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Conservative election campaign was a ‘disaster’ as Sunak wasn’t a ‘natural campaigner’, defeated Tory MP tells LBC

8 July 2024, 18:46

Simon Clarke speaks to LBC's Andrew Marr
Simon Clarke speaks to LBC's Andrew Marr. Picture: Alamy/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Conservatives' election campaign was a "pretty good disaster" and Rishi Sunak is not a "natural campaigner", defeated Tory MP Sir Simon Clarke has told LBC.

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Speaking exclusively on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the former Levelling Up Secretary also said he had a ‘slight out of body experience’ today listening to Rachel Reeves’ speech on house building.

Sir Simon told Andrew that some of what she said was ‘right and important’ and in parts a speech he could have delivered himself.

Reflecting on his parties' campaign, he told LBC: "I think it was a pretty good disaster and the causes of that were complex. Not all of those by any means sit with Rishi Sunak and the people in No.10 around him.

"Now that this is all over, I think I can say what I honestly feel, which is that he is a very good man and a very talented administrator, but he's not a natural campaigning politician."

Sir Simon Clarke brands election campaign a 'disaster'

Pressed further on what went wrong for the Tories, Sir Simon pointed out the National Service policy, which he admitted was not appealing to many voters.

He continued: "A classic example was that our first policy announcement was National Service, which was out of the clear blue sky.

"It wasn't something which anyone had ever spoken to me about on the doorstep and it didn't sit well with me and I know a number of Conservatives who believe in individual freedom, and just felt like we were talking past the public rather than to them.

"And whilst I completely accept lots of people want civic engagement to be a theme of our national conversation, I don't think that was what I would have led into the campaign with. And we didn't have compelling answers on public services or on house building or on lots of the things which I think really matters."

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Read More: Labour has inherited ‘worst set of circumstances since second world war,’ says Rachel Reeves

As for his reflection on the Chancellor's speech, Sir Simon said he experienced an "out of body experience".

"Whilst clearly there are massive differences between how the Chancellor approaches these questions and how I would, I also think that some of what she said in her speech today was right and important," he continued.

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"And I've been a strong advocate for growth. I think that those fundamental insights of what Liz talked about was absolutely right, even if the execution was wrong.

"And I think when it comes to these questions they are now really important issues that the Conservative Party needs to face up to here. House prices are now at their most expensive relative to earnings since 1876, they are about nine times average earnings now. In the 1990s that was about four times.

"So, there has been a massive problem with our house building industry, a lack of, frankly, the ability to produce sufficient land supply. If we resist what the government is setting out here, I worry it's going to put us in a very bad place with the voters because actually, we do need to solve this."

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