UK Politics

European elections 2019: Heseltine loses Tory whip over Lib Dem vote

Lord Heseltine Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The peer insists the Conservative Party remains his "natural home"

The veteran Conservative politician Lord Heseltine has had the whip removed after saying he will vote for the Lib Dems in Thursday's European elections.

The former deputy prime minister said he would not back the Tories because of the party's pro-Brexit stance.

A Tory Party spokesperson said the peer's views on European matters were "longstanding and sincerely held".

But he added that endorsing another party was "not compatible with taking the Tory whip".

"As a result, the Chief Whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended. This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections," the spokesperson said.

Having the whip taken away means a parliamentarian is effectively expelled from their party and that they must sit in Parliament as an independent until the whip is restored.

Lord Heseltine revealed he would be voting for the Lib Dems in an article for the Sunday Times.

He told BBC 5 live that he was "lending" his support to the Lib Dem candidate in his area as he was "not prepared to indulge in this act of national sacrifice by voting for Brexit".

The 86-year old, who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major and was also an adviser to David Cameron, said he was following his conscience and the Conservative Party remained his "natural home".

Reacting to his sanction, he told Sky News: "They can take away the whip but they cannot take away my integrity, my convictions or my experience. I am a Conservative."

'Natural home'

His announcement angered Brexiteers in his party, with MPs suggesting he had broken internal rules by endorsing another party.

Speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 live, Andrew Bridgen suggested "there really is no place for someone with his views in the Conservative Party".

"I find Lord Heseltine's arrogance that he knows better than the majority of the electorate really quite breathtaking."

However Conservative former minister Sir Nicholas Soames told Channel 4 News withdrawing the whip from Lord Heseltine was "a really stupid, bovine thing to do".

He said he would make his feelings about the matter known to chief whip Julian Smith.

Lord Heseltine has been a vocal opponent of Brexit and has spoken at a number of rallies in favour of another referendum.

It is not the first time he has been at odds with his party over Brexit. In March 2017 he was sacked as a government adviser after rebelling in a Brexit vote in the Lords.

The UK will take part in the elections for the European Parliament on 23 May after the government was unable to agree a Brexit deal.