A Conservative MP just made the most jaw-dropping suggestion, live on the BBC

A photo of Anna Soubry MP
Andrea Needham

A Conservative MP has claimed that Jacob Rees-Mogg is running the country. She also said the only way forward is to form a government of national unity.

Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, made the claim on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on 18 July. She was discussing the 17 July parliamentary vote on the customs bill. The government narrowly saw off an amendment from pro-EU Conservative MPs. It aimed to keep Britain in the customs union after Brexit if no free-trade deal was agreed. The amendment was defeated by 307 to 301.

Whips threatening general elections

11 Conservative MPs voted for the amendment. Soubry claimed that up to 16 Conservative MPs were ready to vote for it, but were persuaded by the whips to change their minds. She said of this:

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an appalling spectacle I’m afraid to say. I know they have to do their job, and they’re doing it in the most difficult of times, but, you know, these nonsenses of threatening general elections and votes of confidence in the prime minister

Jacob Rees-Mogg is running the country

She made no bones about where she thinks the problem lies:

The problem is, I don’t think that [Theresa May is] in charge any more. I’ve no doubt Jacob Rees-Mogg is running our country.

Soubry went on to say of Rees-Mogg and those around him:

They are ruthless, they are organised, and all that matters is their version of Brexit, for which there is no majority, because everybody forgets that last June we lost the general election, 33 Conservative members of parliament lost their seats. There is no mandate for this.

Government of national unity

Soubry went on to echo Conservative MP Nicholas Soames’s call for a government of national unity – that is, a coalition government including all parties.

Asked by Mishal Husain if she thinks Labour would go for that, Soubry dismissed the Labour front bench, saying it has “the old Trotskyists in charge”. However, she said that behind the front bench sits an “eminently sensible bunch”, including Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie.

Abandon the Labour front bench

Husain pointed out the idea wouldn’t get very far unless the Labour front bench signed up to it, but Soubry replied:

I personally would abandon the Labour front bench, and I would reach beyond it, and I would encompass the Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and other sensible, pragmatic people who believe in putting this country’s interests first and foremost.

Not a progressive MP

It should be remembered, however, that Soubry has generally voted with the government on Brexit. And her suggestion that a government of national unity is possible simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, as various Twitter users pointed out:

Soubry’s interview is extraordinary. We have a Conservative MP openly saying that the prime minister is no longer in charge, and that the only way forward is a government of national unity. It’s a sign of how Brexit is not only extremely damaging for Britain, but for the Conservatives in government. They have only themselves to blame.

You can listen to the full interview (in three parts) here:

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Featured image via Wikimedia – Chris McAndrew

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