Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, Stephen Phillips’ resignation because of “irreconcilable policy differences with the current Government” is odd in that for the Brexit referendum Phillips was an ardent Leaver.
Here’s the key part of his resignation statement today: “It has become clear to me over the last few months that my growing and very significant policy differences with the current Government mean that I am unable properly to represent the people who elected me. This decision has been a difficult one and I hope that everyone will respect the fact that I have tried to act in the best interests of all of my constituents.”
Phillips has been complaining recently that the Government is pushing for hard Brexit without a mandate to do so. Phillips has repeatedly called for Theresa May to reveal her Brexit plan to Parliament before beginning the formal process of leaving the European Union. And he has previously warned against the “tyranny” of denying MPs a vote on the Government’s stance in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
Last month he called for an urgent debate in the House of Commons on the matter, insisting that bypassing Parliament was “simply not an acceptable way for the executive to proceed”. Phillips told Speaker John Bercow in a letter: “I and many others did not exercise our vote in the referendum so as to restore the sovereignty of this Parliament only to see what we regarded as the tyranny of the European Union replaced by that of a Government that apparently wishes to ignore the views of the House on the most important issue facing the nation.”
It seems odd that a Leaver should be throwing his toys out of the pram in a pique of Goldsmithian immaturity when you look at loyal Tories who voted Remain, like Nicholas Soames and Ken Clarke, who are, relatively speaking, behaving in a civilised and grown-up manner. Could it be, perhaps, that barrister Phillips is not happy with his progress as an MP and misses the money of a full-time QC?
Those who haunt the darkest of Westminster corners seem to think there’s a scissor movement afoot:
Phillips’ resignation comes after the High Court ruled that the Prime Minister must get parliamentary approval before triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the formal process of leaving the EU, a decision against which the Government is appealing.
It is not yet clear whether Mr Phillips, who won the seat last year with a majority of more than 24,000, will stand as an independent in a future by-election although, according to most sources, this is thought to be unlikely.
Phillips’ resignation is hardly likely to worry Theresa May or the Government too much. They will be annoyed that yet another by-election needs fighting but Phillips (part of the 2010 intake) was obviously not someone going places fast and he has rather confirmed his reputation in the corridors as a bit of a parliamentary misfit. As with Goldsmith, the underlying motive leads back as ever to ego.
As one Tory source close to Mother said today, “Stephen who?”