The Tory party broke out into infighting today as some MPs backed Rishi Sunak’s campaign to be Prime Minister whilst others took aim at him for being ‘treacherous’ and a ‘socialist chancellor’.
Senior Tories Liam Fox and Mark Spencer, the Commons Leader, yesterday joined the growing number of MPs who are backing Mr Sunak’s leadership bid.
Mr Sunak – whose resignation as Chancellor this week helped to trigger the huge rebellion against Boris Johnson that forced him to announce his departure – unveiled his campaign with a slick video yesterday.
In the clip, which has since been watched more than two million times, Mr Sunak promised to ‘restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country’.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, former International Trade Secretary Mr Fox described his colleague as ‘an outstanding individual’ and took aim at Mr Johnson for his desire to lavish money on policies despite the difficult economic situation the country faces.
Giving his support, Mr Spencer pointed to Mr Sunak’s ‘fantastic’ record in developing the job-saving furlough scheme during the coronavirus pandemic and added: ‘We have come out of Covid with one of the best economies in the G7 and I think that again is down to Rishi’s management and I think that demonstrates he has got the experience and the ability to do the job.’
Other Tories who have said they are backing Mr Sunak include former Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, former chief whip Mark Harper, ex-minister Andrew Murrison, and MPs Sir Bob Neill, Paul Maynard and Louie French. Overall, more than dozen MPs are supporting Mr Sunak’s campaign.
However, allies of Mr Johnson have hit out at Mr Sunak, with one senior Number 10 official branding him ‘a treacherous b*****d’, according to the Financial Times. Mr Sunak’s campaign team had been forced to fend off claims that he worked on his slick video before he had resigned as Chancellor.
Records do show that a campaign website – readyforishi.com – was registered last December. This URL now redirects to his current site, ready4rishi.com, which was set up on July 6, the day after Mr Sunak resigned.
Even before he made his formal announcement, Mr Sunak had come under fire from Johnson loyalists, with Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg denouncing him as a ‘the much-lamented socialist chancellor’ and saying he had failed to curb inflation.
Mr Rees-Mogg went on to tell the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday: ‘I will not be endorsing Mr Sunak for prime minister. I belong to a party that believes in low taxation and the former chancellor has talked about low taxation and delivered higher taxation.’
Speaking today, former minister Steve Baker, who is backing Attorney General Suella Braverman’s campaign for Tory leader, claimed Rishi Sunak is in an ‘unfortunate bind’ because he has got to ‘double down’ on his own economic policy to date.
Other MPs who have launched bids include former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and senior backbench Tory Tom Tugendhat. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is widely expected to stand, while other potential front-runners include trade minister Penny Mordaunt, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, and former health secretaries Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.
However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today ruled himself out of the race after what he described as ‘careful consideration’.
The Tory party broke out into infighting today as some MPs backed Rishi Sunak’s campaign to be Prime Minister whilst others took aim at him for being ‘treacherous’ and a ‘socialist chancellor’. Above: Mr Sunak leaves his home today
Senior Tories Liam Fox and Mark Spencer, the Commons Leader, yesterday joined the growing number of MPs who are backing Mr Sunak’s leadership bid
According to the FT, there was said to be ‘huge anger’ in Downing Street over Mr Sunak’s resignation.
A senior official close to Mr Johnson told the newspaper that he did not inform the PM of his intention to quit, although another Whitehall insider said Sunak ‘tried to call the Prime Minister but he didn’t answer’.
A Cabinet minister loyal to Mr Johnson said he and other allies of the PM would try to make sure Mr Sunak did not win the contest.
‘Rishi will get everything he deserves for leading the charge in bringing down the prime minister,’ they said.
Despite the criticism, another senior government insider said Mr Johnson saw Mr Sunak as having been a ‘great chancellor’.
Mr Sunak is believed to have stepped down from his role after a major bust-up with Mr Johnson over corporation tax.
The pair fell out last weekend, with Mr Sunak allegedly having refused point black to cut corporation tax despite the PM’s demands, according to the Telegraph.
The in-fighting also spread to other potential candidates, with new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi being described by one insider as an ‘idiot’, The Times reported.
Mr Zahawi accepted Mr Johnson’s request to replace Mr Sunak as Chancellor but then publicly called on him to step down.
Records showing that a campaign website – readyforishi.com – was registered last December. This URL now redirects to his current site, ready4rishi.com, which was set up on July 6, the day after Mr Sunak resigned
Mr Sunak’s website invites Britons to sign up to a newsletter ‘for the latest information and updates’ on the former Chancellor’s leadership campaign
‘I mean how can you show such terrible judgment. I’m afraid he’s totally blown it. It’s over,’ the source added of the saga.
Ms Truss was described by another source as ‘mad’ and ‘Boris in a dress’.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Mr Fox defended Mr Sunak’s reluctance to cut taxes, despite promises by other leadership candidates to do so.
‘We can cut taxes when we cut our spending, he said.
‘What we can’t do is borrow more to spend, we have got what £83billion this year we are spending on debt interest, our highest on record?
‘We shouldn’t be putting up taxes to spend more. So what I actually want to see is someone who has actually got a plan to see the spending of the Government controlled over time.’
Speaking today, former minister Ms Baker, who is backing Ms Braverman for Tory leader, said of Mr Sunak: ‘The problem that we’ve got with Rishi is that he’s in a bind that he’s got to double down on the policy that he has had.
