RUTH Davidson has attacked Boris Johnson for narrowing the appeal of the Conservative Party after sacking 21 Tory colleagues, warning it posed a “big risk” to the party’s chances in a snap general election.

The former Scottish Tory leader, in a carefully calibrated newspaper article, echoed the words of Amber Rudd, the ex-Work and Pensions Secretary, who dramatically left the UK Government and relinquished the party whip at the weekend, saying the Prime Minister’s actions could prove “short-sighted”.

In an article for the London Evening Standard, the Edinburgh MSP, described Ms Rudd, a fellow Remainer, as a “slightly odd fit” for a Johnson Cabinet and quoted how she had described the removal of 21 colleagues from the party as an “’act of political vandalism’”.

Ms Davidson wrote: “It was obvious that this was personal. These weren’t just fellow travellers in the Commons, they were colleagues, friends and political soulmates from the same One Nation grouping of the party she inhabited. A clutch of former Cabinet ministers were among them; if they were expendable due to their Brexit position, what did that mean for her, who largely agreed with them?”

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The former party leader addressed the reasoning behind the 21 MPs’ dismissal; that it was to enforce discipline. “But these weren’t MPs who lacked discipline. They weren’t serial rebels; in fact, this vote was the first time some of them had broken the whip in their entire careers,” she declared.

Ms Davidson also took on the argument, put about by some Brexiteers, that by removing the 21 rebels it would help Mr Johnson in an election to replace them with “more compliant Conservatives”.

But she dismissed this argument, saying: “Well, I might serve in a different parliament in a different part of the country to the House of Commons but one thing I do know is campaigning. When I was head of the Scottish Conservatives I led our party through seven national elections and two referendums in just under eight years and increased our support at every level.

“Showing voters that you are a broad church with lots of different types of people from different backgrounds and areas of interest helps a party increase its appeal.

“Just as voters in rural Cumbria have different priorities in their daily lives to those in commuter London, so we as a party need to show a diverse slate of talented candidates who can deliver on those priorities in Parliament. Binning Rory Stewart in Penrith and Justine Greening in Putney, who have been re-elected multiple times by those communities and whose talents have led them all the way to the Cabinet table, seems to me a big risk.”

The ex-party leader went on: “To be a truly national party, you have to look and sound like the country you seek to represent. So for every Nicholas Soames — Eton-educated, former army officer and grandson of Winston Churchill, beloved in his mid-Sussex constituency — so you need a Guto Bebb, the Welsh-speaking nephew of a rugby international, representing Aberconwy in North Wales. Each would struggle to connect in the other’s seat, but both are a perfect fit for the communities they represent.”

She claimed that, given the “great sea-change in Scottish politics following the independence referendum,” she perhaps understood more than most how much a constitutional question could disrupt the old order of things when it came to voting.

“Even with an overriding issue, voters still want to see themselves — and their beliefs — reflected in a party’s candidates,” insisted Ms Davidson.

She noted that if there were a snap general election, the PM’s tactics appeared to be the same as those of his predecessor’s in the 2017 vote: hold on to Conservative seats, even the Remain-voting ones, and look to take as many Leave-voting Labour constituencies, primarily in the North, as possible.

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The gamble was that enough Remain-voting Conservatives would feel the party pull was more important than the constitutional question, while expecting decades-old Labour voters to cast tribalism aside for a Conservative Party that kept promising to deliver Brexit but, quite noticeably, had failed to deliver thus far.

“It’s a pretty big risk,” stressed the Tory MSP, “especially when, according to YouGov, 39 per cent of regular Conservative voters voted Remain at the Brexit referendum and it is unclear how many more who voted Leave did so in the full expectation that the process would be managed and a deal agreed. Last week’s sackings do nothing to reassure them that the Conservative Party is still their home,” she argued.

But the former party leader pointed out in a warning to Mr Johnson and his colleagues that the Remain Conservatives, the party “is at risk of losing,” were greater in number than the Leave Labour supporters it they were trying to attract.

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And she emphasised that since the sacking of the 21 rebels, party chiefs had been at pains to point out the average 10-point lead the Conservatives enjoy over Labour in the polls; yet this was similar to the gap enjoyed by Mrs May before she called an election two years ago and promptly lost her majority.

“Kicking 21 Conservatives — many very senior and well known by the public — out of the party makes us less of a broad church and, in voters’ minds, less representative of the country as a whole,” warned Ms Davidson.

“As satisfying as it might have been for those in No 10 frustrated by Commons stalling on Brexit, it may still prove as ‘short-sighted’ as Amber Rudd predicts,” she added.