Tory rebels Caroline Nokes and Dehenna Davison deny planning to defect to Labour

·3 min read
Caroline Nokes - Jamie Lorriman
Caroline Nokes - Jamie Lorriman

Two high-profile Conservative rebels have denied that they plan to defect to Labour after reports that as many as six MPs could cross the floor.

Caroline Nokes was one of the first Tories to submit a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson over the 'partygate' scandal, while Dehenna Davison opposed Mr Johnson in the confidence vote earlier this month.

The Sunday Times quoted Labour insiders who claimed that at least six Tory MPs were considering whether to defect after last week’s by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.

"For the avoidance of doubt – again – I’m not bloody defecting," Ms Davison, the MP for Bishop Auckland who won her seat from Labour in 2019, said on Twitter.

"To those anonymous colleagues spreading such rumours, my door is always open for a chat."

Quoting Ms Davison’s tweet, Ms Nokes, the Romsey and Southampton North MP, wrote: "Me neither – just to pop that on the record."

Boris Johnson - Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images
Boris Johnson - Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

After the first reports of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street during lockdown emerged, Ms Nokes claimed Mr Johnson had "put himself in an impossible position".

Despite praising his "fantastic" performance at the 2019 general election, she told ITV’s Peston: "Now, regretfully, he looks like a liability, and I think either he goes now, or he goes in three years’ time at a general election… I know my thoughts are that he’s damaging us now."

Ms Nokes confirmed in April that she had not withdrawn the no confidence letter she submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.

Meanwhile, Ms Davison confirmed on June 6 she was among 144 MPs who did not back Mr Johnson in the confidence vote.

She had admitted feeling "incredibly angry" about Mr Johnson’s response to 'partygate', but strongly denied organising the 'pork pie plot' hatched by members of the 2019 Tory intake to oust him.

Dehenna Davison - Tim Clarke
Dehenna Davison - Tim Clarke

It came as David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who previously called on the Prime Minister to resign, warned backbenchers against changing to the leadership rules.

Currently, Mr Johnson is shielded from a second confidence vote for 12 months after winning on June 6, but this could be changed by a majority of the 1922 Committee executive – which will shortly hold fresh elections to choose new members.

Mr Davis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "My view has not changed… but the simple truth is the Tory Party has had a confidence vote.

"The rules are the rules. That is for a year, it gives him a year. Whether it is Boris or anybody else, dealing with stagflation is going to [involve] some really difficult decisions.

"Do you want a leader, whoever it is, looking over his shoulder every month at this tax increase or whatever?"

But Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister, urged Cabinet ministers to move against Mr Johnson.

"If this long agony for everyone concerned - from the PM down - is to be brought to a head one way or the other, then maybe somebody in the Cabinet might wish to take some action," he told the Andrew Neil Show.

"The way for this to be brought to a head would be for one or more members of the Cabinet to take a decision to say, 'Look, we can't carry on like this'."

Meanwhile, Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, wrote in an article for Conservative Home that last Thursday’s by-election defeats sent the message that "the Conservative Party needs to change and shortcomings exposed in the party organisation need to be fixed".

Mr Tugendhat encouraged Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) to strengthen its links to local parties, give associations new powers and allow activists a greater say over policy.

In January, Mr Tugendhat became the first Tory MP to say he would throw his hat into the ring in the event of a leadership contest.

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