The future of the Conservative Party could be in doubt unless it manages to deliver Brexit, leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has warned.
The Foreign Secretary acknowledged the very existence of the party he hopes to lead could be threatened by the Brexit backlash after the Tories secured just 9% of the vote in England and Wales.
Mr Hunt, who hopes to replace Theresa May in Number 10, said it was a “painful result”.
Meanwhile, Daniel Hannan, who was elected as one of just three Tory MEPs in England and Wales, said the European elections had been “without question our worst result as a party ever”.
In a sign of how low the Conservatives have sunk:
– The party won just three seats in England and Wales, down from 18 in 2014
– The Tories trailed in fifth place, behind the Brexit Party, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens in terms of both vote share and seats won
– Syed Kamall, leader of the Europe-wide European Conservatives and Reformists, lost his seat in London
– Ashley Fox, leader of the Tories in Brussels, lost his seat in the South West
Mrs May, whose failure to take the UK out of the EU on March 29 as promised was blamed for the disastrous election results, will quit as Conservative leader on June 7.
Mr Hunt, the most senior Cabinet minister to declare his intention to seek the leadership, said there was an “existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done”.
Prominent Brexiteer and MEP Mr Hannan, who retained his South East seat, said the delay to Brexit had blighted the Tory campaign.
“People voted to leave three years ago and we haven’t left, it’s as simple as that,” he told the Press Association.
“I think I’m back as one of, I think it looks like being three Conservatives nationally.
“So without question our worst result as a party ever.”
But he suggested the party’s fortunes could be turned around and the threat from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party neutralised if the UK did leave the EU.
“The appeal of a party called the Brexit Party will dry up very quickly once Brexit has happened,” he said.
“We need to leave in a way that carries as many people with us as possible and we need to be conciliatory and we need to have a Brexit that is cordial and orderly and that people in the 48% and the 52% can live with, but it’s got to happen speedily.
“I was not expecting to go back to the European Parliament and I really don’t want to stay there any longer than is necessary.”
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said the result, which saw no Tories elected in the North West, was “beyond dire”, adding: “Wake up Conservatives and deliver Brexit.”
In a slight consolation, the Tories appear on course to retain their single MEP in Scotland when results are officially declared.
Official confirmation to come, but all indications are @ScotTories have held our seat on a tough night for the party UK-wide. Congratulations to @NosheenaMobarik and a massive thank you to all our activists. Every vote counted! #TeamTory
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) May 26, 2019
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said “all indications” pointed to Baroness Mobarik retaining her seat on a “tough night” for the party across the UK.