Michael Heseltine has had the Conservative Party whip suspended after saying he would vote for the Liberal Democrats in this week’s European parliament elections.
The Tory peer’s comments led to calls for him to be expelled from the party.
Lord Heseltine, a former deputy prime minister, said it was a “matter of conscience” and that he wanted to vote for a candidate who would oppose Brexit.
“I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government,” he said in an article in the Sunday Times.
His call for the Conservatives to move back to the political centre ground was supported by former PM Sir John Major.
But hardline Brexiteer MP Andrew Bridgen reacted with fury, telling BBC Radio 5 Live that “Lord Heseltine’s arrogance that he knows better than the majority of the electorate [is] really quite breathtaking”.
On Monday night a spokesman for the Tories said: “Lord Heseltine has given more than half a century of service to the Conservative Party, and his longstanding and sincerely held views on Europe are well understood.
“But, with his long experience, he will know that publicly endorsing the candidates of another party is not compatible with taking the Conservative whip in parliament.
“As a result, the chief whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended. This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections.”
Lord Heseltine, 86, was a key figure in Sir John’s and Margaret Thatcher’s governments, and advised David Cameron.