Allies of Mr Sunak, 42, have contacted friends of the former Health Secretary, 52, arguing that he does not have the support or ‘infrastructure’ and that they are competing for the same voters
Mr Sunak said in his campaign video: ‘Our country faces huge challenges, the most serious for a generation. Someone has to grip this moment and make the right decisions. Because the choices we make today will decide whether the next generation of British people will have more opportunities than the last’
Rishi Sunak used his campaign launch video to talk about how his mother, Usha, came to Britain from East Africa at the age of 15
‘I believe that taxes in this country are too high at their current levels, so high that they’ll be doing more harm than good at these levels.
Ex-Chancellor registered his leadership website domain name in December – four days after Boris Johnson’s wine and cheese Partygate photo was published
Rishi Sunak had his campaign website domain name registered six months before Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister and just four days after the infamous photo of Downing Street staff eating cheese and drinking wine in the No 10 garden was leaked.
Records on DomainTools show that his website – readyforrishi.com – was registered on December 23, 2021. This domain now automatically redirects to his current website – ready4rishi.com – which was set up on July 6, the day after the Chancellor quit.
His campaign team denied it was their domain, saying they had been transferred addresses set up by other people.
‘Now, unfortunately, because Rishi’s record is of saying he wants low taxes, but then putting them up, he’s now got to double down on that record during this campaign. And that leaves him in a very unfortunate bind.’
Mr Baker said he had been ‘close’ with Mr Sunak, and regretted he was not able to be ‘more optimistic and positive’ about his economic record.
But Mr Fox insisted Mr Sunak was the right choice for Tory leader and also criticised Mr Johnson’s desire to lavish money on policies.
‘We can’t continue with what we have had in recent years, which was under Boris Johnson an instruction at all points just to keep on spending
‘I didn’t in 2019 vote for a high-spending social-democratic government,’ he added.
Responding to the claim that Mr Sunak worked on his video long before he resigned, Mr Fox added: ‘I have no idea how long that takes, nor do I think it is a big issue for anyone supporting him in this election.
‘I know quite a number of cabinet ministers who have been campaigning openly amongst by colleagues for quite some time now, so I’m not sure that is an issue. What is an issue what sort of leader will we have.’
Tory MP and newly-appointed minister Rehman Chishti also confirmed on Saturday he is ‘actively considering’ running for the post.
As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they ‘don’t knock lumps out of each other’.
‘They are all Conservatives. I think we’ve got to get through the thinning process very, very quickly,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Tory MP Mark Francois has said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward.
He told GB News: ‘I haven’t yet decided who I am going to vote for.
‘It looks like this is going to be the Grand National but without the fences, so we are probably heading for at least a dozen candidates at the moment.’
In a statement on social media, Mr Wallace said: ‘After careful consideration and discussing with colleagues and family, I have taken the decision not to enter the contest for leadership of the Conservative Party.
I want to be PM, says, er, Bill Wiggin: Assortment of Tory also-rans seize their moment to launch unlikely leadership bids – as Kemi Badenoch becomes latest big-hitter to join the race
A series of little-known MPs have put their names forward in the race to replace Boris Johnson in what the PM described as ‘the best job in the world’.
While the big hitters have held off from launching their campaigns – except for Rishi Sunak, who announced he was running yesterday – those with an outside chance have thrown their hats in the ring.
Backbenchers John Baron, Jake Berry, Bill Wiggin and Rehman Chishti have said they are considering a bid despite being virtually unknown outside Westminster.
Attorney General Suella Braverman and foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat have announced they will stand, but are languishing in the polls.
Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch is the latest name to join the already bloated list of wannabe leaders.
‘I am very grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues and wider members who have pledged support.
‘It has not been an easy choice to make, but my focus is on my current job and keeping this great country safe.
‘I wish the very best of luck to all candidates and hope we swiftly return to focusing on the issues that we are all elected to address.’
Ms Badenoch announced her campaign in The Times, with a plan for a smaller state and a government ‘focused on the essentials’.
She is backed by Lee Rowley, the MP for North East Derbyshire, and Tom Hunt, the MP for Ipswich.
The MP for Saffron Walden said she supported lower taxes ‘to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline’.
Writing in The Times, she also hit out at ‘identity politics’ and said Boris Johnson was ‘a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them’.
MP for North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowley, said he was backing Ms Badenoch.
Ms Braverman, writing in the Daily Express, promised ‘rapid and large tax cuts’ to ease inflation and said the energy crisis meant ‘we must suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net zero by 2050’.
Mr Sunak quit as Treasury chief on Tuesday night within minutes of Sajid Javid’s resignation as health secretary, which prompted claims the pair had coordinated their bombshell exits from Mr Johnson’s Cabinet.
In his resignation letter to Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak publicly questioned the PM’s competence and seriousness. He also described ‘fundamental’ differences between himself and Mr Johnson on economic policy.
The ex-Chancellor appeared to take another swipe at the outgoing PM in his campaign video.
Liam Fox announced on Twitter yesterday that he is backing Mr Sunak. He posted a link to Mr Sunak’s campaign website ready4rishi.com
Mr Spencer said: ‘You have to have the experience at the highest levels of Government to walk into being PM’
Other Tories who have said they are backing Mr Sunak include former Tory Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden
With Britain in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis with households suffering from soaring inflation, Mr Sunak asked: ‘Do we confront this moment with honest, seriousness and determination?
‘Or do we tell ourselves comforting fairytales that might make us feel better in the moment, but will leave our children worse off tomorrow?
‘Someone has to grip this moment and make the right decisions.’