Around 60 Tory MPs responsible for removing Boris Johnson “should be feeling nervous” grassroots campaigners have warned after Theresa May’s former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green became the biggest scalp so far to be deselected. Mr Green, a Tory grandee who chairs the pro-EU liberal One Nation group, was rejected as a candidate for the newly created safe seat of the Weald of Kent.
The move comes after the emergence of a new grassroots rebellion the Conservative Democratic Organization formed in the wake of the coup last October which saw Liz Truss removed as Prime Minister in just 49 days and replaced by Rishi Sunak.
There was fury that MPs had in effect bypassed the members by only proposing one candidate after the one members voted for (Ms Truss) over the summer.
Already there was anger at the way CCHQ, which runs Conservative operations, was controlling candidate selection and giving constituency parties very little choice with a plethora of candidates in safe seats on the left of the party.
Now Mr. Green’s rejection by members, has been hailed by many within the Conservative Party as the biggest scalp yet in a fightback by the membership.
Express.co.uk understands that a hitlist exists of dozens of MPs who were responsible for removing Boris Johnson, even though the CDO insists that it is not part of an attempt to reinstall him as party leader and Prime Minister.
Mr Green’s problems will send shockwaves among Tory MPs on the liberal left wing of the party because he has been a senior figure in the government for many years and chairs their One Nation group mostly made up of former Remainers.
The One Nation group accounts for around a third of Tory MPs and was instrumental in removing Mr Johnson.
Lord Greenhalgh, vice president of the CDO grassroots organization, insisted that the move was about party democracy not Mr Johnson.
He Tweeted: “This had nothing to do with Boris Johnson but more to do with a system of selection/deselection of MPs that needs fundamental reform.
“That’s what the Conservative Democratic Organization stands for. Damian Green has been a force for good for decades.”
Claire Bullivant, chief executive of the CDO, made it clear that up to 60 MPs should be feeling nervous.
She said: “There are 60 MPs who are probably getting worried. It’s hard to see how those who stabbed Boris in the back will ever be forgiven by the members. In every Conservative WhatsApp group, chat room, social media thread… the members’ revolt is very real and their disenchantment is growing.
“I suspect there will be more punishments to come.”
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CDO chairman David Campbell Bannerman said: “Members should have every right to select – and deselect – their MPs. CCHQ has too much power in the process now, but cannot control everything.
“These MPs are now being held to account and being made accountable for a coup that has crashed the party in the polls. Those who turned on Boris Johnson are being punished. This deselection is hard evidence of this being real.”
Already other Tory MPs have understood to have been stopped from running again in the grassroots rebellion with claims that their part in Johnson’s downfall may have played a part.
This includes Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart and Stoke Central MP Jo Gideon.
Ms Gideon announced recently that she would not run again while Ms Hart, who has a lot of support on the right of the party, is understood to be taking her case to the constituency membership because she was blocked by a small number who made up the executive.
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Supporters of Mr. Sunak have previously accused the CDO as being a “Trojan horse” to bring back Boris Johnson.
Lord Cruddas, the CDO president and founder, claimed that this was because they were nervous about the anger of the party membership.
However, Mr Johnson has been fueling speculation that he is preparing for a comeback with a tour which included unveiling his portrait, attending summits on climate change in Egypt for COP27, economics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and being feted on trips to Ukraine. and the USA.
He has also been openly critical of Mr Sunak on not supplying fighter jets to Ukraine and, this morning, intervened on the Northern Ireland protocol negotiations making it clear he would lead a rebellion against a compromise.
Lord Cruddas, Mr Campbell Bannerman and Ms Bullivant were all behind a petition to change the party rules which would have allowed the membership a chance to vote on whether to accept Mr Johnson’s resignation.
The CDO, which is being supported by another Boris Johnson ally Priti Patel, has also pushed for members to get to elect the party chairman as their representative on the front bench.
Mr Green has previously courted controversy over allegations that hardcore porn was found on his Commons computer when it was confiscated by police investigating whether he was leaking government secrets while in Opposition to Tony Blair’s Labor Government.