Former international development secretary Rory Stewart has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was sacked from the Conservative Party by text message.

The one-time Cabinet minister had the whip withdrawn after voting against the Government on Tuesday evening.

Mr Stewart said the decision on who should be a Tory candidate should rest with local associations.

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"This really should be a choice for local Conservative associations and not a central decision," said the former leadership hopeful.

"This is not a Conservative way of behaving."

Mr Stewart called the decision to throw him out of the party "astonishing" and said it was something "you associate with other countries" rather than Britain.

He received the news of his sacking as he was being given the GQ award for politician of the year.
Asked how he received the news, the Penrith and the Border MP said: "It came by text."

He added: "It was a pretty astonishing moment. Remember, only a few weeks ago I was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Boris Johnson and I was in the Cabinet. And it has all gone very quickly in six weeks.

"It feels a little bit like something you associate with other countries - one opposes the leader, one loses the leadership race, no longer in the cabinet and now apparently thrown out of the party and one's seat too."

Mr Stewart said there were other Tories who had been wanting to block no-deal but were convinced to back the PM.

"There are 30 or 40 MPs who agree with us entirely but didn't vote with us partly because the threat being made here is terrible for people," he said.

"It is not just that they were threatened with losing their incomes and jobs, but people feel deeply loyal to the Conservative Party, they want to give the Prime Minister a chance, they don't want to bring in a Jeremy Corbyn government.

"He has been able to use all of that and he's been promising people he can get a deal out of Brussels, but the truth is there is absolutely and never has been any majority either in the country or in Parliament for no-deal. That has been true all the way through - I said it in the leadership race."

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Ministers have begun arriving for a Cabinet meeting hours after the Prime Minister's defeat in Parliament on Tuesday night.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps declined to answer questions as they arrived at Number 10.

Mr Stewart told the BBC that the PM's attempt to force through Brexit without Parliament's consent would effectively be akin to making the country take a "poison pill" that would divide the nation for 40 years.

He said: "I would like to stand as a Conservative for the Conservative Party [at the next election] and I have full confidence that the Government will eventually realise that this is no way to treat a party because in the end we have to bring the country together. This has to be about compromise.

"One of the strongest reasons why this is the wrong thing to do is because to deliver Brexit like this is to create a poison pill which for 40 years will divide this country straight down the middle.

"If you are going to deliver Brexit at all, try to do it legally, constitutionally and with consent."

The Prime Minister's brother and universities minister, Jo Johnson, rushed into Number 10 as he arrived for Cabinet.

Other arriving colleagues also declined to answer journalists' questions, including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng defended the decision to withdraw the whip from Tories who voted against the Government on Tuesday.

Referring to the move to expel former leadership candidate Rory Stewart, he said: "On this central issue, on this key question of Brexit, he chose to vote against the Government and chose essentially to give control of the order paper to the opposition.

"It was very clearly stated that Conservative MPs would lose the whip. Now 21 of them out of 312 - that is about six per cent - chose to vote against the Government and they had the whip withdrawn. That was very clear."

He added: "I think it is a shame - a lot of them are very talented people. But you cannot have people standing as Conservative MPs when they are against the Government's policy on the key issue of the day."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Kwarteng criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for failing to back a general election.

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Mr Corbyn has said his party would only vote for an election once the bill blocking no-deal has been passed.

The junior minister said: "What is very clear to me is the leader of the opposition has said consistently that he wants a general election and it is perverse of him to say now that he doesn't want one, and it appears to me he is rather frightened of a general election.

"We have had three years of this debate and we have gone round and round, and it may well be that a general election is the best way forward and the only way to solve the impasse."

Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said on Twitter: "How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for @NSoames? #anofficerandagentleman"

Boris Johnson tweeted: "Corbyn and his surrender bill would mean years of uncertainty and delay. I am determined to lead this country forward and take Britain out of the EU on October 31st."