Three top Tories have quit a pro-EU campaign after it drew up a hit list of MPs it wants to topple at the general election – most of them Tories.
Open Britain launched an audacious bid today to oust 20 Brexit backing MPs, 18 of which were from the Conservative Party.
Together with two other pro-Remain groups, it urged 600,000 activists to campaign against them – and rally behind 20 more MPs, just one of which was a Tory.
That sparked fury with high-profile Tory backers Anna Soubry, ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan.
In a statement on behalf of the three, former education secretary Ms Morgan said: “As long standing Conservative party members and MPs it is untenable for us to play any further role in an organisation such as Open Britain, which is advocating campaigning against Conservative MPs or candidates.
“I and we will not be doing so.”
Former minister Ms Soubry said: “This sort of blatant partisanship further divides our country when we must all come together.”
Labour MP Kate Hoey and Tory Iain Duncan Smith were among those whose seats will be flooded with activists trying to topple them.
The controversial plan is organised by three pro-EU campaign groups who between them have 600,000 backers on mailing lists.
The groups, Open Britain, European Movement, and Britain for Europe, have also picked 20 pro-Remain MPs they’ll try to keep.
A spokesman for Open Britain said: “It is understandable that during an election campaign political differences between members of different parties become magnified.
“Open Britain represents activists from all political persuasions who want to campaign against a hard Brexit and for a continued close relationship with Europe.
“As a grassroots organisation, we’ve had thousands of emails from our supporters asking how and where they should campaign during the General Election and we are trying to direct them to where they can make the biggest difference in the fight against hard Brexit .
“There is no way of getting involved in an election like this without campaigning for or against members of one party or another, so it was always going to disappoint some within a cross-party organisation.
“Our key seats list will continue to include support for those willing to campaign against hard Brexit from across the political spectrum.
“It has been a pleasure to work with some fantastic Conservative MPs in recent months and our door will always be open after the election to any that want to work with us in the future.”
Richard Tice, co-chairman of Brexit campaigners Leave Means Leave, said: “Open Britain have been in denial about the reality that Britain is leaving the EU. They need to wake up and embrace the democratic decision for Brexit.
“They have continually demonstrated how out of touch they really are. Resigning from Open Britain is the right thing to do.”
April 25th, 2017: Daily Mirror