Senior Tory MPs rally around PM after ex-Cabinet minister calls for Sunak to quit before electoral 'massacre'

23 January 2024, 22:04 | Updated: 24 January 2024, 00:06

Sir Simon Clarke was Number 2 at the Treasury when Rishi Sunak was Chancellor
Sir Simon Clarke was Number 2 at the Treasury when Rishi Sunak was Chancellor. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Conservatives must oust Rishi Sunak and appoint a new leader if they are to avoid electoral "massacre", a former Cabinet minister and Tory MP has warned.

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Sir Simon Clarke, who worked under Mr Sunak when he was Chancellor, has warned the Tories face "extinction" in this year's general election.

It comes after a new poll suggested Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party will storm to victory at the election, landing a 120-seat majority.

A new poll has since revealed the Tories may fare better at the election with a new leader, prompting Clarke to call for the prime minister's head.

Clarke's call for Sunak to go has not landed well with some senior Tories, including David Davis, who labelled it "silly".

"The Party and the country are sick and tired of MPs putting their own leadership ambitions ahead of the UK's best interests," he wrote on X this evening.

Meanwhile, a senior Tory spokesperson said: “This is a self-indulgent attempt to undermine the government at a critical moment for the country.

“He may claim to be helping the party but the only person he is doing any favours for is Sir Keir Starmer.”

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "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."

Clarke, a former Cabinet minister, wrote in The Telegraph this evening that it was time to "strip away illusion" and "stop tolerating any indulgence of it".

"Our country, with all the challenges we face, is on the brink of being run by Keir Starmer’s Labour for a decade or more," he said.

Sunak is facing calls to step aside
Sunak is facing calls to step aside. Picture: Getty

Read More: 'We have a plan': Grant Shapps dismisses poll suggesting Tories face 1997-style electoral wipeout

Read More: Conservatives on the brink: Poll predicts 1997-style electoral wipeout, granting Labour a 120-seat majority

Last week's YouGov poll involving 14,000 respondents indicates that Rishi Sunak's Tories might retain as few as 169 seats, allowing Sir Keir Starmer's Labour to assume power with 385 seats.

The seat-by-seat polls suggests that every red wall seat won from Labour by Boris Johnson in 2019 would be lost, while the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, would be one of eleven cabinet ministers to lose their seats.

Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke
Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke. Picture: Alamy

Despite not winning any seats, the polling implies that Reform UK's support would be the decisive factor in 96 Tory losses.

The SNP would also experience setbacks.

The research was commissioned by a group of Tory donors from the Conservative Britain Alliance and backed by the former Brexit minister Lord Frost.

He claimed that the only way to avoid the likely defeat was “to be as tough as it takes on immigration”.

Concerns within the Conservative Party regarding their electoral prospects under Mr Sunak are likely to intensify.

Simon Clarke, a former Cabinet minister under Liz Truss, expressed that the outcome would be a "disaster."

"The time for half measures is over," he wrote on social media. "We either deliver on small boats or we will be destroyed."