News from Grassroots conservatives
24 Mar 2019
Grassroot Tories urge Theresa May to set a departure date, warning she is harming the party on the doorstep
· Mrs May’s decision to delay Brexit beyond 29 March was a “fatal error”, association chairs say CREDIT:XINHUA / BARCROFT IMAGES
· Harry Yorke, political correspondent
23 MARCH 2019 • 10:00PM
Grassroots Conservatives are urging Theresa May to set a date for her departure, warning that she is harming the party on the doorstep.
With support for the Prime Minister among Tory MPs fading by the day, association chairman and presidents from across the country say the “overwhelming” feeling among their members is that she must now “consider her position”.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, a number of the chairs described Mrs May’s decision to delay Brexit beyond 29 March as a “fatal error”, which will have far-reaching repercussions for the party’s fortunes in May’s local elections.
Others fear that a series of indicative votes, due to take place next week, will lead to a customs union being imposed upon her by MPs, with one warning that it would represent the “death knell of the Conservative Party”.
Even defenders of Mrs May believe she cannot say on longer than six months, with one chair who described herself as a “great supporter” stating that she should step down within six months.
It comes after a succession of senior Tory MPs, including some of the Government’s own whips, directly called on Mrs May to quit amid anger over the Brexit delay.
Joining them last night, Dinah Glover, chairman of the London East Conservatives, urged Mrs May to outline an “exit strategy for herself”, telling this newspaper: “I think she has run out of road. I think she has now lost the trust of both sides.
“We have our backs against the wall now. She’s bought more time but for what?
“We’re at an impasse and she’s failed to build a positive vision for Brexit, which has resulted in many of her problems. We need somebody who can build that positive vision."
Asked whether Mrs May remaining in Downing Street was harming the party’s electoral chances, Ms Glover added: “Yes, and I think the longer that Theresa May stays...the prospect of leaving becomes weaker and we end up with no Brexit.
“We’re not offering the people a resolution. We’re in Government but not in power. We cannot stand on the doorstep saying we have delivered.”
Hitting out at reports that MPs could be handed indicative votes next week, she continued: “For us to go down the route of a customs union would be the death knell of the Conservative Party. I don’t know where we go from there.”
Her comments were echoed by Garry Heath, the outgoing chairman and president of High Wycombe Conservatives, who said that at the association’s annual general meeting on Friday the “vast majority” of attendees had made clear they have had “enough of this lady’s leadership”.
“The feeling was very much that we’re not going to get any serious movement until we have a new leader,” he continued.
“At the very least she should name a date and for the sake of the country she should step away and allow a new group of people to come in to get us out.”
Ed Costelloe, the chairman of Grassroots Conservatives, said that “getting rid” of Mrs May was now an “exercise in damage limitation”, adding: “It can’t go on like this. We’re held in total contempt by Europe and half the world.”
The organisation’s secretary, Dr Chris Sudgen, added that the “overwhelming feedback is she must change or she must go”.
Whilst several believe Mrs May should resign immediately, others argue setting a date for her departure would avoid the need for lengthy leadership contest in the middle of a growing crisis.
Their views are shared by a number of Brexiteer MPs who privately admit that one of the main barriers to them voting for the deal is the fear that Mrs May could stay on to lead the second set of negotiations on the future trading relationship with the EU.
Bercow’s constituents feel “fed up” with not having a voice in Parliament, the chairman of Buckingham Conservative Association said CREDIT: AFP
“I would be sympathetic to setting a departure date,” said Don Hammond, president of the Tatton Conservative Association. “Once a deal has been agreed I would rather have subsequent negotiations by somebody else.”
Roger Patterson, President of Gainsborough Conservatives, said: “She must deliver on Brexit...once she’s done it then it’s time for her to step down. It’s time for somebody else to negotiate the second part.”
Meanwhile, Clive Harriss, the chairman of Buckingham Conservative Association, said locals were becoming increasingly “fed up” with not having full representation in the House of Commons, because John Bercow, the local MP, had insisted on remaining as Speaker.
Mr Harriss denied reports that the Conservatives were planning to field a candidate against Mr Bercow in a snap or planned election. He said they would abide by the convention that major parties do not challenge a sitting Speaker.
But he added: “A lot of the electorate are quite vocal about being fed up. They feel they don’t have a vote.”
Mr Bercow has “served the local populace very well” but constituents were increasingly frustrated that they were only had a choice of council candidates and not potential MPs, he added.