One of the cabinet’s most prominent opponents of a no-deal Brexit has survived a no-confidence vote.
David Gauke, the pro-Remain justice minister who represents South West Hertfordshire, faced his local Conservative Association on Friday.
He said: ”Tonight, I argued that: We should not allow the party to be taken over by entryists. We should be a broad church. No deal would be immensely damaging to the UK.
“I defeated a motion of no confidence 123 to 61. I am grateful to the members of my association for their support.”
Hours later, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was "very pleased to have got it out of the way".
He said: "I was always pretty confident I was going to win but you never quite know who is going to turn up on the night, so I'm very pleased to have won and won pretty comfortably."
Mr Gauke blamed "entryists" for the plot to oust him, saying "a fair number of those who joined the party in the last few months have not previously been party members".
Leave.EU had said it wanted to “claim our first cabinet scalp”, with Mr Gauke being put up for “deselection” on Friday evening.
They had tweeted: “Tomorrow we claim our first cabinet scalp as David Gauke is up for deselection in South West Herts.
“With a new leader and potential election, now is the time to make the Conservative Party conservative again. If we fail? The Brexit Party wipes the floor with them. Win win!”
Showing a sense of humour about the attempt, Mr Gauke retweeted the Leave.EU challenge, adding: “Not so fast there, Arron.”
Mr Gauke had won strong public support from cabinet colleagues, including Jeremy Hunt, the Tory leadership candidate and foreign secretary.
Mr Hunt tweeted: “David Gauke is an outstanding cabinet colleague and we need him to carry on doing such a great job!”
Sajid Javid, the home secretary, who also stood in the leadership contest, also offered his support.
Mr Javid tweeted: “David Gauke an outstanding colleague and minister. Has consistently backed government and manifesto commitments. I hope his local association back him tonight.”
Following the defeat, Leave.EU tweeted: “BREAKING David Gauke survives his confidence vote. Can’t win them all!
“The Blue Wave rides on... Plenty of other petitions going in. We’re just getting started!”