General election: Tory peer urges voters to reject Johnson’s ‘grand delusion’ and back Lib Dems

Lord Heseltine lost the Conservative whip earlier this year

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Monday 25 November 2019 21:33 GMT
General election: Registering people to vote in the street

Conservative grandee Michael Heseltine has urged life-long Tory voters to oppose Boris Johnson and back Liberal Democrat or independent MPs in the upcoming election.

The former deputy prime minister said Mr Johnson was selling voters a “grand delusion” that he could deliver Brexit by the end of January.

Lord Heseltine lost the Tory whip earlier this year for saying he would “experiment” with backing the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament elections after 68 years in the Conservative Party.

Appearing at a panel event alongside expelled Tories Dominic Grieve, Anne Milton and David Gauke, the peer urged lifelong Conservative voters to abandon the party at the ballot box.

Asked what advice he would give to Tory voters, Lord Heseltine said: “I’m telling them to vote for what they believe in and what the Conservative Party has stood for all my life and probably all theirs – and to put country first.

“What I think that means in practical terms is they either vote for defrocked Conservative candidates – of which we have three excellent examples here – or they vote for the Lib Dems.”

Lord Heseltine, who served under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, attacked Mr Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” by the end of January – and warned that a no deal was still a looming possibility.

He said: “It is the great delusion, so effective, ‘get Brexit done’. The idea that you can do it in a month, around Christmas.

“The most you can do, if there were to be a massive Tory majority, is to get through the legislation to enable you to begin the talk about what the future relationship will be.”

Lord Heseltine praised his former colleagues for “putting their careers on the line” for their beliefs. The trio were among 21 Tory MPs sacked by Mr Johnson for rebelling against a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Grieve, an ex-attorney general, told the event in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, that his former party had “gone bonkers” and vowed he would not rejoin the Tories if elected as an independent.

Tearing into Mr Johnson, ex-skills minister Ms Milton described the prime minister as a “spoiled child” who was forced to call the election because he had “thrown his toys out of the pram” over the timetable for his Brexit deal.

She said: “He’s a very ill-mannered and disrespectful man. His behaviour is absolutely disgraceful and I think my only regret is that he is not called out by the press more.”

Mr Gauke, a former justice secretary, also threw his weight behind a Final Say referendum and vowed to campaign to Remain, as he said there was no longer any chance of a soft Brexit.

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