Tory MP who quit ministerial job over Brexit says party is being taken over

Tory MPs are being ‘threatened’ by an attempted takeover of the party by Brexit fanatics using the same tactics as Jeremy Corbyn’s Left-wing Momentum supporters.

The claim was made by Phillip Lee, who stunned close friend Theresa May last week by resigning as Justice Minister over her refusal to give MPs a key say if EU talks end in failure.

He says many Conservatives and at least two Cabinet Ministers – who he declined to name – congratulated him and told him they shared his Brexit fears. But some were scared to speak out because of a sinister influx of ‘Right-wingers’ joining the party.

He compared it to the way thousands of hard-Left Momentum activists helped Mr Corbyn seize control of his party and then targeted moderate Labour MPs.

Warning: Former Justice Minister Phillip Lee

‘Something strange is happening to our party,’ said Mr Lee, who is also a GP.

‘I don’t want what happened to Labour to happen to us.’

He said Conservative MPs ‘feel threatened from behind because our membership is increasingly made up of very Right-wing Brexit supporters’.

He issued a rally cry to ‘reasonable and decent’ Conservative supporters to join the party to stop a Momentum-style Brexit Tory takeover.

Married Mr Lee, 47, a father of two girls, aged eight and one, was subjected to vile Twitter abuse from Brexit supporters after he resigned. A fellow party member tweeted that he was a ‘sanctimonious c***’. Another troll said: ‘You are a backstabbing two-faced little s**t.’ A third called him a ‘disgusting traitor’.

Mr Lee said his background as a GP influenced his approach to politics. ‘The “Dr” in front of my name means people expect that as an MP I will act like their doctor, i.e. tell them the truth. Respect for patients is imbued in you at medical school.’

Doctors had to obtain a patient’s ‘informed consent’ to perform surgery, but there was no such ‘informed consent’ from voters for Brexit because no one knew where it was heading.

‘Every doctor knows the importance of discussing cancer management at every stage so the patient is as informed as they can be of the prognosis and consequences of decisions taken on their behalf.’

But if a doctor delayed surgery too long, the patient could die? ‘If you don’t know what the surgery entails, you don’t do it.’

Seasoned campaigners may regard Mr Lee’s medical metaphors for Brexit as naive but he maintains the Government should delay Britain’s EU exit until the outcome is clearer and says it is vital to give Parliament a bigger say. ‘I am not against Brexit but we are careering towards an outcome nobody voted for – the worst of all worlds. It is about doing Brexit properly and not putting a gun to our heads and rushing ahead with Article 50. A pause is timely – Europe is moving.’

He disputes claims that his voters in Bracknell, Berkshire, voted to leave the EU, saying the town’s result did not cover parts of his constituency he believes were anti-Brexit. Mrs May has not commented on Mr Lee’s sudden exit, but it will be hard for him to avoid her: he lives in her Maidenhead constituency and she attended his wedding. He still regards her as a ‘dear friend’ and wants her to stay in No 10.

Mrs May has not commented on Mr Lee’s sudden exit, but it will be hard for him to avoid her 

Mrs May has not commented on Mr Lee’s sudden exit, but it will be hard for him to avoid her 

It is not surprising that neither she nor anyone else saw his resignation coming.

Unlike machine politicians, Mr Lee still lives a stone’s throw from the state grammar school where he was head boy, messed up his A-levels, and spent ten years disproving doubters he could become a GP.

Some Tories have part-time City jobs; he still ‘keeps his hand in’ as an NHS doctor. ‘It wasn’t easy for me to get here, so I’m not going to compromise on important issues,’ he says.

One of his proudest moments was when he stood as a Tory in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales in the 2005 General Election – and was duly thrashed by Labour. ‘When you’re standing outside Tredegar Kwik Save with a large blue rosette talking to ex-miners, you have to believe,’ smiles Mr Lee, whose grandmother was Welsh.

After his defeat, the local Labour party asked him to be their candidate in forthcoming Welsh elections.

‘I said, “But I’m a Tory.” They said, “Yes, but you’re the sort of bloke we need round here.” ’