Steven Woolfe is an independent Member of the European Parliament for North West England.
Anna Soubry should stand down and trigger a by-election. She won’t, of course. But if she were to, I would want to stand against her as a conservative.
You will note the small “c” I must put on that one. I would prefer to re-join the Conservative Party and stand as a party candidate. For the moment, the party will not allow me to re-join. I support and champion conservatism, its principles and economics, and, party membership or not, I will continue to do so.
My enthusiasm for re-joining the Party has attracted criticism this week. The Party leadership say they do not want to re-admit me at this time. I regret that, but I know that the question of my membership is up to them and not up to me. Could I win against Soubry as an independent? I have the right background and the right record to do so, but standing as an independent is not what I want to do.
What matters is that, at this point, a whole new danger to Brexit has emerged in the form of the Independent Group. Only a strong, solid number of Conservative MPs in the Commons can protect the democratic referendum vote from Soubry and the others. That is why, whether my name is on the ballot or not, I will support the Conservative Party candidate in a Broxtowe by-election or in any other election against any of these quitters.
The new Independent Group – what an irony is in that name, since the one thing they do not want to do is to see Britain independent — exists only to stop Brexit, or, if Brexit goes ahead, to roll it back. You have heard the Remain side say: “This generation took us out, the next one will take us back in.” That is the endgame of Soubry and the Independent Group. Do not believe them when they say they still have to agree policy. They have agreed policy: keep the UK in the EU. It is the point of their existence.
I have sat in the European Parliament as an independent for almost three years. I know the strength and skills of an independent. But I also know that only the Conservative Government now stands between the people of the United Kingdom and a reversal of Brexit by the Independent Group and those MPs who will work with them.
Only the weight of the Conservative Party can protect us from this threat. Conservatives – real, natural conservatives, who are members of the Conservative Party – must take the place of defectors such as Soubry and her colleague Heidi Allen, who this week threatened that, “if we do our jobs right,” the Conservative Party will be destroyed.
Which is why I want to re-join the Party. I believe this is a time at which the Conservative Party should reach out to people like myself who share similar views and values, and who support what the Prime Minister is trying to achieve with Brexit. It might not be the Brexit I want, but I hope the party will engage with us.
This is not about infiltration. I want to make that quite clear. This is not about destabilising the Conservative Party. Far from it. This is about protecting true conservative values in the party. It is, above all, about defending democracy and the Leave vote, in a traditional, decent, moderate, thoughtful and patriotic way.
I hope the Conservative Party will reach out to those of us who can help the prime minister achieve Brexit. I think a Brexit deal could have been organised a lot better, but I support Theresa May in her determination to keep the possibility of a “no deal” alive. It is important for her negotiations in Brussels.
While, as I said, there has been some criticism for me this week because of my enthusiastic desire to re-join the Conservative Party, I have also had a lot of support on social media, and in private messages from ordinary, card-carrying members of the party. I would rather discussions on this were not conducted in public, but sometimes things don’t work out that way. Whatever happens, I will go on fighting for conservatism. It is up to others to decide on whether that first letter “c” is small or large.