the independent debate

Independent readers slam senior Tories amid alleged plot to replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt

Readers didn’t hold back, calling the Conservatives everything from a ‘dire smorgasbord of incompetence’ to political lightweights akin to ‘hydrogen balloons’

Friday 03 May 2024 09:33 BST
Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt
Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


As an alleged right-wing plot to replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt made the headlines this week, we asked you who you thought should take the reins of the Tory Party.

The discussion centred on the UK’s general political landscape, with Independent readers expressing their disillusionment with all the major parties, pointing to failures in governance, broken promises, and a detachment from public interests.

Criticism, however, was mainly squared at Tory leadership since 2010 — from David Cameron to Rishi Sunak and from Theresa May to Boris Johnson.

As for future prospects, Penny Mordaunt’s potential leadership was questioned, with concerns about her voting record and lack of experience for the role of Prime Minister.

Overall, there was a compelling mood of discontent towards the current political climate, with a call for meaningful change and accountability.

Here’s what you had to say:

‘The Tories are the past’

It does not really matter who is Tory leader. The party will lose badly whenever the election is called.

I personally will not vote for the party whoever they have as leader. A lot of voters are simply turned off our politicians so who leads a particular party is of no interest. We want our public services fixed, and be made to feel there is hope for the future.

The Tories whether under Sunak or someone else are the past. I personally have no enthusiasm for Labour. I am hearing far too little that will differentiate them from what the current government has done or said. I live in a safe Labour seat so I will not be adding to their majority. Mine will be a third-party vote as it has been for the past 50 years.


‘Corruption and dodgy deals have become the standard’

Nobody can save the Tory party if the electorate comes to its senses! They've caused misery for so many and still are. Brexit has torn through UK society. The instigator of that - a weak PM who hoped to solve his internal party problems is now prancing around the world as foreign secretary, despite having run away after losing to the right wing anti-EU brigade factions.

The Tories have underfunded and run down all the essential services in the UK. People pulling their own teeth out who can't see a dentist, cancer patients unable to see doctors, schools underfunded and the education system failing so many. Infrastructure: roads, transport, school buildings and hospitals crumbling not to mention the shortage of affordable housing.

Serious crime, particularly in the cities seemingly out of control. Then there's the total mishandling of the migrant issue. Crazy schemes going nowhere. Their Rwanda scheme doing nothing more than confirming the UK's pariah status as it intends to ignore international law.

Their sole focus has been on greater enrichment of themselves and their friends. Corruption and dodgy deals have become the standard. Lies flow freely and many government ministers have been promoted to jobs way above their ability. Doing jobs they know little or nothing about.

The electorate can only watch on as they fly around the world in their private jets and helicopters feeling important and feeding their ego as children go hungry and the only growth industry (if you can call it that) is food banks!


‘It’ll take a miracle to save the Tories’

As Penny Mordaunt has worked as a magician's assistant, she could try to use those same skills to try to assist the Tory party from defeat. But seriously it's going to take more than magic and conjuring tricks to stem prospective Tory losses.

Sunak has been trying to pull the same old rabbits out of hats like coshing immigration and stamping out benefit scroungers to get a few voters on his side. But it hasn't generated the same excitement it might have done; voters are a little more sophisticated than they used to be, which means pulling the wool over their eyes isn't as easy.

The polls stand at 20% for the Tories, 46% for Labour. It'll take a miracle to save the Tories. It's too late to oust Sunak even if anyone at this late stage were interested in replacing him. Many are intending to leave, around 67 MPs have given notice. Now what about the Tories on the other side of the House like Starmer, Reeve, Steering?


‘Tory assault on human rights’

My lasting memory of Mordaunt will be when she became disabilities minister, this was at a time when the disabled were being vilified and 'tortured' by the Tories. In all the time she was the minister I checked very carefully at what she was doing, or not, all I could find that she actually did was to be on a swimming-based TV show and then auction off her swimsuit.

At this time the Government was twice found guilty of breaching the human rights of the disabled by our own High Courts and subsequently sanctioned by the UN for this. We are all surely now aware of the Tory assault on all our human rights. Human rights that are being consistently eroded under 14 years of Tory Governments.

In fact, it was one of May's 2017 campaign pledges to take away everyone's human rights, something she tried to do twice.


