The Chancellor Philip Hammond has unleashed a war of words on supporters of his own party and hastened the prospect of a deeply damaging Tory split after labelling the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson as “extremists” over their stance of wanting the UK to leave the European Union without a deal.
Speaking to Sky News, the Conservative Party Chancellor Philip Hammond – widely regarded as in the centre of the party – said that he believed that the Prime Minister Theresa May would decisively win tonight’s crucial confidence vote.
However, Hammond then went on to state that he believed those who chose to vote against the Prime Minister were “extremists” who were doing so simply to try and “advance a particular agenda which would really not be in the interests of the British people or the British economy.“
Hammond ended his answer by leaving no room for doubt as to who he was referring to, stating:
“Leaving the European Union without a deal would be bad for Britain.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond says he believes Theresa May will have the support of the "great majority" of Conservative MPs and the vote will "flush out the extremists"
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) December 12, 2018
Hammond’s words will not go down well with a huge swathe of Conservative Party voters, half of whom are believed to support a so-called ‘no-deal’ Brexit as promoted by many on the right of the party.
Furthermore, at a time when tensions in the party are at an all time high, the Chancellor’s divisive comments are in severe danger of completely alienating a vast section of their MPs whom they would need the votes of should a parliamentary confidence vote be brought against their own government.
The former UKIP leader and a chief exponent of the Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage, has already responded to Hammond’s inflammatory language by implying that supporters of a hard Brexit may need to find a new party.
The former UKIP leader tweeted to say:
“If you are a Conservative MP who wants to honour the referendum result and your manifesto commitments, your Chancellor has just called you an extremist on Sky News. Maybe time for a fresh start?”
If you are a Conservative MP who wants to honour the referendum result and your manifesto commitments, your Chancellor has just called you an extremist on Sky News. Maybe time for a fresh start? https://t.co/exqnG3qAeQ
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 12, 2018
Farage recently quit UKIP entirely over the party’s implosion to the far-right, but has vowed to return to front line politics should Theresa May push through what he calls her “Brexit betrayal” deal.
Should May survive tonight’s confidence vote, she will be safe from a leadership challenge for the next year – a situation which those on the right of the party will find it intensely hard to tolerate.
And with a YouGov poll finding that around half of the Conservative Party’s core support are in favour of a so-called ‘clean break’ or ‘no deal’ Brexit as advocated by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, there would clearly be a good deal of support across the country, and a vast selection of ideologically-matched senior figures, to join Farage in such a breakaway party.
If Hammond’s “extremists” comment was him freelancing, it still damages Downing Street by association and prospects for Party unity at a crucial time. @theresa_may should distance herself from it.
— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) December 12, 2018
As Evolve reported on Monday, all the signs are pointing to an imminent Conservative Party split over their irreconcilable objections to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and Philip Hammond’s latest astonishingly divisive comments make such a split even more likely.