Tory MP quits party position in protest

Mark Pritchard resigns from Conservative Party post over Cameron's EU policy.

The Conservative MP Mark Pritchard has resigned from a party role in response to David Cameron's stance on the European Union. Pritchard, an MP in Shropshire since 2010 and a member of the 1922 Committee, steps down with immediate effect as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party International Office.

In a letter dated today, obtained by Politics Home, Pritchard writes to the prime minister:

Given my concerns, regarding an increasing number of government politics, not least on immigration, Europe and a lack of clarity for national and individual aspiration, I believe remaining as deputy chairman would be inconsistent and inhibit my ability to speak out more freely on these and other issues.

The move by the openly eurosceptic Tory MP -- one of the 79 who rebelled against the coalition by demanding a referendum on British membership to the EU -- coincides neatly with renewed attacks on Cameron for his actions at last week's EU summit in Brussels. The prime minister claimed success at the summit, though European sources told the BBC he had got "half of what he was asking for".

Of his announcement, Pritchard said he had been "pondering this for about three or four weeks" and that his timing was "purely coincidental". At the very least, the news still shows what may be the first cracks in the prime minister's strained relationship with his Tory backbenchers.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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