Sunday, 19 May 2024

Fears are growing on the Tory right that Rishi Sunak is trying to destroy them

Suella Braverman addresses speeding fine controversy

It is clear now that sections of the right of the Conservatives are gearing up for a civil war within the party, most likely after the next election, but possibly before.

Maybe they need to take a deep breath but within the space of three days, starting on Friday , two things happened which have convinced former senior ministers in the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss governments that Rishi Sunak intends to destroy their wing of the party.

The first was the revelation on Friday that CCHQ (Conservative headquarters) is planning on tightening up its candidate selection procedures.

While the claim was that this was to “exclude narcissists” and avoid sexual allegations and the like, it was immediately taken as code to mean a different agenda of ”stopping selecting real conservative Conservatives.”

Then as tensions mounted again, there was an attempt to politically assassinate Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the last standard bearer for the right in the Cabinet.

To say that these two events have caused a meltdown of apoplectic fury behind the scenes would fail to do justice to the rage among a number of MPs on the right of the party.

And it soon became clear that while the view was the Braverman revelation had been a civil service leak to damage or remove another Brexiteer minister, others believed Downing Street had its fingerprints on it too.

One former Cabinet minister told “I am absolutely convinced Downing Street was in on this and that have even come from Downing Street.”

Another Tory MP said: “It’s no coincidence that this came just after Suella had dug her heals in on reducing immigration numbers.”

When the point was raised that Ms Braverman was “difficult to sack” because of her status as the token right winger and her role in helping Sunak to defeat Boris Johnson, a second former Cabinet minister laughed adding: “You could not be further from the truth.”

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The ex-minister noted: “He [Sunak] doesn’t care. He thinks that the right has no support and he can win without us.

“He is only too happy to have a Cabinet of liberal lefty wets and ignore the right of the party altogether.”

What bemuses many is that the issue of a speeding ticket and asking for advice seems to be such a minor issue.

But other MPs on the right of the party suspect that there is an attempt to eradicate them altogether.

Just before Sunak’s flight to Japan and the G7 last week two conferences for the right of the party took place back to back.

The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) in Bournemouth channeled grassroots anger about the way members had been ignored.

Then the National Conservatism Conference in Westminster provided a platform for many of the right to air their ideology and ideas.

It was clear that there was a gulf between both conferences and what Mr Sunak and his allies on the liberal side of the party stand for in the Conservative Party.

One of the keynote speakers at the NatCon conference was Suella Braverman who gave a visionary speech, almost a pitch for a future leadership bid.

So, a third ex-Cabinet minister told that it was no coincidence that the changes in candidate selection had been revealed soon after.

The ex-minister said: “They are thoroughly uncomfortable and do not command any confidence of the grassroots members.

“The thought police are now in charge.”

CCHQ had talked about putting an elite unit in place to wheedle out troublesome candidates causing some mirth with the former minister.

“There’s nothing ‘elite’ about that place. They will be paying firms to undertake ‘due diligence’ on people.”

The senior MP was “100 percent” convinced that the changes were about replacing “real Conservatives with Lib Dems” as Tory candidates.

The ill humour is not being felt by people who have lost ministerial jobs.

In the red wall where the Tories made such huge gains in 2019 there is a feeling that the politics of Brexit and immigration control which helped them win have been abandoned.

The way that Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch ditched plans to get rid of thousands of EU regulations still stings.

And there is a suspicion that the campaign funds are being used to protect the Blue Wall in the south.

One MP in a red wall seat on the right of the party was reportedly messaging donors because he was down to a final £150.

Another red wall MP said: “I have tried to be loyal. I didn’t want Rishi [as leader] but I swallowed it.

“But there seem to be less and less reasons to be loyal.

“Nobody is convinced he will sort out the immigration and if Suella is sacked for such a nonsense offence, then it will tell us a lot about what is going on.”

Already the Brexit U-turn on EU regulations had provoked discussions about letters asking for a vote of confidence in the leader again.

People like Jacob Rees-Mogg have warned such ideas are for “fruit loons” but one MP on the right noted: “I’m beginning to wonder what there is to lose with that.”

Somehow with all this going on Sunak has to try to haul his party to overcome a 16-point Labour lead.

As one exasperated backbencher noted yesterday: “It almost feels like some of my colleagues actually want us to lose.”

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