Two more resignations this afternoon – Maria Caulfield, Conservative Party Vice Chair for Women, and Ben Bradley, Vice Chair for Young People, have both resigned in protest at the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan.
Both were appointed in the January reshuffle as part of the initiative to create a raft of paid Vice Chair positions in order to beef up the Party’s internal operations. I’ve enclosed their resignation letters at the foot of this post.
Three interesting things to note, at this stage:
First, these are MPs whom the Government had hoped to keep on board. At the weekend, as criticism of Chequers mounted, Downing Street asked concerned colleagues to wait to be formally briefed on the plan, on the assumption that such briefings would reassure them. Their willingness to wait as requested is a sign these are not unreasonable or irreconcilable people, but MPs willing to give the Government the benefit of the doubt where possible – and yet those briefings evidently have not succeeded in assuaging their concerns about the proposal. It would be unwise and self-deceiving to try to dismiss them as cases whom Downing Street never had a hope of winning over.
Second, it’s significant that Caulfield mentions in her letter that: ‘Since the announcement on Friday my constituents, whether they voted Leave or Remain, have contacted me in large numbers to say they do not support the deal…’ Many Conservative MPs have had a great deal of correspondence opposing the Chequers plan – from Party members and Conservative voters – in recent days. We at ConservativeHome have received a large number of messages along the same lines, I gather the Telegraph has also been deluged, and I’ve seen a variety of messages received by MPs which express deep disappointment and anger at the Prime Minister’s position. These things do matter, and they do leave an impact on MPs.
Third, there could yet be more to come. There are mutterings about a co-ordinated and sustained campaign of resignations, though we don’t know how real that is. Evidently there are various people who are deeply troubled by the proposals, as are many ordinary Party members, and as the piles of correspondence grow that could take a further toll. Those crucial few days at the end of the week when MPs go back to their constituencies, and have the chance to talk to local activists, voters, and their families also serve to feed in views that they won’t necessarily hear so much while they’re in Westminster.
Here are there letters: