Priti Patel launches extraordinary attack on Rishi Sunak as she takes aim at his leadership

Priti Patel giving a speech

Priti Patel said the arty leadership was not listening to members

Dan Falvey

By Dan Falvey

Published: 13/05/2023

- 16:51

Updated: 15/05/2023

- 17:47

The former home secretary said a failure to listen to members was responsible for last week's local election results

Priti Patel attacked Rishi Sunak's leadership as she blasted the party for getting rid of Boris Johnson last summer.

Speaking at the Conservative Democratic Organisation conference in Bournemouth, the Tory former home secretary said that the leadership of the party was failing to listen to grassroots member.

Criticising Sunak's role in bringing about the end of Boris Johnson's premiership, the Witham MP also said the Conservative Party had not covered itself in “glory” over the past 12 months.

She said: “We haven’t covered ourselves in glory, and in fact some parts of Westminster and colleagues have done a better job at damaging our party than the opposition, even the left-wing campaign groups, the civil service that you know, we all struggle with day in, day out.

Priti Patel giving a speech

The former home secretary blamed the party leadership for local election losses


“And even I’m afraid some of those in the media that want to distort and make life difficult for us.

“We have seen, as discussed today, the ousting of a democratically elected, in fact our most electorally successful prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.”

Patel paid tribute to Johnson, describing him as the “man that got Brexit done” and as the person who delivered on the “people’s priority”.

The Conservative Democratic Organisation was set up in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s removal from office and amid anger at the installation of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister without membership approval.

The group is backed by Tory peer and donor Lord Cruddas and organised by Brexiteer David Campbell Bannerman.

Taking aim at Sunak for failing to listen to the members, Patel added: "As grassroots activists of course, we are the ones who listen to and engage, and face the consequences of some of those bad decisions and the in-fighting that we have seen in Westminster.

"And of course, if the centre of the party spent more time with us, listening, engaging, then I think it is fair to say we would not have seen over 1,000 of our friends and even colleagues lose their seats in recent local elections and dozens of councils fall out of Conservative control."

Labour overtook the Conservatives as the largest party of local government last week as the Tories suffered disastrous results across the country.

Nationwide polls also indicate Sir Keir Starmer's party is likely to win a majority at the next general election.

Priti Patel giving a speech

Priti Patel criticised the removal of Boris Johnson as leader


Boris Johnson on a screen at CDO conference

Boris Johnson sent in a video message to the conference


As well as Patel, former Cabinet minister and GB News presenter Jacob Rees-Mogg addressed the CDO conference.

There was also a video message from Johnson, who thanked those in attendance for "continuing to campaign for freedom and democracy".

He said: “Boris Johnson here to say a massive thank you to you for everything that you’ve done and continue to do for our great party, the Conservative Party.
“Thank you for everything you did to help us to get Brexit done and to win the biggest majority our party has won for years.”

He added: “Thank you for continuing to campaign for freedom and democracy, campaigning against unnecessarily high taxation, against unnecessary regulation and of course, on the world stage, above all, campaigning for the democratic freedom of the people of Ukraine.

“Thank you for everything you do.”

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