William Hague of Conservative Party urges not elect Jeremy Corbyn leader amid rule chamges | UK | News

The former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs claimed a change to the way the Conservative Party elects its leader could be detrimental to the party in the long run.

Lord Hague, who was Conservative Party leader from 1997-2001, argued that affording grassroots Tories a greater say could lead to “entryism” and see the party “swamped by new recruits” – the very thing that happened in the Labour Party in 2015.

He said: “Having not thought to include the three-month membership requirement in their own new rules and having all candidates put to the whole party, Labour’s former leaders inadvertently produced the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, complete with extremism, anti-Semitism, divisiveness and the impossibility of removing him.”

Speaking about the proposed reforms, the former Tory leader added: “Such a change would be seen as helping Boris Johnson, who is currently thought to be more popular with the party members than with parliamentarians.”

Lord Hague’s comments come as Tory activists are attempting to pile on the pressure on the party’s ruling board to alter the rules so any MP with the support of 20 colleagues can appear in the final ballot of party members.

Currently, only two MPs go through to the final vote.

Lord Hague claims such reforms as Labour’s National Executive Committee made in 2015 would place too much power in the hands of Tory activists, which could lead to entryism.

The former Tory leader argued these activists are often the first to point out they are not remotely representative of society at large or even of their voters.

Lord Hague cited the rule changes Labour made in 2015, which led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn, claiming they left democracy “fundamentally weaker”.

He added: “I am not arguing against boldness and radicalism, but against decisions easily swayed by the fashions of the moment, determined by unrepresentative minorities or unconnected from a much wider electorate.

“The worst of all arguments to change a system of such importance is to favour a particular candidate or outcome in the short term.

“For one thing, calculations of this kind are often wide of the mark or counter-productive, and most Conservative leadership battles have sprung a major surprise.

“But in any case, short-term needs make poor long-term rules.”

Under Labour’s reforms in 2015, people were entitled to join the party and vote in leadership elections for just £3 a year.

It led to a surge in hard-Left supporters, who voted for Mr Corbyn.

Lord Hague said: “The result of what might be thought of as a more perfect and open democracy in Labour is that British democracy as a whole is now fundamentally weaker since there is currently no moderate, easily electable alternative to the Government of the day.”

Lord Hague’s remarks draw attention to an appeal by Leave.EU, a hard Brexit campaign group, for its backers to “flood” the Tory party in a bid to install a “true Brexiteer” like Mr Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg as Prime Minister.

In a tweet urging its supporters to “put spine back into the Tory party”, the Brexit campaign group Leave.EU wrote: “Fed up of how this weak ‘conservative’ Government has handled Brexit?

“A leadership contest is inevitable. Join the huge number of our members already flooding the Tory party, ready to elect a true Brexiteer.”

Conservative MP Anna Soubry has also warned of the threat of ‘entryism’ in the wake of Leave.EU’s appeal for its supporters to back Mr Johnson or Mr Rees-Mogg in a future leadership contest.

Ms Soubry, who has repeatedly rebelled against her party to advocate for a soft Brexit, said: “These people are absolutely dedicated to their cause.

“And you don’t need an awful lot of people to make a huge amount of difference – so it’s really worrying.”

How are Conservative leaders elected?

  • The process is triggered by either the incumbent resigning or the parliamentary party passing a vote of no confidence.
  • Such a vote is automatically instigated if the 1922 Committee receives appeals for new leadership carrying the signatures of 15 percent of Conservative MPs (currently 48).
  • The Conservative Party then employs a twofold system to elect a new leader.
  • The Conservative Chief Whip, currently Julian Smith, receives nominations from party members.