WORLD NEWS

Winston Churchill's Grandson Axed From Party For Defying Boris Johnson On Brexit

Veteran lawmaker Nicholas Soames was one of 21 Conservative MPs who defied their own party to vote against Johnson on Brexit.

The grandson of Winston Churchill, the famed U.K. statesman remembered for rallying the British people during World War II, is among the members of Parliament who will be ousted from the Conservative Party for defying Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Tuesday’s dramatic Brexit vote.

Nicholas Soames, 71, confirmed in an interview with BBC Newsnight that his expulsion from his party was impending.  

“I have been told by the Chief Whip … that it will be his sad duty to write me tomorrow to tell me that I have had the whip removed,” said Soames, who has been a Conservative member of Parliament since 1983.

“That’s fortunes of war,” Soames added. “I knew what I was doing.”

In British political parlance, when a member of Parliament loses the whip, it means they’re effectively booted out of their party ― typically because they refuse to follow strict instructions from party leadership to vote in a particular way.

Those instructions are typically pressed upon members by the party’s chief whip, which in the case of the Conservative Party is Mark Spencer, a former dairy farmer who’s served as a member of Parliament since 2010.

Soames was one of 21 Conservative lawmakers who rebelled against Spencer ― and their party leader Johnson ― by voting against a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday. All 21 are now expected to be ousted from their party, including political luminaries like Ken Clarke, the longest continuously serving member of Parliament, and former Finance Minister Philip Hammond. 

According to Reuters, the party will lose lawmakers with more than 330 years of experience in Parliament. With these expulsions, the party will also lose its working majority.

Johnson’s government was defeated 328-301 in Tuesday’s vote. The opposition now has the opportunity to block the prime minister from forcing the U.K. to leave the European Union without a deal at the end of October. 

Speaking to the BBC, Soames ― who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2014 and whose mother was Churchill’s youngest child ― said he has only voted against his party three times over the course of his long parliamentary tenure. 

Asked whether he’d stand for parliament in the next general election, Soames said he did not intend to run again. 

“I actually won’t stand. I’m not going to stand,” he said.  

As the BBC explained, lawmakers who have the whip withdrawn can stand as independent candidates in a general election ― though independents generally fare very poorly. The whip could technically also be restored if a member of Parliament drums up enough support from their local party. 

Hammond, for one, has vowed to wage the “fight of a lifetime” to stay in the Conservative Party. Observers, however, say it’s extremely unlikely that a lawmaker would be able to have the whip restored without the support of party leadership. 

Johnson said Tuesday that he intends to call a snap election on Oct. 14. Following his devastating parliamentary defeat, Johnson’s future as prime minister has been cast into serious doubt ― as has Britain’s Brexit prospects.

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