Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has had the Conservative whip suspended after saying he would vote for the Liberal Democrats in Thursday’s European election.
The grandee, a lifelong pro-European, said he would “experiment” with voting Lib Dem because of the Government’s Brexit policy.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Lord Heseltine has given more than half a century of service to the Conservative Party and his long-standing and sincerely held views on Europe are well understood.
“But, with his long experience, he will know that publicly endorsing the candidates of an another party is not compatible with taking the Conservative whip in Parliament.
“As a result, the Chief Whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended.
“This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections.”
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said the move showed just how split the Conservative Party was right now.
The peer used a Sunday Times article to explain his decision to vote Lib Dem in the European contest.
“I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government,” he said.
Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames condemned the move against Lord Heseltine, telling Channel 4 News: “I think that’s a really stupid, bovine thing to do.
“I think it is a very silly thing to do.”
Sir Nicholas said he would have a “very strong word” about the situation at a meeting with the chief whip on Monday night.
Referring to the meeting, Sir Nicholas said: “I am going to have a full and frank exchange of views, but without coffee in his case.”
Speaking before the Tory announcement, Lord Heseltine was asked what losing the whip would mean to him.
He told Sky News: “Well, the sun will come up tomorrow morning.”
Lord Heseltine added: “They can take away the whip, but they cannot take away my integrity, or my convictions, or my experience.”