‘Concerning state of affairs’

The political system in our country is broken. The Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem parties no longer represent the interests of those who elected them. The Labour Party, once known for supporting working people, now have disdain for them.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party are a shambles. As for the Lib Dems, they are little more than a punchline. It's a concerning state of affairs when the major political parties fail to connect with or adequately serve the people they're supposed to represent."


‘Sunak is probably the best they have left’

In 2010 our nation was in a reasonable state and fed up with New Labour. The coalition kept things up, but austerity didn't do the nation good. Many other nations tried austerity, but abandoned it sooner or later as ineffective. Cameron/Osborne lacked the intellect to change tack. May tried to square the circle of a 'damage free Brexit' and failed. Then the decline set in seriously.

Johnson couldn't be bothered to govern. He was in it for the glamour alone. Truss/Kwarteng brought in Cloud Cuckoo economics. Then finally the Tories selected a halfway competent PM, but they needed a brilliant one, ergo he failed.

Does the Parliamentary Conservative Party have anyone among them whohis more than halfway competent? No, they have not. Boris Johnson chased all those away before the 2019 elections. Sunak is probably the best they have left and he has shown to be grossly inadequate. The Tories are toast.


‘Why not let them all fall into the fissure?’

The Tories have always had a fissure running right down their middle. When they start warring then it's the electorate that ends up paying the bill.

Why not let them all fall into the fissure?


‘All in the same camp’

Penny Mordaunt's USP is that she appears more relatable and less swivel-eyed loon than her probable fellow contenders. Of course, that's a relative comparison.

A cursory examination of her voting record reveals her right-wing sympathies:

  • Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.
  • Almost always voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
  • Consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support.
  • Generally voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the 'bedroom tax')
  • Generally voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.
  • Generally voted against increasing the state pension age for women more slowly.
  • Consistently voted for increasing the state pension age.

Ms Mordaunt may not signal quite the same obvious repugnance as Braverman, Badenoch, Patel et al, but she’s definitely in the same camp.


‘Actual hydrogen balloons’

Mordaunt is a working-class conservative who is socially more liberal than the ERG/UKIP tendency. Since Cameron, the Conservatives have reliably chosen, not so much lightweights, more actual hydrogen balloons.

From that point of view Mordaunt would be an improvement. But she does not have anything like the experience to be PM. When you look at past Conservative PMs, Churchill had a vast depth of experience in cabinet roles, Heath was extremely intelligent, but Thatcher had constantly to come up with stunts to stay in power - monetarism, taking on the miners, the Falklands, selling council houses off cheap to potential Conservative voters, supporting Gorbachev - and then fell foul of the poll tax, a major misjudgement aimed at keeping retired single occupant Conservative voters happy and taxing council house tenants with children living at home.

Mordaunt would be subject to enormous pressure from the barking right which she lacks the experience and depth of support to resist, which is presumably why they want her. Her job would be to lose the election so she could be replaced by a headbanger, especially if she loses her seat.

If she declines, she has a chance of becoming leader of the opposition and feeling her way into the role against a demoralised Conservative Right - provided she keeps her seat.


‘Bottom of the barrel’

Given the fact the bottom of the barrel has been scraped so hard and so frequently (only to come up with dross) I suggest installing an AI instance.

It would be unlike 'real' politicians as it's been fed with data and opinions of thousands of people; not just the ones that allegedly have a fat wad of cash to wave around. Based on that, we might even get some reasonable decisions!



You mean like Cameron did. Then May. Then Johnson. Then Truss. Then Sunak. What makes Mordant a more viable alternative?

PM4PM...catchy slogan. But then Johnson had a similar catchy slogan...BJ4PM.


‘Dire smorgasbord of incompetence’

None of the pictured candidates would save the Tories or make a credible Prime Minister. Past performances at the dispatch box suggest that Mordaunt would make the most effective leader of the opposition but she is not certain to retain her seat.

Opting for any right wing candidate will bring the Tories even more into conflict with a buoyant Reform Party. That’s a battle worth fighting only if they can win it and be assured that the right wing bandwagon that some parts of the electorate are signed up to will become more widespread.

That’s the logical assessment but if we’ve learnt anything from this iteration of the Conservative Party it’s that all logic goes out of the window as blind panic overtakes reason. So in reality any of this dire smorgasbord of incompetence could be parachuted in to replace Sunak!


Some of the comments have been edited for this article. You can read the full discussion in the comments section of the original article.

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