‘It’s the Brexit Party rebadged’: Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke among 21 rebels

Political grandee Kenneth Clarke – a Commons veteran of nearly five decades – was among those to find themselves politically homeless after voting against the Government.

The Rushcliffe MP had the Tory whip removed, effectively expelling him from the parliamentary party, after joining opposition parties on Tuesday night to wrest control of the Commons agenda to block a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond who, until July 24, served as Chancellor was also among the 21 rebels, alongside Winston Churchill's grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and former justice secretary David Gauke.

After his sacking, Mr Clarke said he was still a conservative but he had reservations about the party under Boris Johnson's leadership.

He told BBC's Newsnight: "I don't recognise this. It's the Brexit Party, rebadged.

"It's been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who's got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy... a Cabinet which is the most right-wing Cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced."

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Brexit: Day of drama at Westminster
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Brexit: Day of drama at Westminster
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg reclining on his seat in the House of Commons London.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg reclining on his seat in the House of Commons London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the House of Commons, London after MPs voted in favour of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd leaves the Houses of Parliament on September 3, 2019 in London, England. The Rebel Alliance, including a number of Conservative MPs, have won a vote 328 to 301 for a motion that allows them to take charge of the Parliament order paper tomorrow allowing them to debate on a bill to block a no deal Brexit. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
An anti-Brexit protester shouts slogans while demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Kenneth Clarke and former prime minister Theresa May look on as Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London, on the G7 Summit in Biarritz.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his senior aid Dominic Cummings as they leave Downing Street, central London.
Oliver Letwin speaking in the House of Commons, London.
A man is seen dressed as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushing the plunger on a ''No-Deal Bomb'' while demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Anti-Brexit protesters with placards and flags demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Anti-Brexit protesters with flags playing music while demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A piece of satirical artwork by Artist Kaya Mar showing the Queen, Speaker John Bercow and Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Parliament. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A Pro-Brexit protester with a placard demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A Pro-Brexit protester with a placard demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Pro-Brexit protesters with placards and banners, demonstrating in central London on the day MPs return back to Parliament after the summer recess. On Monday 2 Sept 2019 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government in the next night's Bill that would block a no deal Brexit. Several MPs vowed to vote with the opposition regardless of the personal consequences. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Brexit protesters in Westminster, London, as MPs are taking part in an emergency debate over a new law to block a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit protesters on Westminster Bridge in London, as MPs are taking part in an emergency debate over a new law to block a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit protesters marching from the Palace of Westminster in London as MPs are taking part in an emergency debate over a new law to block a no-deal Brexit.
Anti-Brexit protesters attend a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
A woman watches demonstrators as she is trapped on a bus blocked by anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 03 : A female anti-Brexit protester climbs the statue of Sir Winston Churchill during a protest against British prime minister Boris Johnson's policies on Brexit and the prorogation of parliament at Parliament Square in London, United Kingdom on September 03, 2019. British prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday has warned rebel Tory MPs from voting in favour of legislation that would prevent a no-deal Brexit and request an extension from the EU as tensions rise between parliament and the government. (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Brexit protesters in Westminster, London, as MPs are taking part in an emergency debate over a new law to block a no-deal Brexit.. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A demonstrator carries a placard during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on September 3, 2019, hosted by The People's Assembly Against Austerity. - The fate of Brexit hung in the balance on Tuesday as parliament prepared for an explosive showdown with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's that could end in a snap election. Members of Johnson's own Conservative party, including Philip Hammond, are preparing to join opposition lawmakers in a vote to try to force a delay to Britain's exit from the European Union if he cannot secure a divorce deal with Brussels in the next few weeks. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
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Mr Clarke first entered the Commons in June 1970 – on the eve of Mr Johnson's sixth birthday and when the current chief whip Mark Spencer was six months old – and served in the Cabinet for the 18 years of Margaret Thatcher and John Major's rule.

The 79-year-old has thrice stood – and thrice been defeated – for the Conservative leadership, with his stance on Europe differing from that of his Eurosceptic party.

Mr Clarke added he was sceptical about whether Mr Johnson was looking for a deal with the European Union ahead of the proposed Brexit date of October 31.

Brexit vote in the Commons
MPs voted in favour of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

He told the programme: "He's obviously not trying to get a deal. I'm sure he'd prefer one if he thought he could get one past his right-wing supporters.

"But he's dug himself in, he assumes he's going to get no deal. Because he can't get the right wing of the Conservative Party, many of them now stuck in his Cabinet, to agree to it."

Sir Nicholas, who was returned alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Margaret Beckett in the 1983 general election, said he would be calling time on his parliamentary career if a snap general election was held.

He said his decision to rebel was "a pity" and not taken "lightly", but he felt "very strongly" about avoiding a no-deal.

He added: "The fact is I'm satisfied that (the prime minister) himself wants a deal, but the deal he wants is not available."

Sir Nicholas Soames
Sir Nicholas Soames (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Mid Sussex MP's views on Europe were similar to that of Mr Clarke and he had previously lamented former Conservative leaders and their reluctance to take on the Eurosceptic wing of the party.

In an interview with ConservativeHome in 2016, he said: "If you have an Alsatian sitting in front of you, and it growls at you and bares its teeth, there are two ways of dealing with it.

"You can pat it on the head, in which case it'll bite you, or you can kick it really hard in the balls, in which case it'll run away.

"Successive Prime Ministers, and it's not the present Prime Minister alone (David Cameron), have never understood that they have to take these people on."

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