Tory grandee Michael Heseltine has had the Conservative whip suspended after more than 60 years in the party.
The former Deputy Prime Minister, 86, was summoned to a meeting with the Tories’ chief whip in the Lords tonight after saying he’d vote Lib Dem in this Thursday’s EU elections.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Lord Heseltine has given more than half a century of service to the Conservative Party and his long-standing and sincerely held views on Europe are well understood.
“But, with his long experience, he will know that publicly endorsing the candidates of an another party is not compatible with taking the Conservative whip in Parliament.
“As a result, the Chief Whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended.
“This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections.”
The peer used a Sunday Times article to explain his decision to vote Lib Dem in the European contest.
“I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government,” he said.
Speaking just before the decision, he warned party chiefs: “There are five million Conservative voters who voted Remain. Be careful, I would say, before you start abandoning them.”
He added: “I have no intention of being forced out – or resigning from – a party that has been such an important part of my life.
“I will remain a member of my local association and, unless told otherwise, will continue to take the Conservative whip in the Lords.”
This weekend Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge declared:
“Vote for a pro-EU party, not mine”
Speaking to Labour members in central London, Hodge also revealed that she had voted for the Liberal Party in the past. She said: “The very first time I voted I was living in Orpington . . . my very first vote was for the Liberals. I saw that as the best way for keeping the Tories out. So no, I don’t agree with that [unconditionally voting for Labour].”
When approached for comment, Hodge distanced herself from the comments. She said: “I probably misspoke then,” adding: “What I was trying to say was . . . in trying to understand why Labour party support is collapsing, which it is, I can understand why people are voting tactically. But I would never advocate voting against the party.”
A Labour spokesman said: “Support for Labour candidates is a non-negotiable part of being a party member. We expect more of our MPs and our members deserve better.”
At this moment in time no disciplinary action as been taken against Hodge.