Claire Perry joins senior Tories’ call to prevent a 'hard Brexit' that could lose them the next election

Written by Tony Millett on .

Last week Claire Perry MP began her question to the Prime Minister (November 30) with a little pat on Theresa May's back: "As the Prime Minister leads us towards a smart and smooth Brexit - as I like to call it, a 'smexit'..."  

Today (Sunday, December 4) Mrs Perry has joined four other 'top Tories' in writing a comment column for The Observer, which states that if the Prime Minister goes for a 'hard Brexit', the Conservatives risk losing power.

Writing in the wake of the Richmond by-election result, but specifically rejecting the panic which sometimes follows a by-election loss for the ruling party, the MPs do think the by-election offered the chance for the 48 per cent of Remain voters to give voice to their anxieties about leaving the EU: "It is not a voice that Conservatives should ignore."

The column - written jointly by former transport minister Claire Perry with Conservative MPs Dominic Grieve (former cabinet minister), Alistair Burt (ex-foreign office minister), Neil Carmichael (education select committee chair) and Ben Howlett (MP for Bath) - reminds the party leadership "to be alert that there is a moderate core of Conservative voters, who voted Remain, and who want to hear the Conservative government speaking above the noise of the Brexiters."

This 'core' of Tory voters do not, they write, "want the Conservative party to be UKIP-lite, nor to hear that their desire for a negotiated somehow an attempt to delay or simply and expression of Remoaning."

(Getting one new 'Brexit-type' phrase - 'smexit' (which has a slight whiff of 'smell' about it) - into the parliamentary record, is not, it seems, enough. Now we have 'Remoaning' sanctified by these five MPs.)

The MPs' column ends: "As well as making clear that it will not be pushed into a corner by those who only advocate a hard Brexit, a government decision to publish its objective for negotiations would not only bring some certainty to the issue, but also be likely to suggest a tone which would be welcomed by a key group of supporters."

"The vast majority of Conservative voters would unite behind that and the prime minister, trusting her to deliver the best Brexit possible.  This would be a good way to learn from 2016, and make the best of the year to come."

With her question to the Prime Minister, the MP for the Devizes constituency was responding to the announcement that the app-based freelance taxi service Uber is seeking a licence to operate in Wiltshire.  She raised the erosion of employment rights in the so-called 'gig' economy - where full-time employment is replaced by the short-term and temporary engagement of workers.

Mrs Perry asked the Prime Minister what assurances she could give "me and my constituents that the government are working to make sure that employment rights and employment regulations keep pace with this sort of innovation."

Mrs May said she had commissioned a report to make sure "the legislative framework is absolutely the right one for the economy of the future and the jobs of the future."  She then switched into leader of the Conservative Party mode: "That shows that it is now the Conservative Party that is the party of working people."

She had, of course, avoided saying that the report or any legislation that followed it would address the employment - or working peoples' - rights that had been the basis of Mrs Perry's question to her.