London Reporters Unity, Manchester: Dominic Raab has warned 21 Tory rebels that “history would never forgive you”, if they helped Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn become a caretaker prime minister.
His comments during a speech at the Conservative Party Conference came amid growing speculation about a potential vote of no confidence in the government.
The Foreign Secretary said: “To any of our colleagues – or former colleagues – who may just be tempted to put Jeremy Corbyn and that Momentum mob into No 10 as part of some temporary anti-Brexit coalition, I just say this: history would never forgive you.”
The Foreign Secretary insisted the hard-Left Labour leader must be kept out of power at all costs as he turned up the heat on 21 MPs ousted from the party for joining a Commons mutiny against No Deal.
Accusing Mr Corbyn of taking the Kremlin’s side in the Salisbury nerve agent atrocity, and praising the ‘failed socialist experiment’ in Venezuela, Mr Raab said ‘some things are bigger than Brexit’ – adding: ‘Keeping that lot out of Downing Street is one of them.’
The sabre-rattling came amid mounting speculation that Boris Johnson will face a confidence vote in the Commons – perhaps as early as this week while Tory conference is taking place in Manchester.
The SNP has been urging Labour to try to evict Mr Johnson from Downing Street, saying they would back Mr Corbyn as a temporary PM with a mandate to get a Brexit extension from the EU.
However, Mr Corbyn has so far resisted triggering a contest, saying he wants a Brexit delay in place before taking action that could result in an election.
If Mr Johnson lost a confidence vote, there would be a two-week period in which another politician could try to put together a majority.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, an election is only held if that proves impossible.
It is still far from clear Mr Corbyn could secure a majority in the Commons to replace Mr Johnson in No10.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has insisted she would never put the veteran left-winger in charge of the country, and he would also need at least tacit support from the exiled Conservative rebels.
But there would be immense pressure on her to fall into line if the Opposition won an initial confidence vote. Remainer MPs have told MailOnline they were concerned Ms Swinson is getting ‘itchy feet’ about the potential seat gains the party could see at an early election, given it is riding high in the polls.
If Mr Corbyn could get the SNP and Lib Dems on board he would be getting close to the magic 320 votes he needs.
However, he would still require support from some of the 21 former Tory Remainers – plus Amber Rudd who quit in solidarity – to get over the line.
In any case, the Labour leader has said he will not table a motion of no confidence until he is certain Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not take the UK out the EU without a deal on October 31.
After criticising Mr Corbyn, Mr Raab said: “I say this as a passionate Brexiteer, there are some things even bigger than Brexit – and keeping that lot out of Downing Street is one of them.”
He reiterated the government’s main policy of taking the UK out of the EU by the Brexit deadline, saying “if the EU spurns the opportunity for a win-win deal, we will leave at the end of October – no ifs, no buts”.
The government’s lead on no-deal planning, Michael Gove, took the stage after Mr Raab and sought to allay concerns about what might happen in the event of no deal.
He said there will be “some turbulence” in the event of a no-deal Brexit because the Government cannot “anticipate every risk”, but said preparations have “accelerated”.
He told the Conservative Party Conference: “The level of our preparations has accelerated massively since Boris became Prime Minister.
“Now, of course, we can’t anticipate every risk, we can’t guarantee against some turbulence and that’s why we’d much prefer it to secure a deal with the EU before October 31.”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also put the boot in Mr Corbyn when he gave his speech to Conservative members.
“I do not think Jeremy Corbyn is a bad man,” he said.
“But he is a weak man, too weak to lead his party.”
He went on: “Behind him there may be stronger men, like Sir Keir Starmer, poised as if Brutus, stiletto in hand, awaiting the moment to strike – striking of course being something the left are quite fond of.”