With talk rising of a general election, the thorny issue of deselection arises. Could the Party plausibly contest a Brexit election with all of its current MPs as candidates? Would victory in such circumstances resolve anything?
To test the waters, our survey asked the panel their views on deselection in two circumstances: Conservative MPs who voted against the Government’s revised Brexit deal; and ministers who threatened to vote against Government policy on a no-deal exit without resigning.
For the former group, the result was as overwhelmingly negative as we might expect: 83 per cent of respondents opposed deselecting the scores of rebels on the second meaningful vote, against just 12 per cent who supported such a move.
On the second question, however, it was pretty much an even split: 46 vs 44 per cent each way. Given the leanings of our panellists, this means that a substantial share of party members who support Brexit nonetheless don’t support taking such decisive action against those who are, in one view, threatening to prevent it.
As this survey was taken before Wednesday’s extraordinary abstentions by Greg Clark, David Gauke, Amber Rudd, and David Mundell the number favouring action might now be higher. Deselection is also a big step when a much less controversial one – sacking them – remains on the table.
Nonetheless, it suggests that maintaining the unity of the Tory Party remains a top priority for much of the grassroots.