Wed, 30 Oct 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has confirmed that he will not be standing in December's General Election.
But he has said will be out campaigning encouraging people to support his successor.
The Conservative MP had the party whip removed last month for backing efforts to pass legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.
But yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Benyon and nine other rebels were welcomed back in the Conservative fold.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News on having the whip restored, Mr Benyon said: "It was something that wasn't going to be all consuming. It wasn't something that I absolutely had to have but it's nice to have it back because it feels like a full stop.
"There's a certain freedom in being an independent but at the end of the day I'm a Conservative.
"I felt in what the Prime Minister said to us that there was a strong desire for his Conservative Party to be a broad one.
"I think he convinced me that he still wants the Conservative Party to be a broad, welcoming party. I have had my concerns over the last few months that it was narrowing."
When asked what he meant by the party narrowing, Mr Benyon said: "We have all seen what's happened in the Labour Party, where they have become very left wing trying to ease out centralists.
"With Brexit I was concerned we were going to the be same."
He said that the Prime Minister had given him the impression that he "wants to lead a party that's welcoming to people with a variety of views but enshrined in the same values".
He said: "I got the sense of standing down still part of the party I joined decades ago."
The rebel MPs had the opportunity to submit a written appeal to have the party whip restored. However, Mr Benyon said he had decided not to appeal the decision.
"Actually I just thought that it was a rather ridiculous route to go," he said.
"It was the Prime Minister who had removed the whip and he had the ability to restore it.
"He said that he thought what we did was damaging to what the Government was trying to achieve.
"I am more of the opinion that it helped the Government get the deal that it did.
"He was not in the mood for having an argument and nor were we."
MPs voted for Britain to go to the polls again on December 12, something Mr Benyon said needed to happen.
He said: "I think the Prime Minister was right to call an election. This Parliament has had it. This Parliament is incapable of resolving this issue [of Brexit].
"I wish we could have coalesced over the previous deal and got it over the line, now we have an agreement which most people in Northern Ireland seem quite keen on."
Mr Benyon backed the Prime Minister's deal last week, which would see Northern Ireland remain in the UK's customs territory and remain under some EU rules.
When asked if he would support any deal over no deal, Mr Benyon said: "I wouldn't support any deal but I recognise for many of my colleagues the backstop was a problem and we couldn't get it through Parliament and the Prime Minister has now dealt with this problem but Parliament still tried to kick the can down the road."
Mr Benyon said that the selection process for his successor was still being held and that a decision was due on November 10. But he added "I suspect that might be brought forward now. I'm hopeful they will select a good candidate and they will win."
And although he has decided to stand down, Mr Benyon said: "I am certainly expecting to be campaigning in and around West Berkshire. I think there's hardly a street that I have not campaigned in so I look forward to meeting old friends on the doorstep and trying to get them to support my successor."
Mr Benyon said he believed it was vital that the Conservatives had to win a majority in the upcoming election.
"We have the threat of a Marxist far left government, which would be a disaster for West Berkshire and the country.
"It's important that the Conservative Party is united and can stand on the basis of having secured a good deal and have the majority to push it through.
"I think the Liberals have made a major tactical error nationally which is to say to the 52 per cent of people in the country that they will just ignore their wishes and just tear up Article 50 and pretend that Brexit never happened.
"In an area like West Berkshire, which voted marginally to remain, there are people like me who wanted to remain but they are democrats and respect the message of the British people.
"They don't for a second believe that just by axing Brexit the issue will go away. I would be ashamed of a party in government that tried to do that
"Most people in West Berkshire want to get on with it. There are uber remainers who are grieving for the result of the referendum."