UK

'Dumb' Theresa May Criticised For Sacking Minister Who Saw Jeremy Corbyn's Surge Coming

Robert Halfon warned party must appeal to disaffected working-class.

12/06/2017 21:36 BST | Updated 13/06/2017 12:12 BST

A Conservative minister who has long warned about the party ignoring working-class voters has been sacked by Theresa May.

Robert Halfon confirmed he had been stripped of his role as apprenticeships and skills minister as the Prime Minister continued her reshuffle.

The move was condemned by leading conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie, who said it showed May was “even dumber than I thought”.

The removal of the MP for Harlow, who is close to George Osborne, from the frontbench comes as May’s new policy chief warned how Tory cuts are turning off voters and Jeremy Corbyn’s surge was fuelled by tapping into concerns about austerity.

Halfon has been the party’s biggest cheerleader for “blue collar Conservatism”. Last year, he told HuffPost UK the Conservative Party was “in danger of dying” unless it convinces voters it stands for NHS nurses not BHS bosses.

Tonight, Halfon tweeted:

Shortly afterwards, Montgomerie wrote: 

“The one Tory MP who saw the Corbyn phenomenon coming has been sacked by MayHem. She’s even dumber than I thought.”

The move may also play into the ongoing May-Osborne feud. There appears to be no love lost between Osborne and May since he was replaced as Chancellor after her Tory leadership triumph.

On the BBC’s Marr Show on Sunday, Osborne revealed May told him “to get to know my party better”. The recently-installed editor of the Evening Standard branded May a “dead woman walking” on the programme.

Halfon, who served in the Treasury under Osborne for 10 months, told HuffPost UK last year the Conservative Party has to create a “grassroots movement” or risk “collapsing”. He added:

“We are in danger of being deserted by the millions of working people who have deserted Labour because they don’t feel we are on their side.

“They feel they are the party of BHS and not the NHS – by BHS I mean the corporate, awful revolting people like that Phillip Green and the dodgy guy he sold it to.”

Halfon claimed workers in his constituency’s branch of BHS were “thrown on the scrap heap because of the greed, the mismanagement of corporate capitalism”.

He went on: “The modern Conservative party needs to launch an assault on the so-called crony capitalism and protect workers and stand up for them.”

Halfon called for the Conservatives to become the “party of redistribution”, arguing that extra money generated for the Treasury by tax cuts for the wealthy should be used to cut taxes for the poor or help impoverished communities.

“That’s a Conservative idea of redistribution, rather than a socialist one which says you increase taxes on people and redistribute the wealth,” Halfon said.