Ten Conservative MPs who were thrown out of the parliamentary party after rebelling to prevent a no-deal Brexit have had the whip restored.
Senior figures including Sir Nicholas Soames and Alistair Burt are among those who have been readmitted following a meeting with the Prime Minister last night.
Earlier, a Number 10 source said the imminent snap election meant it was “crunch time” for 21 MPs who were kicked out last month, but only some of that group had agreed to climb the “ladder” back into the party in talks with the whips.
The MPs all supported the Benn Act, which forced a delay to Brexit unless a deal with the EU was agreed. Some also voted against the government’s programme motion on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, preventing ministers from rushing the legislation through the Commons.
“What has been very clear is there has been a ladder to climb for some of those 21 – some have taken the decision to climb that ladder, others have not,” the Number 10 source said.
“Since going back to the Benn Bill, some parliamentarians have done their best to pass the Brexit deal and pass the means to get a Brexit deal done. Others have not.
“Others have willed Brexit allegedly, but have consistently undermined the measures with which it would be delivered.
“If you vote against a programme motion you can’t claim to have tried to deliver Brexit, because if you deliberately do something which frustrates it and allows the choice of constant delay, it’s not going to happen.”
The ten Tory MPs who have had the whip restored are Alistair Burt, Caroline Nokes, Greg Clark, Sir Nicholas Soames, Ed Vaizey, Margot James, Richard Benyon, Stephen Hammond, Steve Brine and Richard Harrington.
That leaves senior figures including Philip Hammond, Ken Clarke, David Gauke, Justine Greening, and Oliver Letwin still outside the party.
Amber Rudd, who supported the government programme motion but remains outside the parliamentary party, also voluntarily surrendered the Tory whip after resigning as a minister. Sam Gyimah has joined the Liberal Democrats, while Rory Stewart has left the Conservatives altogether and is running for London Mayor as an independent.
Mr Hammond, the former chancellor, claimed yesterday that the snap election was an attempt to replace moderate Tory MPs with “hardliners”.
“I fear that the real narrative here is that the Vote Leave activists – the cohort that has seized control in Downing Street… want this general election to change the shape of the Conservative party in Parliament – to get rid of a cohort of MPs it regards as not robust enough on this issue and then replace them with hardliners,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.