‘Never too late to change leader!' Tory right REVOLTS against Rishi Sunak after local election humiliation

Rishi Sunak, inset Keir Starmer and Ed Davey

Rishi Sunak is facing pressure from a grassroots Tory campaign group

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 05/05/2023

- 12:25

Updated: 05/05/2023

- 22:12

Voters flocked to the polls yesterday as 8,058 council seats were contested in 230 out of England’s 317 council areas

Rishi Sunak is facing a revolt from supporters of Boris Johnson and the Tory right as hundreds of Conservative councillors were ousted in yesterday’s local elections.

Early results from local elections across England indicate the Tory Party will suffer hundreds of losses, while Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have hoovered up disillusioned voters.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party have so far won control in the Brexit-backing council areas of Plymouth, Medway and Stoke-on-Trent.

The Liberal Democrats have been making inroads into Remain-voting Blue Wall areas, including in Theresa May’s patch of Windsor & Maidenhead.

Rishi Sunak leaving CCHQ

The Prime Minister's party faced a battering overnight


The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) is ramping up pressure on Sunak following the dismal results.

Johnson-supporter Lord Peter Cruddas will hold a conference for the grassroots campaign group in Bournemouth on May 13.

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel and ex-Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg are expected to be among the Tory bigwigs in attendance.

Johnson is not expected to join many of his supporters at the event in Dorset.

A CDO source told GB News: “We need to get back to Conservative values.

“We have lost direction under Rishi and the Conservatives no longer recognise what we stand for. It’s time for a total reboot.”

Sir Keir Starmer visited Medway as the Labour leader celebrated his victory in Kent at Sun Pier in Chatham

Sir Keir Starmer visited Medway as the Labour leader celebrated his victory in Kent at Sun Pier in Chatham


In a warning to the Prime Minister, the insider added: “It’s never too late to change leader but the CDO is not about bringing back Boris.

“If a majority of members want Boris back then we must respect that.”

Johnson's allies briefly harboured ambitions for the former Prime Minister to complete a Churchillian-style comeback earlier this year.

Sunak, who succeeded Liz Truss in Number 10 last October, appeared to stabilise the Conservative Party after months of turbulence.

The Prime Minister saw off a rebellion against his Windsor Framework, with just 22 Tory MPs voting against the UK's latest Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Sunak also cut Labour’s enormous 30-point lead in the opinion polls to around 15 per cent.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey addressed supporters near Windsor Castle after flipping the council with net gains of 13

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey addressed supporters near Windsor Castle after flipping the council with net gains of 13


The Prime Minister’s supporters have rejected the suggestion that yesterday's results were a personal blow for Sunak.

A Sunak-supporting Conservative source told GB News: “The results are obviously disappointing but I don’t think anyone really believes this is a rejection of Rishi.

“We also know that people often vote differently at general elections compared to locals and there still doesn’t appear to be any real excitement for Starmer.”

Tory Party chairman Greg Hands responded to the “disappointing” results by suggesting Starmer has not yet cut through with British voters.

Boris Johnson

The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), which was set up by supporters of Boris Johnson, is ramping up pressure on Sunak following the dismal results


Speaking to Stephen Dixon and Ellie Costello this morning, Hands said: “The Conservative Party had a difficult year last year - the whole country had a difficult year - but Rishi Sunak and the team are getting on with the job, delivering on the five priorities of halving inflation, restoring growth, cutting the debt, reducing hospital waiting lists and stopping the boats.”

He added: “Labour are not making gains across the board that they would need to be making in places like Peterborough, Sandwell and Bassetlaw.

“These are all seats that Jeremy Corbyn won in 2017 that the Conservatives are gaining in overnight, so it is not a uniformly good picture for Labour.”

“That is because Sir Keir Starmer is not cutting through. I’ve been up and down the country over the last month, I’ve been to 33 council areas, I’ve yet to have a conversation with a voter which isn’t improved by mentioning Rishi Sunak and I’m yet to have a conversation with a voter who’s enthusiastic about Keir Starmer and Labour.”

Greg Hands on GB NewsGreg Hands admitted it had been a 'disappointing' night for the ToriesGB News

A Tory minister also told GB News: “I think the Prime Minister is making good progress in tackling his five point plan and all colleagues want to see inflation stabilise and so interest rates come down.

“Those are critical to being able to progress to tax cuts as soon as we can.”

Another Conservative MP added: "The Prime Minister should stick with calm and competent Government and resist siren voices.

"I heard from plenty of people on the doorsteps who were clear that they wanted to punish us at these local elections, partly because of the Liz Truss debacle, but they were prepared to vote for us in the general election if things calmed down."

The Prime Minister also reaffirmed his commitment to “deliver on the people’s priorities”, adding: “I’m not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party or excitement for their agenda.”

Speaking outside Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) in Westminster, Sunak said: “The message I am hearing tonight is they want us to focus on their priorities and they want us to deliver for them.

Rishi SunakRishi Sunak has downplayed the lossesGB News

“That’s about halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats.”

Despite Sunak’s Conservative critics pushing for tax-cuts, a leading pollster suggested pursuing such a policy could bring further damage to the Tory Party.

Adam Drummond, head of political and social research at Opinium, told GB News: “You can argue that tax is a part of that but really it’s nothing compared to increases in things like wholesale energy costs, food and mortgages, which means there’s a risk that talking about tax cuts just makes them [the Tory right] look out of touch.

“This is also a risk for the Tories when they come to write their manifesto because you can either argue that we live in straightened times and that’s why public services aren’t in great condition, or you can argue that they’re doing well enough that we can afford to cut taxes and that hits the Government’s economic credibility.”

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have celebrated early results and taken aim at the Prime Minister with an eye on the next general election.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey addressed supporters near Windsor Castle after flipping the council with net gains of 13.

\u200bJacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg is attending the Conservative Democratic Organisation conference


He said: “Time is up for Rishi Sunak and his appalling Conservative Government, we need a general election now.

“It’s clear that in many parts of the country, it’s the Liberal Democrats who can defeat the Conservatives and deliver a fair deal for the British people.”

Starmer visited Medway as the Labour leader celebrated his victory in Kent at Sun Pier in Chatham.

The Leader of the Opposition said: “Make no mistake, we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election.”

But a former Downing Street pollster suggested the local elections showed the next election is still up for grabs with a hung Parliament likely.

James Johnson told GB News' Mark Longhurst: "I don't think it shows at all what Labour are claiming which is that it shows they're on track to win a majority at the next general election."

The co-founder of JL Partners added: "There are still profound doubts about Keir Starmer in the focus groups with swing voters, both those who defected who already said they are going to vote Labour and who are now saying they don't know how they will vote."

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