The Tory civil war over Europe continued unabated today as Iain Duncan Smith claimed key reforms had been “jettisoned” from the Queen’s Speech to avoid upsetting some voters.
Killing dead any hopes of a ‘Tory truce’ for the day, the former Work and Pensions Secretary said that David Cameron had watered down or junks bills in a “helterskelter pursuit” to win the EU referendum.
And with just over five weeks until the June 23 poll, Duncan Smith also slammed Lord Heseltine for his claims that Boris Johnson’s Brexit remarks made him unfit to be Prime Minister.
The row came as a new IpsosMORI/Evening Standard poll found that support for Remain had increased to 55%, while backing for Leave had dropped to 37%.
The Queen’s Speech had just 10 words on the ‘British Bill of Rights’, which has been watered down and won’t appear until after the EU referendum.
Eurosceptics also believed that key details were missing from the Counter Extremism Bill, in another attempt to avoid any controversy to put off floating voters.
They also claim more radical plans to tackle the BBC, and to curb trade union rights, have been abandoned to keep Labour voters on board.
And dumped altogether was David Cameron’s much-trumpeted plans for a ‘Sovereignty Bill’ to reclaim powers from Brussels. The only reference was Her Majesty saying ministers would “uphold the sovereignty of Parliament”.
Duncan Smith hit the airwaves to exploit the media circus around the Queen’s Speech and instead push the Vote Leave campaign.
“Many Conservatives have become increasingly concerned that in the Government’s helter skelter pursuit of the referendum, they have been jettisoning or watering down key elements of their legislative programme," he told the BBC.
“Whether it is the Trade Union Bill or the BBC Charter proposals, it seems nothing must stand in the way of winning the referendum.”
Today’s MORI poll showed Tory voters were shifting towards the Remain camp, and that the economy and immigration were much more important to voters than constitutional issues.
But Duncan Smith was particularly furious about the loss of sovereignty.
“Now it appears the much-vaunted Sovereignty Bill, key to the argument that the PM had secured a reform of the EU, has been tossed aside as well.
“The fear in Government must be that as no one in Britain buys the idea that the EU has been reformed, the Sovereignty Bill would draw the public’s attention back to that failure.
“After all, if the EU Court of Justice is supreme and can strike down our laws, the British people would have just laughed at the idea Britain can be sovereign unless we leave the EU.”
Duncan Smith also hit back at Lord Heseltine, who had told the BBC on Tuesday that Boris Johnson’s “obscene” remarks comparing the EU to Hitler’s Germany had shown “his judgement is going”.
The former Work and Pensions Secretary said Heseltine was "a man of the past who should stay in the past."
He told SkyNews that it was time to “cut the name calling because this is childish and the public are tired of it”.
Meanwhile, Johnson said: “The most important thing is that everybody should cut out the synthetic outrage about things I haven’t said and stick to the facts.”
Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Lord Heseltine's a frightful old humbug who divided the Conservative Party more than anybody else in our modern history and a period of silence on his part would be welcome."
But Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb insisted the Queen’s Speech proved the social justice agenda was still the Government’s focus.
“What we don't want to be doing is rushing forward and bringing forward proposals that are unworkable,” he said.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron hit out at the in-fighting.
"The Queen’s Speech was meant to be stop-gap to give the warring factions of the Tory party a couple of day’s respite from the referendum," he told HuffPost UK.
"It does nothing to address the key issues at stake - and nothing to stop the Tory civil war on Europe. This Queen’s Speech lacks ambition and does nothing for the next generation."