I was a Tory MP for 18 years, but I’ve been driven to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party

I was a Tory MP for 18 years, but I’ve been driven to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party

Forty years ago this week, aged 27, I was formally adopted as the Tory candidate to fight the 1979 general election for the Brigg and Scunthorpe constituency, a previously safe Labour seat since the 1930s. The Conservative Party nationally had refused to admit me to the candidates’ list because I had opposed the Heath Government’s stance on Europe and its prices and incomes policies but, in those days, local associations ruled supreme. The local association liked my boundless enthusiasm and the national party could not be bothered to fight the local decision to select me as everyone (except me) thought I would lose. But on 3rd May that year I won – after three recounts – with a wafer thin majority of 486.

Mrs Thatcher welcomed me to Westminster as one of her gains and, although I was a whips’ nightmare, she forgave me my many indiscretions. When her Government tried to dump nuclear waste in my constituency I eye-balled her in her office and said: “Prime Minister, when I am not sitting here, you are not sitting there at that desk.” And although I voted against the Single European Act in 1986, I otherwise supported her enthusiastically, Poll Tax included, to the end of her days.

I finally bit the electoral dust in 1997 but accepted my fate with good grace and then became a parliamentary journalist and critical friend of the Tories – until this week. I have always voted Tory except on two occasions: first, in the London mayoral election in 2000 when, to keep out Labour’s Frank Dobson, I voted for the independent Ken Livingstone rather than waste my vote on the Tory Steve Norris. Second, at the European elections in 2014, I voted UKIP in order to help hold David Cameron to his promise to hold a referendum on Europe.

Last month, my own local MP, Mark Field, was one of 10 Tories who voted for a motion backing revocation of Article 50 if MPs refuse to authorise No Deal and now the Prime Minister has decided to betray Brexit by asking Jeremy Corbyn to help her cancel Brexit.

So my patience has snapped. I now want to see the Tories annihilated. I’ve just paid £50 to join the Brexit Party. I am nearly 70 and don’t want anything from Nigel Farage. I’m too old to stand for the European Parliament – even though his website invites me to volunteer to be considered as a candidate.

What finally did it for me was when I heard, last week, on the Today programme, a Tory Party worker canvassing in Somerset for the upcoming local elections. He faced the wrath of a former Tory voter in the aftermath of Mrs May’s Brexit betrayal. Tory party workers are often sneered at and derided by the party hierarchy but, for all their imperfections and elderly prejudices, these people are decent loyalists to their party and their country. But this humiliation to which they are being subjected is the worst they have ever endured. May and her gang should be ashamed of the suffering they have inflicted on these good people.

I cannot believe that those still in the Cabinet who profess to be supporters of Brexit have not resigned. What is Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, still doing in Cabinet or indeed the Tory Party after this betrayal? If there is a Tory phoenix waiting to rise from the ashes, it’s certainly not Fox, Leadsom, Gove or any of the rest of the so-called Brexiteers clinging on to the Cabinet table.

Nothing in the long history of Tory ups and downs – not even the meltdown in 1997 – compares to the horror of recent days for this once great party. It needs to be put out of its misery forever. The Brexit Party may help in achieving that objective. I have a hunch that millions of Tory voters may be thinking the same.