20/02/2019 16:30 GMT | Updated 21/02/2019 15:00 GMT

The Independent Group Defections: David Cameron Warns Tories To Stay 'Modern' And 'Compassionate'

Former PM says party must be open to "different views" on Brexit.

David Cameron has warned the Conservative Party it must be “modern” and “compassionate” if it wants to remain in power.

The former prime minister issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon after three Tory MPs dramatically quit the party to join the new Independent Group.

“We need strong voices at every level of the party calling for the modern, compassionate Conservatism that saw the Conservative Party return to office,” he said.

“Our party has long been able to contain different views on Europe. Everyone must ensure that can continue to be the case.”

Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston hit out at Theresa May’s “disastrous” handling of Brexit as they quit the Conservatives today.

And they appealed to fellow one-nation Tories to join them in the budding party.

At a Westminster press conference, they made clear that their concerns about May’s performance went far wider, accusing the PM of throwing away the modernisation agenda begun by Cameron and allowing the party to be taken over by right-wing Brexit hardliners.

Soubry said she would not stay in the Conservatives to “skirmish on the margins when the truth is the battle is over and the other side has won”.

She said: “The right wing, the hardline anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every leader for the last 40 years are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe. They are the Conservative Party.”

The Broxtowe MP urged “fellow one-nation Conservatives” and “like-minded Lib Dems” to “please, come and join us” by breaking away from their parties and joining the new grouping.

She accused a “purple Momentum” of hard-right “zealots” of trying to force out MPs on the Remain wing of the party through deselections.

Allen described the Tory trio as the “three amigos” who had joined the “magnificent seven” ex-Labour MPs who launched The Independent Group (TIG) on Monday and Joan Ryan, who joined them on Tuesday evening, as the “lone ranger”

She said she believed “a significant number” of Conservative MPs were considering joining them.