Grantham MP Nick Boles defends his association critics as "loyal patriotic people"
Grantham MP Nick Boles won claps and cheers during an open meeting with constituents tonight, but has he done enough to save his career?
Either way, he made it clear: “I’m not going anywhere.”
Around 150 people packed the pews of the historic St Martin’s Church, Stamford, where he spoke on brexit and the threats to have him removed as the constituency MP.
Division was clear all along, from audience members having heated little debates around me, to the MP having to tell two people that they may be thrown out if they continued disrupting proceedings.
But the most unity came from what seemed to be a majority-Remain audience at the event that was organised by pro-EU campaigners, even though they stressed the meeting was open to all.
During questions, one Conservative Association member told Mr Boles and the audience he was “pretty shaken” by an interview the MP gave in the Evening Standard where the MP said he was he that first called the Tories “the nasty party.”
And that he was working with Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn to stop a ‘No Deal’ Brexit “just fills me with horror.”
The Conservative member said: “A lot of us don’t want another Quentin Davies, what makes you think you are fit to remain as our MP?”
Mr Boles responded: “Quentin Davies defected to the Labour Party when the Labour Party was in government. I have been very plain. I could never join the Labour Party or do anything to make it more likely to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.”
To claps from the audience, he continued: “But that doesn’t mean that I am entirely happy with the Conservative Party in its current position. Have I ever been entirely happy? Right from the start I have tried to change the party. I have tried to modernise it, make it more liberal and outwardly looking.
More claps followed: “If the Conservative Party can’t live with that, it’s their choice. It’s a democracy.”
Eyeing what seem like a more pro-Remain audience, Mr Boles then urged people to join the Conservative Party.
“We have had lots of people who have joined the Conservative Party who used to be in Ukip. They have absolutely every right to try and get a candidate who reflects their views more than me.
“If you think I am going to change my views (because of UKIP members joining) then you have underestimated your member of parliament.”
Another member of the public also raised the issue of the MP’s potential deselection, saying that their MP should be determined by “not 100-200 hardcore extremists” in the Conservative Party but the wider community.
Mr Boles then defended his association.
“They are not extremists. There are 1-2 people who used to be members of UKIP but most do have concerns about the positions I have been taking and the proposals I have been making.
“They are loyal patriotic people who believe that Britain will be better off outside the EU, that I was elected to deliver on that referendum and they believe that I am engaged in frustrating that. This is what i think is the motivation of my critics.”
“If I were deselected, I will still be MP whatever happens. I intend to remain the MP until the next election at least. I’m not going anywhere, even if I have a different label.”
He again repeated his call for people to join the Conservative Party, noting UKIP members have done and how Momentum supporters have changed Labour.
He told them: “There’s no tests of what your beliefs are.”
Naturally, the two hour meeting covered a whole raft of Brexit-related issues.
Mr Boles spoke of the division the Brexit issue has caused, which a second referendum would make worse.
He also spoke on his wish to stop a no deal brexit, believing it would be so damaging.
He expected prime minister Theresa May would secure a deal, adding that with the Labour Party now supporting a similar arrangement to his Common Market 2.0 or Norway Plus proposals, a deal was now more likely with involvement from other parties.
After the meeting, association chairman Philip Sagar said he thought Mr Bole's recent actions and statements might have been the MP’s “last hurrah and he was looking for a way out.”
But he was pleased to see the MP defending the association after him having ‘upset’ so many members with his previous criticism of it.
Mr Sagar added: “He needs to get himself into the arena more often, meet people in the streets.”
Coun Matthew Lee, leader of South Kesteven District Council told the Journal that Mr Boles was “a very good MP.”
“He is my sort of Conservative. He is a one nation Conservative but he needs to make friends with people in the Conservative Association. He needs to talk to them.
“Nick has always had my support. I just wish he should stop making so many public statements and engage with us more. He has lots of supporters.”