John Major compares Theresa May's rebels to his own 'bastards'
Did the former PM get off lightly with Michael Howard, Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo?
When John Major reflected on his famous description of Eurosceptics as "bastards" at a parliamentary lunch in 2013, he was sticking to his guns. The former prime minister remarked ruefully: "What I said was unforgivable. My only excuse – is that it was true."
But apparently Michael Howard, Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo have nothing on some of the current Eurosceptic Tory MPs.
“Their behaviour was pretty intolerable, but not nearly as intolerable as the way the present prime minister is being treated,” says Major now.
The former prime minister was talking to the BBC’s Nick Robinson for the Political Thinking podcast. He also told Robinson that certain Tory MPs were displaying intolerable behaviour these days:
“The people in parliament who are undermining the prime minister by saying ‘We are going to have 40-odd signatures for a leadership election tomorrow’, and then saying ‘unless the prime minister does this thing or that thing, we are going to vote against it’, that’s an intolerable way to treat a prime minister who is in the middle of negotiations.”
So who are the Tory MPs that are even more bastard-like than Howard, Lilley and Portillo?
Major will presumably have been thinking of Andrew Bridgen, the serial rebel who was the first to break cover and submit a letter to 1922 Committee chair demanding Theresa May’s resignation. He is also said to have told colleagues that “Theresa May leading the Tories into the next election would be like asking a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade to have another go”.
And then there is James Duddridge who recently submitted a letter of no confidence in May - just minutes before her Tory conference speech conference speech. “We need a strong leader and we haven't got that at the moment,” he said.
Whether or not May agrees with Major that her eurosceptic bastards are worse than his is yet to be established,
When the Daily Mail’s political editor asked the prime minister’s official spokesman today nothing was ruled in or out. "Genuinely I haven't had the opportunity to ask her," came the reply.