Boris Johnson was right to throw Tory rebels out of the party after their disloyalty over Brexit, according to a minister and ally.
The Prime Minister brutally sacked 21 Conservative MPs after they voted against the Government on Tuesday, as they attempted to block Britain leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31.
Those sacked include Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart – all of whom were serving in Theresa May’s Cabinet just weeks ago. Party stalwarts Ken Clarke and Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, were also dismissed.
The Government lost the vote by a majority of 27 and MPs will now have the opportunity on Wednesday to pass legislation that would effectively take no-deal off the table.
A general election also looms, after the PM confirmed he would seek a public mandate as he accused opposition parties and Tory rebels of “wrecking” chances of a deal with Brussels.
Senior Labour figures have said Mr Johnson is “destroying” his party by sacking dissenters, but Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng defended the move.
“Now 21 of them out of 312 – that is about 6% – chose to vote against the Government and they had the whip withdrawn.
“I think it is a shame – a lot of them are very talented people. But you cannot have people standing as Conservative MPs when they are against the Government’s policy on the key issue of the day.”
He called it an “astonishing moment” at the end of what has been a hectic six-week period for the Penrith and the Border MP, having been seen as an outside favourite for prime minister at one stage of the leadership proceedings.
“It feels a little bit like something you associate with other countries – one opposes the leader, one loses the leadership race, no longer in the cabinet and now apparently thrown out of the party and one’s seat too,” he said.
He said: “One of the strongest reasons why this is the wrong thing to do is because to deliver Brexit like this is to create a poison pill which for 40 years will divide this country straight down the middle.
“If you are going to deliver Brexit at all, try to do it legally, constitutionally and with consent.”
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, predicted trouble ahead for the Tory party.
The opposition victory in the Commons on Tuesday will see them take control of business in the House on Wednesday in a bid to stop no-deal.
As a result, the PM said he would table a motion for a general election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which could be put to a vote on Wednesday evening.
Labour indicated they would not back the move – which would require the support of two-thirds of MPs – until chances of a no-deal Brexit were taken off the table.
Mr Johnson said Parliament is “on the brink of wrecking any deal” with Brussels after voting to give the cross-party alliance control of the Commons.
Downing Street confirmed the 21 Tory rebels would lose the Conservative whip as a result of their actions.
Sir Nicholas said he would not stand at the next general election.
Former Tory ministers Greg Clark, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Alistair Burt, Sam Gyimah, Anne Milton and Caroline Nokes also voted against the Government.
Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said on Twitter: “How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for @NSoames? #anofficerandagentleman.”
MPs will then debate the draft legislation put forward by a cross-party group which would require a delay to Brexit unless there is a deal or Parliament explicitly backed leaving the EU without one by October 19.
Meanwhile, a decision is expected at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after a cross-party group of MPs and peers brought legal action aimed at halting the suspension of Parliament.