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Tories downplay Mordaunt ‘plot’

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Tories downplay Mordaunt 'plot'

Senior Tories have sought to downplay reports that some Conservative MPs are plotting to replace Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister with Penny Mordaunt before the general election.

A source close to House of Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt rejected claims of an organised attempt to elevate her to the Tory leadership as “nonsense”.

Conservative former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who has publicly backed installing a new leader before the nation goes to the polls, denied that right-wing Tory MPs were coalescing around Ms Mordaunt.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, denounced the idea as “madness”.

With many Tories increasingly concerned about losing their seats at the election, reports in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph suggested MPs on the right of the party met moderates this week to discuss uniting behind Ms Mordaunt if the Prime Minister faces a no-confidence vote.

It followed a difficult week for Mr Sunak, in which he came under fire over his handling of racist comments allegedly made by a major party donor, and the defection of Lee Anderson – who Mr Sunak had promoted to Tory deputy chairman – to the right-wing populist Reform UK party.

Ms Mordaunt, who was a contender in the party’s leadership race to replace Boris Johnson in 2022, has not commented on the claims but allies suggested she was focusing on her ministerial role.

Ms Jenkyns tweeted: “Interesting to hear lots of media reporting of centre-right Conservative MPs pushing for a certain leadership candidate to replace Rishi.

“Having spoken with lots of my colleagues, no one seems to have heard or been pushing for such a thing!”

Noise about Mr Sunak’s position grew louder in Westminster this week, after Jeremy Hunt’s Budget failed to boost the Tories’ dire polling figures and No 10 struggled to deal with the fallout from Frank Hester’s remarks about MP Diane Abbott, which Mr Sunak eventually condemned as “racist” after 24 hours of prevarication, while still refusing to return the £10 million the businessman has donated to the Tory party.

But a No 10 source said: “The PM is focused on delivering on his plan to build a brighter Britain.

“The plan is starting to work with inflation down, mortgages down, wages up, the economy forecast to grow and the boats down by a third. But there’s more to be done – that’s what the PM is concentrating on. In contrast Sir Keir Starmer has no plan and would take us back to square one.”

The febrile mood within Mr Sunak’s ranks came as he ruled out holding a general election on May 2 to coincide with local elections, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.

A growing list of Tory MPs have announced their exit from Parliament, with armed forces minister James Heappey, ex-party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis and former prime minister Theresa May some of the most recent additions.

More than 60 Conservatives have so far said they do not plan to run, prompting Sir Ed Davey to accuse many of “running away from the Liberal Democrats because they know that we can beat them in those seats”.

Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of his party’s spring conference in York, the Lib Dem leader expressed optimism about nabbing Conservative constituencies “across the south west of England and across the whole blue wall where it’s a Liberal Democrat-Conservative fight”.

“The response we’re getting is phenomenal. Lifelong Conservatives switching to the Liberal Democrats, which gives us great, great belief that we can beat many Conservative MPs whenever the election comes,” he said.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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