Tory MPs have warned that the Conservative Party is at risk of being “hijacked by extremists”.
Remainers Anna Soubry and Phillip Lee have criticised an attempt by a leave campaign to have prime minister Theresa May replaced as Tory leader.
Last week, Leave.EU, which was founded by former Ukip donor Arron Banks, called on its supporters to join the Conservative Party in order to have their say on its leadership.
It wants one of Brexiteers Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg to replace Mrs May.
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) August 16, 2018
On its Twitter account, the group posted an image of the two men with the message: “Fed up of how this weak ‘conservative’ government has handled Brexit?
“A leadership contest is inevitable. Join the huge number of our members already flooding the Tory party, ready to elect a true Brexiteer.”
The group has posted a link to the membership page of the Conservative website with the message: “Help put the spine back into the Tory party.”
But their plan has sparked anger among pro-EU Conservative backbenchers.
Dr Lee, who resigned as a junior minister earlier this summer in protest at the government’s Brexit plan, called Leave.EU’s attempts “entryism”.
He said: “An organisation funded by Ukip’s former backer wants its members to join the Conservatives just to get a new leader.
Yet more evidence of entryism. An organisation funded by UKIP’s former backer wants its members to join @Conservatives just to get a new leader. Time to wake up & act against a hard right Momentum. If you’ve ever voted Conservative please join to stop this https://t.co/Ypyd1b0bBl
— Dr Phillip Lee MP (@DrPhillipLeeMP) August 16, 2018
Blatant infiltration of @Conservatives by another political party to overthrow the PM & elect a #UKIP backed leader & force a no deal #HardBrexit ppl did not vote for. @BrandonLewis must introduce measures to prevent a Blue Momentum take over of the Conservative Party https://t.co/RojJkt2e1b
— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) August 19, 2018
“Time to wake up and act against a hard right momentum. If you’ve ever voted Conservative please join to stop this.
“We’re seeing dangerous political polarisation which — if the silent majority doesn’t act — will sink our great country and party. Very worrying for true Conservatives.
“I don’t want our party to be hijacked by people on the extreme as Labour has been.”
Ms Soubry described the move as a “blatant infiltration” of the Conservative Party.