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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
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(PPC) 2024 General Election

Conservatives Divided Over Plot to Replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt

Conservatives Divided Over Plot to Replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt

Rumblings of discontent are growing within the Conservative Party ranks as a faction of right-wing MPs unite with moderate colleagues in a clandestine plot to oust Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and replace him with Penny Mordaunt. The disgruntled group believes that Mordaunt, who currently serves as Leader of the House of Commons, would have broader appeal to centrist voters and could potentially reclaim some of the ground lost to Labour if Sunak faced a confidence vote in the coming weeks.

David Mo, a senior political analyst at the Orthodox Conservatives, shed light on the matter in a recent interview. “At the moment, we’ve seen a situation where the Conservative Party has had so many leaders,” he said. “People are frustrated, the membership is frustrated, the voters are frustrated – in fact, a lot of voters are very apathetic about getting out to vote at the moment. We need some certainty, quite frankly, and we need strong Conservative leadership.”

For some within the party ranks, Mordaunt is viewed as a potential vehicle to provide that strong leadership. Her background in defense, having served as a Royal Navy Reserve officer, and her experience leading the House of Commons through tumultuous times, particularly in dealing with the Speaker, have bolstered her credentials in the eyes of her supporters.

However, Mo acknowledged that the idea of ousting Sunak could be seen as a “turkey voting for Christmas” scenario. “At the moment, a lot of people are very unhappy in the membership, especially with the general election looming – this could be in May or October,” he said. “The Conservatives need to come into that election united, and it would have to be, as they say, a coronation really, because there’s no way the Tories can afford to have another leadership contest.”

The situation presents a catch-22 for many Conservative MPs and members. While some may be dissatisfied with Sunak’s leadership, there is a reluctance to initiate another leadership change due to the potential for further instability and apathy among voters. As Mo put it, “It’s quite a hard situation for a lot of members and MPs at the moment who feel, as I said, stuck in this catch-22 situation, where they’re not having the right leadership at the moment but equally don’t want yet another leader.”

The prospect of Mordaunt becoming the next Conservative leader remains uncertain, but her alleged behind-the-scenes campaigning for the role has not gone unnoticed. However, the harsh reality is that whoever emerges as the Conservative leader at the next general election may find themselves leading the opposition party the day after, as is often the case for outgoing prime ministers following an electoral defeat.

Mo acknowledged this likelihood, stating, “Usually, after an election, one would resign after that, so it wouldn’t last long. I think it’s a very hard situation for whoever takes on the role or whether the Prime Minister continues forward.”

The brewing leadership crisis within the Conservative ranks has reignited the debate over the timing of the next general election. Some argue that an early election may be the only way forward, rather than dragging the process on until October or holding another leadership contest in the interim.

Mo expressed his view on the matter, suggesting that Sunak should have taken a more muscular approach in the recent budget, potentially scrapping inheritance tax and seizing the initiative on issues like the Rwanda asylum policy. “I believe that the budget should have been more muscular and stronger,” he said. “We should have really scrapped inheritance tax. Rishi [Sunak] now should leave the ECHR, really seize the day, and actually show some results on Rwanda. That’s what needs to happen – some initiative – then call an election and then put it to the people in the ballot box.”

However, the potential stumbling block for Mordaunt’s ascension lies in Sunak’s perceived moderate stance, which may not align with the desires of the more conservative wing of the party. As Mo pointed out, “This is the interesting thing because the Prime Minister, in the past, he supported Brexit. In the past, he actually modeled himself as the kind of the stronger candidate, yet it’s a fantastic opportunity for Rishi to prove to the membership and to the party that he is a man of business and that he will want to follow up on Rwanda and actually have proper legislation.”

The situation has become increasingly dire for the Conservatives, with defections and the looming threat of traditionally safe seats turning red in favor of Labour. Mo cited the examples of Lee Anderson’s departure and the “red wall” seats being at risk, stating, “This is a really bad situation, and some drastic measures are needed by the Conservatives to save the red wall and to save the vote.”

As the internal power struggles intensify within the Conservative Party, the future leadership and direction of the government remain shrouded in uncertainty. With the general election on the horizon, the party faces a critical juncture, navigating the delicate balance between appeasing its base and appealing to a broader electorate. The coming weeks and months will undoubtedly test the Conservatives’ unity and resolve as they grapple with the challenge of retaining power or risk being consigned to the opposition benches.

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