No 10 behaving as if Rishi Sunak is ‘as popular as two years ago’, says minister

Downing Street is allowing Rishi Sunak to hog the limelight as if he were “as popular in the polls as he was two years ago”, a Cabinet minister has said.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said No 10 should stop “placating” the Prime Minister and instead give air time to more popular colleagues such as Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt.

Mr Mercer vented his frustrations in a private memo written on his laptop, of which photos have emerged.

(PA Graphics)

A passenger travelling on the same train to London as the politician on May 6 handed the pictures of his laptop screen to The Times.

The Plymouth Moor View MP wrote: “Political communication seems haphazard, un-themed and loose. We have average performers during important slots. How many people did (Transport Secretary Mark) Harper win over for us this weekend?

“Team in No 10 operating as though the PM is as popular in the polls as he was two years ago. It appears to be all about placating him/managing him/promoting him on social media.

“We are only going to get through this as a team. There are good, capable senior colleagues around the Cabinet table who people clearly like, who should see more air time and be more prominent.”

Polls of Conservative members showing that Business Secretary Ms Badenoch and Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt are more popular than Mr Sunak “should not be ignored”, he said.

Both are seen as potential Tory leadership contenders if the party loses the next general election.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Johnny Mercer said No 10 should give more air time to Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch (UK Parliament/Maria Unger/PA)

Mr Mercer, who has been an outspoken backer of Mr Sunak, also wrote that too many special advisers were “overpromoted and underskilled” and had “poor political judgments”.

He said that despite his access to No 10 and the Prime Minister, “I don’t feel part of the team”.

His efforts to persuade No 10 to allow veterans to use their IDs at polling stations had been blocked by special advisers, he said, adding: “Feels like even I cannot have any impact on the grid/government comms.”

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “With high-profile Tory ministers exposed as lacking confidence in Rishi Sunak and his weak leadership, it’s no wonder the British public are demanding it’s time for change.

“The only way to turn the page and end the ongoing Tory chaos is with a Labour government delivering change the country needs.”

Mr Mercer’s office and No 10 have been contacted for comment.