'He's totally wrong': Minister blasts Simon Clarke as Tories fail to get behind rebellion against Sunak

24 January 2024, 08:38 | Updated: 24 January 2024, 08:53

Kevin Hollinrake on Simon Clarke

By Will Taylor

The Tory backlash against Simon Clarke's attempt to bring down Rishi Sunak has continued to grow after he broke ranks to demand his resignation.

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The PM's former ally publicly called for the Mr Sunak to go - a move that would usher a sixth Conservative leader in 10 years - on Tuesday night as the party languishes behind Labour in the polls.

But his mini-rebellion has so far failed to gather momentum, with fellow Tories insisting yet another change would only lead to more damage to their reputation.

"I'm surprised at Simon - I like Simon, he's a nice person. I think he's totally inaccurate on this," postal minister Kevin Hollinrake told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"This is not the overwhelming view of our party. You see the voices that have come out, that are disappointed by what Simon said, including Priti Patel, Liz Truss, Liam Fox, David Davis, who've said this is not representative of the view of the party.

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

Rishi Sunak saw a Tory MP break ranks and rebel against his leadership
Rishi Sunak saw a Tory MP break ranks and rebel against his leadership. Picture: Alamy

"I think it is his view and he obviously has got a right to his view but I think he is totally wrong.

"One thing we agree on is that Keir Starmer is not the right person to run this country."

Sir Simon had previously backed Mr Sunak for leader.

But on Wednesday, he wrote in the Telegraph that if Nigel Farage joined the election campaign for Reform, "extinction is a very real possibility for our party" as it gets crushed between Labour and a right-wing alternative.

Read more: Rishi Sunak's flagship Rwanda bill faces long delay after defeat in House of Lords vote

"The unvarnished truth is that Rishi Sunak is leading the Conservatives into an election where we will be massacred," he said.

"Denial of impending catastrophe is an extraordinarily powerful human instinct."

Some Tories have convinced themselves if they could take an incredibly tough stance on immigration, they will see off Reform's threat and make up ground on Labour.

Tory big hitters wasted no time in condemning Sir Simon's attack.

Simon Clarke
Simon Clarke. Picture: Alamy

Ex-Brexit secretary David Davis said: "This is getting silly.

"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 Priti Patel 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."

Reports on Tuesday suggested ex-PM Ms Truss was not backing Sir Simon, who served as her levelling up secretary.

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