Priti Patel attacks Rishi Sunak for overseeing ‘managed decline’ of Tory party

Boris Johnson supporters to stage conference today in the wake of heavy local election losses for Tories

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Saturday 13 May 2023 18:06 BST
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Tories need to 'unite,' minister says as Priti Patel accuses Sunak of party's 'managed decline'

Priti Patel has accused Rishi Sunak of overseeing a “managed decline” of the Conservative Party following a dire showing at the local elections which saw the Tories lose more than 1,000 councillors.

The former home secretary will be the keynote speaker at Saturday’s conference Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), where she is set to admonish “those in power and control in our party”.

The CDO was set up by supporters of Boris Johnson after he was ousted from office following a rebellion led by cabinet members, including then chancellor Rishi Sunak, that eventually led to his place in No 10.

Speaking about the group’s first conference in Bournemouth, the former home secretary told the i newspaper that the idea of giving Tory members a say was “very topical at the moment” after a gaping hole was left in the party following significant losses in the local elections.

Ms Patel said that “none” of the councillors who lost “have been reached out to, or have heard a mea culpa apology for the party”.

She added that “if we carry on with managed decline there won’t be a future for conservative values and beliefs”.

She is also expected to take a further swipe at the prime minister for not going “out there meeting people”, which she claimed had cost them critical seats.

Former home secretary Priti Patel criticises Tory leadership following huge losses in local elections

Her comments come as senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who represents Bournemouth East, hit out at his colleagues for stoking division in the party.

The defence committee chairman wrote in The Times: “A drag anchor of a right-wing caucus is in our ranks, and it has already written off any prospects of victory in 2024.

“As statecraft finally returns to No 10, guiding us into far calmer waters, less-than-subtle plots are afoot to shift our party to the right during the blame game that invariably follows electoral defeat.”

The Conservative Democratic Organisation was set up by supporters of Boris Johnson following his removal from office

He criticised an excessive focus on tax cuts, “Europe bashing” and culture wars, warning: “This is a recipe for disaster, as disloyal as it is reckless. It fails to recognise the fighting chance we have of winning.”

Speaking after giving a speech in central London, Sir Keir Starmer, said, unlike Labour, the Tories had failed to fix their “fundamental differences”, adding: “It is two or three parties within one party. That sounds familiar, but we have dealt with it.”

“I have always said that among Sunak’s weaknesses is that he didn’t actually win a race to be leader of his party. The problem that gives him is that he doesn’t have a mandate for change.

“The Tory party has been a divided party for a very long time.”

The CDO has repeatedly insisted it is not focused on bringing back Mr Johnson, but several of his most prominent backers are speakers at the conference, including former cabinet ministers Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Members are expected to debate a seven-point plan for regaining control of the party. This includes making changes to the way leaders are installed, following the group’s disapproval of Mr Sunak’s rise as Tory leader, without membership approval, following the downfall of Liz Truss.

The gathering, which includes a gala dinner, is described as being for “like-minded patriots who ... want to save our party and our country”.

Mr Johnson is not expected to attend.

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