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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Revolting Tories Part Ten

I have never known a Conservative Party split so publicly, but to have it do so in the middle of a general election is unprecedented. It is actually getting embarrassing.

The Guardian reports that Tory rightwingers are planning to present Rishi Sunak with demands for tougher action on immigration and human rights law before the election if the prime minister’s manifesto promises on Tuesday fall flat.

They say that prominent party figures including Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick are said by Tory insiders to be among those waiting to see how the manifesto is received by the public before they act:

In the event Sunak’s launch fails to shift the dial on the Tories’ floundering election campaign, one option under discussion is a press conference next week to set out a series of alternative pledges.

They are hoping to capitalise on an already weakened Sunak who vowed to fight on until the last day of the campaign after a terrible weekend in which he was criticised for missing part of the D-day commemorations.

On the campaign trail in West Sussex on Monday, the prime minister said he believed he could still win back voters and he did not accept that the election result was a foregone conclusion.

Asked if he had considered quitting, Sunak said “of course not” and said he was energised by the campaign, after ministers were forced to insist he would not be replaced as leader during the course of the campaign.

In the run-up to the publication of the Tory manifesto, MPs on the right of the party launched a last-ditch attempt to toughen up the position on the UK’s membership in the European convention of human rights.

Two sources from the New Conservatives grouping said they had pushed hard for it to commit to a referendum on ECHR membership or full withdrawal. “A lot of us will be making our position clear publicly,” one MP said.

One former cabinet minister said it was “plausible” that a rebel manifesto could be published in the days ahead, with tougher positions on tax and immigration. “We’ll just have to see what emerges,” they added.

However, the Guardian understands that Sunak is expected to pledge to reform the terms of Britain’s ECHR membership, and to “keep all options on the table” – including leaving – if this fails.

One Tory source said: “Sunak doesn’t want to leave. This is just language to appease the right. It’s signalling. There’s no way he wants a cabinet row over this in the middle of the campaign, and some of his ministers are firmly against.”

Sunak was reportedly facing last-minute calls by cabinet ministers to add new tax cuts and tougher migration policy to the manifesto after early drafts provoked disquiet over the lack of big ticket pledges.

Bloomberg reported that while there were no signals that their demands would be met in the final document, some alterations had been made in recent days as a result of the conversations.

Considering that it was Sunak who called this snap election, the level of unpreparedness at the very top of his party is astonishing. Maybe he had to do it to keep the party together. If so, he has failed miserably.
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