The Telegraph is engaging in a “blatant piece of bullying” for publishing the names of Tory Brexit “mutineers,” Conservative MP Anna Soubry says. Brexit Minister Steve Baker added the newspaper is involved in “attempts to divide our party.”
In an imposing front page splash on Wednesday, the pro-Remain Telegraph charged 15 Tory MPs, including Soubry, with mutiny over their alleged plans to vote with Labour to block Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to enshrine the date of Brexit into law.
“The Brexit mutineers,” the paper writes, “are understood to have had a ‘stormy’ meeting with the whips earlier this week. They are braced to come under intense pressure to reverse their opposition before a key parliamentary vote next week.”
Many have taken to Twitter to criticize the story, saying MPs having differing views on Brexit is not “mutiny,” but representative democracy. Others tweeted that the Telegraph is “vying for a place in the gutter alongside the Daily Mail.” Another Twitter user said the article only “serves to divide the Tory party further, making Brexit harder to get through the house.”
‘Named and shamed’ MPs include Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary who now chairs the Treasury Select Committee; Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee; Dominic Grieve, the former attorney-general; and former Chancellor Ken Clarke.
Soubry, a pro-Remain Tory, accused the paper of a “blatant piece of bullying” and told the Commons on Tuesday night that being labeled a mutineer by the Remain-allied newspaper was a “badge of honor.” She tweeted alongside a picture of the story: “The bullying begins. We want a good Brexit not a hard ideologically driven Brexit. #StandUpForDemocracy.”
Tory MP Bob Neill, also named in the paper, vowed the “bullies will not succeed.” He tweeted: “That tone says more about them than us. We will work constructively for the best Brexit possible - that’s our duty - and what parliamentary democracy is all about.”
Baker, the pro-Remain Brexit minister, was quick to stand up for the Tory rebels’ right to seek improvements to the bill, saying he regretted “any media attempts to divide our party.” He tweeted: “Parliamentary colleagues have sincere suggestions to improve the Bill which we are working through and I respect them for that.”
Heidi Allen, a Tory MP also pictured on the newspaper’s front page, tweeted: “If fighting for the best possible future for our country and our government is considered mutiny – then bring it on.”
Jonathan Djanogly, a former Tory minister who was also pictured on the front page, told the Commons he was unsure about why an exit date should be fixed, noting that this would also fix the date of the transition agreement. “I can only see downsides in terms of the government losing control of one of the levers it could use to control the negotiations,” he said.
The Brexit date amendment was unexpectedly published on Friday, but MPs will not get the opportunity to vote on it until much later in the eight days of debate on the withdrawal bill, which are expected to be spread over at least a month.