Writing in The Telegraph, Sir Simon Clarke, who served in the Treasury while the prime minister was chancellor, said Sunak being in charge while the country went to the polls mean “extinction is a very real possibility”. And while Clarke said Sunak was not solely to blame for the party flagging, he nevertheless argued that the prime minister has “gone from asset to anchor” – and insisted that “his uninspiring leadership is the main obstacle to our recovery”.
Clarke has previously turned against the prime minister by voting against his Rwanda Bill at its third reading earlier this month along with 10 other Tory MPs. His intervention comes as opinion polls consistently showing a large Labour lead, with many former Tory voters switching to Reform UK.
However, Clarke has not been supported by other senior Tories, who warned that voters would not look kindly on another leadership contest during a general election year. Former Brexit secretary Sir David Davis said: “The party and the country are sick and tired of MPs putting their own leadership ambitions ahead of the UK’s best interests.”
Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel, who has previously criticised the party over its immigration policies, said: “At this critical time for our country, with challenges at home and abroad, our party must focus on the people we serve and deliver for the country. Engaging in facile and divisive self indulgence only serves our opponents, it’s time to unite and get on with the job.”
Meanwhile, former prime minister Liz Truss, whose 2022 leadership bid Clarke threw his support behind before serving as levelling up secretary in her cabinet, reportedly does not back his intervention.
While Clarke’s intervention is the latest example of Tory infighting, it is not believed Sunak is in any immediate danger of a leadership challenge. A contest would only be triggered if 53 Tory MPs submit no confidence letters to the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee.
Opposition parties have been quick to jump on Clarke’s comments, which they say is part of a “never-ending Conservative soap opera”.
Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said: “There are many good reasons for getting rid of this clapped-out Conservative government and liberating the British people from endless bouts of Tory infighting is certainly one of them.“
So what do you think about the prospect of Sunak quitting and the Tories having a fifth leader in as many years? Have your say in the poll below