Rishi Sunak faces leadership challenge as Tory MPs submit letters of no confidence

1 week ago 24

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak is facing a leadership challenge as Tory MPs are submitting no confidence letters (Image: House of Commons)

Rishi Sunak faces the threat of an accidental leadership contest after a wave of disgruntled Tories submitted letters of no confidence.

The Prime Minister saw off a plot to oust him when rebels admitted defeat after the .

But one MP revealed they have now formally called for the PM to go and so had a number of colleagues in the last few days.

It means that although there is no formal plot, the number of disgruntled MPs acting individually could trigger a contest without any coordination.

“The only question now is whether the number of letters submitted starts with a three or a four,” the Conservative said.

Only two Tories have gone on the record to say they have written to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of backbenchers, expressing no confidence in the PM.

Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke, who has warned the party is on the “crumbling bank” of a widening precipice, claimed in March that the threshold of 52 letters had nearly been met.

Former education minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns submitted a letter of no confidence last November.

The local elections were a crunch moment for Mr Sunak as plotters warned they would act if the results were dismal.

Although the party lost hundreds of councillors, its performance in Tees Valley, where Ben Houchen was elected for a third term as mayor, as well as in Blackpool, where it just held off the Reform party to secure second place, meant the rebels conceded defeat.

The Tory MP who has now submitted a letter said that a number of colleagues had contacted Sir Graham in the wake of the results.

But crucially, another wave was so irritated by a wide-ranging speech given by the Prime Minister on Monday that they had also followed suit.

The MPs felt it lacked a clear message and appeared to have been put together in a rush.

Some were particularly irked by the PM’s repeated mentions of artificial intelligence in the address on creating a secure future for Britain and felt the Prime Minister is wrongly prioritising the issue over bread and butter matters.

Sir Graham is the only MP who knows how many letters have been submitted or withdrawn at any moment.

But the Conservative shop steward is expected to give Mr Sunak a discreet warning if the number nears the 52 mark.

It is believed that Tory whips have submitted up to five letters that they could later withdraw in an early warning system to alert the PM when the trigger point is closing in.

Mr Sunak would easily see off a no confidence vote as the vast majority of Tory MPs are against a change of leadership before the election.

But if a contest is triggered, his opponents believe he may decide to quit rather stagger on after being wounded.

None of the main contenders to replace Mr Sunak are planning to make a move on Mr Sunak.

But they are all said to be ready to act if he stumbles into an accidental leadership challenge.

Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch, Robert Jenrick and Priti Patel are the favourites to battle it out in a future contest.

No 10 dismissed the latest claims about the number of letters being submitted.

A source said: “Simon Clarke said months ago they were near the threshold.

“If we all had a pound for every time they said this!”

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The claims came as Tory election strategist Isaac Levido held another briefing for MPs on the implications of the local election results.

According to his analysis, the election is closer than people believe.

Mr Levido believes Dudley and Harlow local councils show it is not a done deal.

Sir Keir Starmer campaigned in both areas with the hope of taking them for Labour but failed.

The projected vote share from all of the local elections puts Labour nine points ahead instead of 20, though academics caution heavily that a national parallel cannot be accurately drawn from the results.

But some senior Tories fear the general election result will be worse than 1997 when Sir Tony Blair secured a Labour landslide.

One ex-Cabinet minister was reportedly overheard in the voting lobbies warning colleagues: “This will be worse than 1997. People know how to vote tactically to get us out now.”

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