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Who is Sir Simon Clarke? The MP mocked for trying to start a rebellion against Rishi Sunak

The long-standing ally of Liz Truss said his party risked an election ‘massacre’

Joe Middleton
Thursday 25 January 2024 09:03 GMT
No one likes the guy shouting ‘iceberg’, says Tory rebel Simon Clarke

“Get a f***ing grip” is not the reaction Sir Simon Clarke will have been hoping for from fellow Tory MPs when he launched a putsch against Rishi Sunak on Tuesday night.

The long-standing ally of Liz Truss said his party risked an election “massacre” unless the current prime minister is ousted and that Mr Sunak has gone “from asset to anchor.”

His plan to replace Mr Sunak was given received short shrift in a Tory WhatsApp group, with the previously mentioned sweary riposte reportedly sent by Tory minister Andrew Bowie.

Senior Conservatives also piled in to deliver equally scornful verdicts on the Brexiteer’s plan, saying he has “lost his senses”, his coup attempt would “go nowhere”, and that he was a “self indulgent tosser”.

Former Brexit secretary Sir David Davis said the cabal on the right of the party was “getting silly” and Dame Priti Patel said Mr Clarke was engaging in “facile and divisive self-indulgence”.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood chimed in as well, saying that Mr Clarke was “throwing his teddies in the corner” and that the intervention was “dangerous, reckless, selfish” and “defeatist”.

In fact no-one seems to rallied behind Sir Simon, even his close ally and intellectual bedfellow Ms Truss has not joined the cabal to try and oust the prime minister.

MP Simon Clarke speaks to the media after leaving cabinet office on Whitehall on February 08, 2022

So just who is Sir Simon, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland whose planned rebellion against the prime minister looks like it’s turning into a damp squib?

Sir Simon grew up in Marton, Middlesbrough, and after school went to Oxford University where he graduated and later qualified as a solicitor.

At university he was chairman of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 2006 and post-graduation would go on to work for Dominic Raab as a parliamentary assistant.

He was later elected as an MP in 2017 and then re-elected in December 2019 as former prime minister Boris Johnson swept to power.

Sir Simon is a committed Brexiteer and submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May when she was prime minister in 2018 after her so-called “Chequers Plan” to leave Britain aligned with the EU.

Simon Clarke was a keen supporter of Boris Johnson (Tim Clarke/Daily Express/PA)

Sir Simon’s loyalty to Mr Johnson was rewarded a few years later when he joined the Cabinet in 2021 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

However, Mr Johnson’s premiership came to an end after a series of political scandals and he was forced out of No 10 on 6 September 2022 upon his resignation.

Sir Simon refused to join fellow Tory MPs and condemn Mr Johnson, praising him for having “delivered Brexit when no other major politician would or could have” and praised his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After spending some time on the backbenches he returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, under Ms Truss’s short premiership.

He was a committed supporter of Ms Truss to win the Tory leadership in the summer of 2022 and shares many of her political ideas on low taxation, economic growth, cutting red tape, immigration and the European Union.

Simon Clarke attends Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss's campaign launch

After Ms Truss’s disastrous mini-budget economic policies sparked a market crisis she resigned and Sir Simon followed her in quitting to go back to the backbenches.

Shortly after Ms Truss’s resignation he helped set up the Conservative Growth Group (CGG) so that allies of the former prime minister could push free market ideas popular in the further right of the Tory party.

He is expected to pay a significant role in Ms Truss’s new faction, the ‘Popular Conservatism’ group, which is being launched early next month.

The new group, which is also backed by former ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ranil Jayawardena, is being formed in order to push Mr Sunak’s manifesto further to the right prior to this year’s general election.

He’s also proved irritating to Mr Sunak in other ways, as he was one of 11 MPs who voted against the prime minister’s Rwanda plan, which succeeded in getting through the House of Commons.

Another notable thing about Sir Simon is his height, he is the second tallest MP in the House of Commons. He is 6’7, only slightly shorter than Daniel Kawczynski.

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