The decision of Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen to leave the Conservative party is the dominant story across UK’s front pages, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
The Mirror called the event “Brexodus”, saying it was a sign of “Tories in Meltdown”. “The Tory party was in chaos last night”, wrote the paper, which said the “under-fire PM was braced for a further exodus”.
The i’s splash was “Tories join the exodus”, reporting that the departures were “set to continue from both Tories and Labour – with more MPs ready to quit”. The paper also reported David Cameron’s criticisms of the direction the party has taken under Theresa May, saying “the country needs “modern, compassionate Conservatism”.
The Guardian’s headline was “Now the Tories split: rebels denounce grip of hardliners”, focusing on the MPs’ comments that “Theresa May had allowed the party to fall prey to hardline Brexiters and that the Tory modernising project had been destroyed”.
It was reported the decision by the MPs to leave for the new Independent Group will have a considerable impact on political life in Britain, sending shockwaves through Westminster, reducing May’s “already tenuous working majority”, raising questions about her authority and providing “the latest evidence that Brexit is reshaping the political landscape”.
The Sun was apoplectic about the news, running the headline: “Split hits the fan”. The newspaper calls the women “Brexit haters” and “turncoats”, and featured a decidedly unflattering picture of Anna Soubry, unlike other papers which show her laughing. “The shock development,” wrote the paper, “slashed the embattled PM’s working Commons majority to just eight.”
The Daily Express was similarly unimpressed, featuring a photograph of Soubry, Allen, and Wollaston smiling as they walked down the street under the headline: “No laughing matter”.
“At the 11th hour, these Remain MPs abandon the Tory party as May faces critical Brexit talks. But what on earth is there to smile about?” asked the paper, which also referred to the women as “Tory turncoats”.
Some papers focused on the comment by Heidi Allen that “if we do our jobs right there won’t be a Tory Party to go back to”.
The Daily Telegraph’s splash was: “Tory defectors march out with a vow to destroy the party”. But the paper was dismissive of the clout of the “three amigos”, as the paper noted Soubry called them, running an opinion column by Rob Wilson under the headline: “Most Tories will not miss these three MPs who thought they were bigger than the party”.
The Daily Mail’s headline (“I want to kill off Tory party”) paraphrased Allen’s comments, and called them an “astonishing claim”. The Mail questioned the timings of the “bombshell resignations” which came “just as Theresa May prepared to enter a critical period that will determine whether she gets her Brexit deal over the line”.
The Times led with David Cameron’s involvement in the matter, saying “David Cameron urged the three Conservative defectors to stay in the party hours before they quit and accused Theresa May of being taken hostage by hardline Brexiters”.
The Financial Times was the only paper not to lead with the story of the newly independent MPs, but did feature a picture of the “Tory trio” on its front.