A Tory MP named and pictured among 15 rebels in the Daily Telegraph’s controversial ‘Brexit mutineers’ front page story has revealed she has now received threats.
Anna Soubry raised a point of order in the Commons on Wednesday, in which she revealed her office had been forced to report at least five offensive and threatening Twitter posts to the police following the article’s publication on Tuesday evening.
Soubry is among several MPs - including father of the house Ken Clarke, former minister Nicky Morgan, ex-Attorney General Dominic Grieve and select committee chairs Tom Tugendhat and Sarah Wollaston - outed by the paper as preparing to vote against a government amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would see the UK’s Brexit date enshrined in law.
Less than two hours earlier, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May sought to distance herself from the article.
Conservative MP Michael Tomlinson asked his party leader if she agreed with him that “it’s part of our job to scrutinise, to debate considered amendments...importantly that we come together and deliver Brexit for our country and the British people.”
Avoiding referring directly to the article, the PM replied: “There is of course a lively debate going on in this place and that is right and proper and that’s important and there are strong views held on different sides of the argument, on both sides of this House.
“What we are doing as a government is listening to the contributions being made, we are listening carefully to those who wish to improve the bill and I hope we can all come together to deliver on the decision that the country took that we should leave the European Union.”
The story was dismissed on Tuesday as “a blatant piece of bullying” by ardent Remain campaigner Soubry while ex-shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umuna branded it “an ideological witch-hunt to bully Tory MPs to go against their instincts to do what they think best for our country”.
Broxtowe MP Soubry said she was not personally bothered and regarded being named as a mutineer as “a badge of honour”.
“We want a good Brexit, not a hard, ideologically driven Brexit,” she tweeted shortly afterwards, claiming some of her colleagues were “outraged” at having been left off the list.
Former education minister Morgan added: “I thought we wanted a culture of respect.”
Another ‘mutineer’, MP Heidi Allen, urged the newspaper to ‘bring it on’.
And Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston tweeted that ‘raising questions’ about a fixed date for Brexit was simply part of her job.
Even current Brexit minister Steve Baker, a long-standing campaigner for Leave who had been making the Government’s case in the House of Commons, dismissed the Telegraph story as “media attempts to divide” the Conservative Party.
And another Conservative minister, Alistair Burt, added the Telegraph appeared “small”.
Brexit secretary David Davis announced the amendment, aimed at setting in stone the UK’s March 29, 2019 exit date from the EU, last week.
MPs will vote on the government’s amendment later in the bill’s Committee stage.