London – A leading eurosceptic in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives called on Saturday for it to become a “true Brexit party” under a new leader, following its disastrous showing in local elections.
The ”true Brexit party”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads some 80 eurosceptic Conservative lawmakers, said the party must focus on delivering its promise to withdraw Britain from the European Union, after a majority of 52 per cent, or 17.4 million people, voted for Brexit in 2016.
“The largest vote for any single thing in our entire nation’s history must be implemented,” Rees-Mogg wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
He said the local election results were “a wake-up call that to survive, we must become the true Brexit party.”
The change should come “inevitably, with a new leader,” said Rees-Mogg, who, like other lawmakers on the right of the party, has called several times for May to step down in recent months.
The Conservatives lost more than 1,300 of their 4,000 seats in Thursday’s local elections, as many voters apparently turned against the party over its handling of Brexit.
They lost control of 45 councils, in the worst performance since they lost 2,000 seats under former prime minister John Major in 1995.
Punishment for two parties
But political analysts disputed the claim by May and other Conservatives that the shift away from the party was driven largely by voters’ desire for them to expedite Brexit.
They pointed to the fact that the biggest winners were the Liberal Democrats, who are staunchly opposed to Brexit and have campaigned for a second referendum with an option for Britain to remain in the EU.
The main opposition party Labour, which is also deeply divided over Brexit, lost some 100 seats in Thursday’s elections.
Justice Secretary David Gauke told the BBC on Saturday that the results could be seen as “a punishment for both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party for failing to find a way through that [Brexit] situation.”
The leading Remain party
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable told the broadcaster that he expects his party to replicate its success if Britain takes part in elections to the European Parliament on May 23.
Britain is committed to holding the EU elections unless May can secure parliamentary approval for a Brexit deal before then.
“We are clearly a major force, we are clearly the leading Remain party and we expect to do well on the basis of that,” Cable said, adding that any vote for his party was “a vote to stop Brexit.”
The Conservatives also face a strong challenge in any European elections from former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said “purist” Brexiteers in the Conservatives were partly to blame for the disastrous election results because their lack of compromise had “put Brexit in peril.”
Hunt admitted that there were also things the government “could have done differently.”
“And you can look at the Labour Party who have played politics consistently,” he said.
Britain’s local elections 2019