to put the SNP “in their place” and said Mr McDonald should “concentrate on attacking the real enemy” – the Conservatives.

Ms May was also filmed during an angry confrontation with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, as she accused him of calling her “nebulous”.

Mr Juncker had earlier referred to the Brexit debate as “sometimes nebulous and imprecise.” He is said to have insisted to Ms May that he was referring to the quality of the debate in general, rather than her part in it.

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