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Ken Clarke in 'club of one, DUP actions antithesis of sectarianism,' says party

Tory grandee said Prime Minister pandering to 'sectarian Protestant DUP'

Nigel Dodds and fellow DUP MPs (from left) Jim Shannon, Gregory Campbell, David Simpson, Emma Pengelly, Gavin Robinson, Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson speak to the media outside Westminster.
Nigel Dodds and fellow DUP MPs (from left) Jim Shannon, Gregory Campbell, David Simpson, Emma Pengelly, Gavin Robinson, Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson speak to the media outside Westminster.

By Jonathan Bell and Gareth Cross

Tory grandee - and the most senior member of the House of Commons Ken Clarke - has been told to reflect on his words after he accused the Prime Minister of pandering to "the sectarian Protestant" DUP.

MP Gregory Campbell said the party in  "standing up for the national interests of this country and working to get the best deal for all is the very antithesis of sectarianism".

He said the MP would be better served working to find solutions to the current Brexit impasse than swiping at other parties.

"That would be a more fitting tribute and better accolade for the Father of the House," said Mr Campbell.

Speaking on Sky News the Conservative MP and Father of the House said the Prime Minister was spending "all her time on party management, trying to keep hardline Brexiteers and this sectarian Protestant party in Ireland onside".

He also said the party's objections to the backstop were "unbelievably silly". 

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said Mr Clarke was "out of touch" highlighting how 118 of his own colleagues as well as others right across the Commons voted down the withdrawal agreement.

"He is in a club of one," he told the BBC.

"Ken is a decent chap and I like Ken Clarke and he had been around a long time.. he was the only Conservative MP to vote against the triggering of Article 50. And last night we basically allowed Ken Clarke and the Conservative party to stay in power as a result of our votes."

East Londonderry MP Campbell added: "This week members from his own Party and across the House stood side by side with the DUP to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement because it did not act in the best interests of the United Kingdom."

Conservative MP Ken Clarke
Conservative MP Ken Clarke

"Ken Clarke, very unfortunately for him, finds himself increasingly out of step with the vast majority in his own party as well as the country.

"Instead of swiping at other parties, Mr Clarke would be better served in working to find solutions, with members across the House of Commons during this crucial time to get the best deal for the United Kingdom, that would be a more fitting tribute and better accolade for the Father of the House.”

The DUP voted against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement on Tuesday, despite a confidence and supply agreement between the two parties. They and a majority of MPs are opposed to the deal because of the backstop, intended to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

However, the DUP's votes were crucial in saving the Government from collapse on Wednesday. Mrs May will now bring her Brexit 'Plan B' to the House of Commons on Monday, ahead of another vote on January 29.

Ken Clarke said that a widespread cross-party agreement was necessary to limit the damage of Brexit to the UK.

He said that the Prime Minister was holding up an agreement with her attempts to appease the DUP.

Mr Clarke voted in favour of Mrs May's Brexit withdrawal agreement.

"She's still going back to the DUP trying to satisfy their unbelievably silly points on the Irish backstop," the Tory grandee said.

Mr Clarke said that Mrs May would have to turn to Labour and the Liberal Democrats to get support for a deal.

"She spends all her time on party management, trying to keep hardline Brexiteers and this sectarian Protestant party in Ireland onside," he said.

"Some of them she won't."

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