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Sunak tells Tories they are like England cricket team – down but not out

PM tries to cheer up deflated Conservative MPs at central London dinner

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Friday 02 February 2024 13:21 GMT
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Voters savage Sunak and Starmer during focus group

Rishi Sunak tried to cheer up deflated Conservative MPs by comparing the party to England cricket’s heroes.

The prime minister likened the Tories to the English cricketers who produced an unlikely comeback by beating India in the first test.

The Conservatives have been trailing Labour in the polls by around 20 points for months – but the Tory leader told his troops this year’s general election could still be won.

The PM made the comparison at a dinner with around 100 of his MPs on Thursday night, according to Politico – insisting the party was down but not out.

The Tories’ general elections chief Isaac Levido is said to have used the event at the Londoner hotel to tell MPs than there are an estimated 10 million voters who “don’t know” which party they will back.

And Mr Levido promised the MPs that they would be getting another 15,000 leaflets for their constituency after chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s March 6 budget.

Current polls predicts a Tory wipeout for Sunak and the Conservatives (PA Wire)

The Tory strategist recently attempted to gee up MPs by insisting he wouldn’t waste his own time on a doomed enterprise. “I wouldn’t be here unless I thought we could win,” he said.

CCHQ is grasping at the idea of winning over enough “don’t knows” to force a closer contest, perhaps denying Sir Keir Starmer a majority even if Labour win the most seats.

One minister recently revealed that internal polling shows that at least 20 per cent of Tory voters in 2019 have not made up their minds which party they will support.

Mr Sunak’s address comes as cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch shrugged off claims that she is a member of a WhatsApp group titled “Evil Plotters”.

The grassroots Tory favourite told ITV News on Thursday: “I think this is a nonsense story. This is the media trying to fuel lots of gossip about Westminster.”

The business secretary is not believed to be pushing to replace Mr Sunak – but she has reportedly been holding regular lunches with key backers including housing minister Lee Rowley and digital minister Julia Lopez.

Dougie Smith, a senior Tory strategist who has worked as an adviser to successive PM, is aiding a group of rebels MPs and ex-advisers actively plotting to oust Mr Sunak, according to The Times.

Although Ms Badenoch has no involvement with the plotters, the group of disgruntled right-wingers are said to believe she is best placed to succeed Mr Sunak if he is pushed out in the months ahead.

Kemi Badenoch reportedly a member of an ‘Evil Plotters’ WhatsApp group (PA Wire)

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, another leadership favourite, was urged to reveal if she is a traitor or a faithful after being accused of giving a “bizarre” tribute to Mr Sunak – akin to the misdirection efforts in the hit BBC show.

Labour raised questions about Ms Mordaunt’s recent defence of the “best of Great Britain” PM after senior Tory Simon Clarke had called for Mr Sunak to be sacked.

Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell compared it to The Traitors, the BBC reality programme in which a small group of “traitors” remain undetected as they plot to remove a wider group of “faithfuls” in order to win a cash prize.

Ms Mordaunt did not directly answer the accusations – instead insisting that she and the Tory party had been “faithful” to the British public. “I will make the case that we are faithfuls on this side of the House.”

LBC host Nick Ferrari is also said to have joked about the BBC show as he spoke at the Tory dinner last night – saying his listeners now believed party is “more like an episode of The Traitors”.

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