David Gauke has alleged that the prime minister is “goading” rebel Tory MPs to force a general election having purged opponents of a no-deal Brexit.
Gauke accused Boris Johnson of deliberately wanting to lose votes to block a no-deal departure from the EU this week.
Speaking with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said, “I don’t think there seems to be a huge effort to persuade people to support the government this week. I think they seem to be quite prepared for there to be a rebellion, then to purge those who support the rebellion from the party.
“None of that is happening. The usual operation isn’t particularly happening. It does seem to me they are almost goading people into voting against the government.
“Because I think the strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and then seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal.”