James Kirkup James Kirkup

Why David Gauke is key to the survival of the Tory party

Everyone knows the story of how a small number of Conservatives will cast a vote that decides something of great and lasting importance. But the group of Tories is much smaller than you think, and they vote much sooner than you imagine: on Friday, in fact.

I am not referring to the 160,000 members of the national Conservative party. I am talking about the 600 who belong to the South West Hertfordshire Conservative Association.

On Friday 28th June, those members will be invited to a special meeting to vote on a motion of no confidence in the Conservative MP for South West Herts, David Gauke. According to the motion, Gauke has ‘wilfully obstructed’ the implementation of the 2016 referendum result. It does not specify how Gauke, the Justice Secretary, has done this.

It is, to put it mildly, a striking interpretation of an MP’s record. Gauke, as a minister in Theresa May’s government, supported her Withdrawal Agreement and voted for it three times. Just in case it needs saying, if a majority of MPs had voted for that deal, voted the same way that Gauke did, the UK’s membership of the European Union would have ended on 29th March this year.

At the last time of asking in March, 276 Conservative MPs joined Gauke in voting for the deal, among them one Boris Johnson.

Gauke’s alleged obstruction of Brexit seems to rest on comments he has made setting out his view that leaving the EU without an exit agreement in place between the UK and the EU would be a very bad idea and deeply harmful to the UK economy.

For an awful lot of people, that view is not controversial. It is a view shared by most of British industry, the Bank of England, the Treasury and the overwhelming majority of academics, officials, economists, and experts of other sorts.

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