Right-wing group aiming to shake up Tory party targets Labour agent
PUBLISHED: 17:30 21 August 2018 | UPDATED: 18:40 21 August 2018
A right-wing pro-Brexit group seeking to topple Theresa May has missed its target when trying to get Suffolk residents to sign up as Tory members – it wrote to Labour agent John Cook urging him to “Unite the Right!”
Leave.eu was set up in the run-up to the referendum campaign and backed by then UKIP leader Nigel Farage and multi-millionaire Aaron Banks.
Now it has set up a new campaign trying to get its supporters to join the Tory Party in case there is a leadership election in the next few months if MPs pass a no confidence vote in Mrs May.
However Conservative associations in Suffolk have not noticed any influx in new members – although numbers did pick up slightly in the wake of the referendum and election of a new Prime Minister in 2016.
The letter from leave.eu has caused concern among some Conservative MPs, especially those who were firmly on the Remain side during the referendum, but in Suffolk where all the MPs backed staying in the EU it seems to have little effect.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said there had been a small spike in members after the referendum, but nothing significant since: “You getting people joining and others falling off all the time. I don’t think there’s anything happening at the moment.”
His view was shared by Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter: “We have had a new branch being formed at Wickham Market because more people had joined and wanted to get organised – but nothing to suggest there’s a big influx.”
Senior members of the Ipswich Conservative Association agreed there had been a turnover of members – but did not think there was anything significant happening.
Mr Cook, who supported staying in the EU, was amused to get the letter urging people to: “stick two fingers up at the anti-democrats who want us to be controlled by Brussels forever.”
He said: “I don’t know why they sent it to me. They used my Ipswich Council e-mail address where it clearly says I’m a Labour councillor.
“I think it shows they’re not really a very good political operation. I suspect that the Ipswich Conservative Association might be a bit reluctant to have me as a member!”