General election 2019: Lifelong Tories should back Lib Dems, says Heseltine

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AFP

Former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has urged Tory voters to back Lib Dem or independent candidates in next month’s poll.

Lord Heseltine, who served under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said voters should “put country first”.

He told an event in Buckinghamshire this meant voting for ex-Tories or the Liberal Democrats on 12 December.

The peer, who supported Remain during the EU referendum, has previously said he backed the Lib Dems over Brexit.

Speaking at a panel event alongside Dominic Grieve, Anne Milton and David Gauke – former Tories expelled from the party who are all now independent candidates – Lord Heseltine was asked for his message to Conservative voters ahead of next month’s election.

“I’m telling them [Tory voters] to vote for what they believe in and what the Conservative Party has stood for all my life and probably all theirs – and to put country first,” the 86-year-old said.

“What I think that means in practical terms is they either vote for defrocked Conservative candidates – of which we have three excellent examples here – or they vote for the Lib Dems.”

“It is the great delusion, so effective, get Brexit done. The idea that you can do it in a month, around Christmas,” he added, according to the Mirror.

“The most you can do, if there were to be a massive Tory majority, is to get through the legislation to enable you to begin the talk about what the future relationship will be.”

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said Lord Heseltine’s intervention was “extraordinary”, coming a day after former prime minister Tony Blair said he could understand why Labour voters might vote for the the Lib Dems because of their anger over Brexit.

‘Spoilt child’

Mr Grieve, Ms Milton, and Mr Gauke – who were part of the group of 21 MPs kicked out of the Conservative Party for rebelling over Brexit in September – used the event to criticise their former party.

Mr Grieve, the former attorney general, is reported to have said: “I’m sorry, my party’s gone bonkers”, while Ms Milton, the former skills minister, likened Prime Minister Boris Johnson to a “spoilt child”.

It is not the first time Lord Heseltine has been at odds with the Conservative Party over Brexit.

In May he had the whip removed after saying he would “lend” his vote to the Lib Dems in the European elections. At the time, Lord Heseltine said he would not back a Tory candidate because of the party’s pro-Brexit stance.

And in March 2017 he was sacked as a government adviser after rebelling in a Brexit vote in the House of Lords.

Lord Heseltine served as a Conservative MP between 1966 and 2001.