Boris Johnson is “goading” some Tory MPs to rebel so he can force a snap general election having purged opponents of a no-deal Brexit from the party, Conservative former justice secretary and rebel ringleader David Gauke has alleged.
Mr Gauke accused Mr Johnson of deliberately trying to lose votes to block a deal-less departure this week.
Mr Johnson has put rebels within his party on notice that they face losing the whip and being barred from standing for the Tories if they vote against the government.
Mr Gauke, the leader of the so-called Gaukeward squad of Tory rebels, said Mr Johnson’s s move was an “unusual” and “particularly confrontational” approach.
And he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he has not been subject to the usual “cajoling” from Cabinet allies to urge him to support the government’s line.
“I don’t think there seems to be a huge effort to persuade people to support the government this week. I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion, then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party,” he said.
“None of that is happening. The usual operation isn’t particularly happening. It does seem to me they are almost goading people into voting against the government.
“Because I think the strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and then seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal.”