London, United Kingdom | AFP | British Prime Minister Theresa May has sacked Michael Heseltine, a senior figure in her Conservative Party, from various advisory roles for rebelling against the government in a Brexit vote in the House of Lords.
Heseltine, 83, a former deputy prime minister nicknamed “Tarzan” for his mane of hair and macho reputation, said he was called away from dinner with his wife late Tuesday to be sacked.
“My preoccupation has been from the very beginning that I believe that the referendum result is the most disastrous peacetime result that we’ve seen in this country,” he told BBC radio on Wednesday.
Heseltine, who had been working three to four days a week in an advisory role for the government, said he was surprised at the suddenness of his sacking, since his position on Britain leaving the European Union was already well known.
He was one of 13 Conservatives in parliament’s unelected upper House of Lords who voted for an amendment proposed by the opposition Labour Party on Tuesday that would give parliament the final say on how Britain leaves the EU.
Heseltine said the prime minister had “entirely the right” to sack him but added: “I’m sorry that the expertise which I have put at the government’s disposal over the last six years has now come to an end”.
“However, in the last resort, I believe… the future of this country is inextricably interwoven with our European friends,” said Heseltine, a former defence minister who was once seen as a possible future prime minister.
“It’s the duty of parliament to assert its sovereignty in determining the legacy we leave to new generations of young people,” he said.
May’s spokesman said at a daily briefing on Thursday that Heseltine had been asked to stand down because he “voted against the official position of the government”.
“The government would like to warmly thank Lord Heseltine for his service,” he said.
The amended bill empowering May to begin Brexit is due to go before parliament again next week and the government has said it plans to trigger the two-year EU divorce proceedings by the end of this month.
The sacking was interpreted by some commentators as a warning to potential Conservative rebels in the elected lower House of Commons not to vote against the government.