Tory civil war sees Boris Johnson allies claim victory over embattled Sunak
Rishi Sunak discusses illegal migration on visit to Italy
A Tory grassroots organisation closely allied to Boris Johnson which has been highly critical of Rishi Sunak has claimed that it has stopped the party leadership from trying to “stitch up” candidate selection for the next general election.
The move looks like a new blow to the authority of the embattled Prime Minister who is already facing a major rebellion from the right of his party over his Rwanda Bill because they do not believe it is tough enough to ensure deportation flights of illegal migrants take place.
With MPs openly discussing whether to have a vote of confidence in Sunak’s leadership, there was a coordinated protest over alleged plans to have so-called “by-election rules” to decide candidates for parliamentary seats.
The alleged proposal by CCHQ (Tory central office) would have allowed them to give constituencies a choice of three hand-picked potential candidates to choose from.
It would have meant that local candidates or people CCHQ do not like could be weedled out more easily and it would been justified over the possibility that the election would take place in May.
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The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), which was set up by Lord Cruddas, David Campbell Bannerman and Claire Bullivant after they ran the Bring Back Boris campaign, led a “Stop Rishi” campaign to prevent the stitch up taking place.
It followed a failed attempt by CCHQ to kick out Bromsgrove candidate Bradley Thomas, a local councillor who had been selected to replace Sajid Javid but had beaten Sunak’s preferred candidate Seb Payne, a former Financial Times journalist.
In a revote local members backed Thomas by 85 to 2.
According to Conservative Home, CCHQ has now reportedly shelved plans to take control of the selection process after 45 MPs joined CDO members in protesting against the move.
A CCHQ source told the website that it was actually untrue they had been planning to bring in so-called by-election rules.
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The source said: “We wouldn’t want to move to by-elections rules at this stage in the electoral cycle, with the general election as much as a year away and we’re not so stupid as to push a scheme that we know would be opposed by a large number of MPs.”
But the row has underlined the suspicion between CCHQ, many MPs and the party leadership against grassroots members.
Claire Bullivant, chief executive of CDO, said: “This is a win for democracy. Trying to force through rule changes like this smacks of desperation from Rishi and his allies.
“We have seen in Bromsgrove that members want strong, local, and principled conservatives – we don’t want the deck stacked with Rishi’s mates or people just helicoptered in from London who know nothing about the local areas.
“Some of the candidate selection processes we’re hearing about have been nothing short of a debacle. All sorts of dubious people are being given top passes by those who pull the strings in CCHQ, whilst long-standing dedicated activists are passed over. We’re working hard to rectify this.
“We want our Conservative Party back and proper Conservatives standing. I suspect some of those at CCHQ who are causing all these problems aren’t even conservative. They’ve hijacked our party and are causing all sorts of problems. We will prevail and they will be outed.”
There is ongoing fury over the way MPs deposed Mr Johnson and later Liz Truss who were elected by members and imposed Mr Sunak without a vote from members let alone the wider electorate.
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