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Sunak shoulders the burden for crushing Tory defeat as his party debates future

05 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Independent candidate Niko Omilana holds an “L” behind Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his speech at Northallerton Leisure Centre in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, after holding his seat.Photo Temilade Adelaja/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak shouldered the burden for a “sobering verdict” at the General Election, as competing Tory factions began their battle over the diminished party’s future.

The outgoing Prime Minister said it had been a “difficult night” and apologised to Conservative candidates who had lost their seats, as he held onto his own Richmond and Northallerton constituency.

Mr Sunak’s apology was echoed by Suella Braverman, but the Tory leadership challenger was sorry for her party’s record in Government, suggesting it had not listened enough to the electorate.

Elsewhere, former justice Sir Robert Buckland warned that a lurch to the right would be “disastrous” for the party after he lost his Swindon South seat.

Sobering

Speaking at Northallerton leisure centre after his result came in, Mr Sunak said: “The British people have delivered a sobering verdict tonight, there is much to learn… and I take responsibility for the loss.

“To the many good, hard-working Conservative candidates who lost tonight, despite their tireless efforts, their local records and delivery, and their dedication to their communities. I am sorry.”

The Prime Minister held onto his seat with a nearly 13,000 majority over his nearest rival, Labour’s Tom Wilson, but conceded defeat for the Tories amid crushing results elsewhere for the party.

Among the Cabinet ministers to lose their seats overnight were Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt to Labour, and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer to the Liberal Democrats.

Jeremy Hunt won the Godalming and Ash seat in Surrey despite a threat from the Liberal Democrats, and former home secretary Suella Braverman, elected to the new constituency of Fareham and Waterlooville, held onto her seat.

She said “I’m sorry” twice during her victory speech.

“I’m sorry that my party didn’t listen to you,” she said.

“(The) Conservative Party has let you down. You – the Great British people voted for us over 14 years and we did not keep our promises.

“We’ve acted as if we’re entitled to your vote regardless of what we did, regardless of what we didn’t do, despite promising time after time that we would do those things and we need to learn our lesson because if we don’t, bad as tonight has been for my party, we’ll have many worse nights to come.”

‘Patriotic’

Thanking voters in her constituency, Ms Braverman said they were “patriotic, common sense, kindly, dedicated, enterprising”.

The Hampshire MP wrote a Telegraph article earlier this week with the headline: “It’s over, we have failed.”

Asked about it, Sir Robert told the BBC: “I am afraid that is not an isolated example.”

He added: “We can see articles being written before a vote is cast at the General Election about the party heading for defeat and what the prognosis should be.

“It is spectacularly unprofessional, ill-disciplined.”

He also warned against a rightward tilt for his party, claiming it “would be a disastrous mistake and it would send us into the abyss, and gift Labour government for many years”.

Mr Shapps, who lost his Welwyn Hatfield seat to Labour, said his party had an “inability to iron out (its) differences” amid and endless “soap opera”.

And in Portsmouth, outgoing Tory MP Ms Mordaunt said the Tories had lost because they “failed to honour the trust that people had placed in it”.

She added: “Our renewal as a party and a country will not be achieved by us talking to an ever smaller slice of ourselves but being guided by the people of our country. And if we want again to be the natural party of government, then our values must be the people’s.”


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S Duggan
S Duggan
9 days ago

Sunak gambled and lost. Labour now need to deliver or find a Conservative party, that’ll undoubtedly move to the right, and the right wing Reform party threatening power in 2029. A very serious issue.

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