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Sunak insists Tories are united despite speculation about plot to oust him

18 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Prime Minster Rishi Sunak speaking during a visit to Warwickshire. Photo Carl Recine/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak insisted the Tory party was united despite speculation about a plot to replace him as Prime Minister before the general election.

The Tory leader claimed he was “not interested” in “Westminster politics”, insisting he was focused on the UK economy.

He said that “all Conservatives are united in wanting to deliver a brighter future for our country”.

Mr Sunak’s failure to turn around the Tories’ opinion poll deficit has fuelled speculation about Conservative MPs considering replacing him with Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt in an attempt to avoid a general election disaster.

‘Poisoned chalice’

Asked during a visit to the West Midlands why he did not let one of his “disloyal colleagues” have the “poisoned chalice” of being Prime Minister, Mr Sunak said: “I’m not interested in all Westminster politics. It doesn’t matter.

“What matters is the future of our country. And that’s what I am squarely focused on.

“That’s what I get up every morning, working as hard as I can, to deliver – whether it’s cutting people’s taxes, increasing the state pension… today increasing the number of apprenticeships and talking to small businesses.

“Those are the things that matter to people. And as we have seen over the last few weeks, our plan is working. Inflation is coming down, wages are growing and the economy is back to growing again.”


Highlighting tax cuts, state pension increases, and progress on tackling illegal migration as things that matter to people, Mr Sunak added: “We are absolutely united in delivering for the country on these important matters.”

Mr Sunak said the past few years were “not easy for me”, but he believes there are better times ahead.

He acknowledged it has been a “tough few years”, with Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine sending energy bills and inflation soaring.

He said: “None of that is easy – not easy for me, not easy for any of you.

“But we really have turned the corner at the start of this year. Inflation has been more than halved. Mortgage rates, energy bills falling, wages are rising, consumer confidence, business confidence increasing.”

The successive 2p cuts in national insurance have been “significant” for workers, and firms are also benefiting from tax cuts if they invest.

“So that’s the backdrop – after a tough couple of years, we’re now pointing in the right direction and that actually gives me a lot of confidence for the future,” he said.


His comments came as Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch told plotters seeking to oust the Prime Minister to “stop messing around” and end the “Westminster psychodrama”.

Ms Badenoch suggested “one or two MPs” are behind the Westminster rumours and they should not be allowed to “dominate the news narrative”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “I’m sure if Penny was here, she would be distancing herself from those comments.”

Ms Mordaunt has not publicly commented on reports about a bid to elevate her to the Tory leadership, but a source close to her rejected them as “nonsense”.

On LBC Radio, Ms Badenoch said: “People need to stop messing around and get behind the Prime Minister.”

She also insisted she was fully behind the Prime Minister and said she had “shut down” rumours about her own leadership ambitions.

But “there will always be people who will speculate on your behalf”, she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Ms Badenoch, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2022, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I have made it very clear that Rishi Sunak is the person who is going to lead the country into the election.

“I support him fully.”

Mr Sunak faces another tough week with his Rwanda Bill potentially facing a bruising row as it goes back and forth between the Commons and Lords, and an appearance before the backbench 1922 Committee.

The febrile mood within the party came after a bruising few days for the Prime Minister, with the defection of Lee Anderson – whom Mr Sunak had promoted to Tory deputy chairman – to the right-wing populist Reform UK party, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget failing to boost the Tories’ dire polling figures.

Mr Sunak also came under fire over his handling of racist comments allegedly made by major party donor Frank Hester.

Mr Hester is alleged to have said opposition MP Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Asked whether the party would accept another £5 million from Mr Hester on top of the £10 million already donated, Mr Sunak said: “He’s already apologised for these comments.

“And my point of view is when someone apologises genuinely, expresses remorse – that should be accepted. And that’s that.”

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4 months ago

14 years now and they still cannot make it work. Austerity has ruined people. Boris sacked the competent people in the party and we are left with the idiots, there is no talent to call on. His policies killed people during covid, he reinstated Braverman and had 30p as deputy chair, now he accepts money from someone who wants to harm MP’s and that money will pass through the hands of all the door knockers pushing leaflets out and adverts. The party is a joke and a danger to people in the UK. It needs to have a voting wipe… Read more »

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