Tory revolt was avoidable, says rebel Stephen Hammond
The Wimbledon MP said there was “dismay” on both sides that the situation ended up as it did.
One of the Tory rebels who inflicted an embarrassing defeat on Theresa May over the Government’s Brexit legislation has said the backbench revolt was avoidable.
Stephen Hammond said there was “dismay” on both sides that the situation ended up as it did, with 11 Tories rebelling to inflict the Prime Minister’s first significant Commons defeat.
The Wimbledon MP was sacked as Conservative vice-chairman after backing the rebel amendment calling for Parliament to be guaranteed a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.
Very disappointed to no longer be Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for London. It was a huge honour and I'll continue to campaign across our capital in the run up to the Borough elections next year.— Stephen Hammond MP (@S_Hammond) December 13, 2017
In comments which will focus attention on chief whip Julian Smith’s management of the situation, Mr Hammond suggested the revolt could have been avoided.
“I think, frankly, last night was avoidable and there is dismay on all sides that it got where it did,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Mr Hammond insisted: “Nothing that happened yesterday stops Brexit, nothing that happened yesterday actually undermines the Prime Minister in any way.”
Tonight I put country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote.— Stephen Hammond MP (@S_Hammond) December 13, 2017
Defending the rebel amendment he said: “During the campaign last year I thought one of the key tenets of the campaign was that Parliament had sovereignty.
“What we did last night was to ensure that – not giving great new powers to ministers, not saying that Parliament can’t have a say, but saying that Parliament can have a say.”
Mr Hammond said he had “no intention of rebelling again” but indicated he could be prepared to oppose the Government’s attempt to fix the Brexit date of March 29 2019 in law when that comes before the Commons next week unless ministers back down.
He said: “I think that many people will view that proposition as unnecessary, it’s probably not a good way to negotiate – in the type of negotiations that we are in – because under the Article 50 process there is some flexibility at the end for about a month or so if there needs to be some further elongation.
“That’s a week to go in negotiations in terms of whether that’s going to be put to the House of Commons and whether it’s really necessary. People will take their view at the time.”
This is not about a Govt defeat but about a Parliamentary victory Proud to have supported a #MeaningfulVote— Sarah Wollaston (@sarahwollaston) December 13, 2017
I put the interests of everyone in the UK before party loyalty this evening and voted for #A7— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) December 13, 2017
Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process #Article7— Nicky Morgan MP (@NickyMorgan01) December 13, 2017
Mr Hammond was stripped of his party role after last night’s vote.
“It’s within the Prime Minister and the chief whip’s gift,” he said. “If they decide as a result of last night they no longer want me to do what I’m doing, that’s their decision.”
In a sign of the bitter divisions in Tory ranks over Brexit, backbencher Nadine Dorries called for the rebels to be deselected.
Tonight, the Tory rebels have put a spring in Labours step, given them a taste of winning, guaranteed the party a weekend of bad press, undermined the PM and devalued her impact in Brussels. They should be deselected and never allowed to stand as a Tory MP, ever again.— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) December 13, 2017
In response, Mr Hammond said: “I make it a cardinal rule never to be rude about my colleagues in public and I’m not going to start now.”