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‘Political suicide’: Grassroots Tories’ fury at Rishi Sunak after sacking Suella Braverman revealed in leaked WhatsApps | Politics News

Sacking Suella Braverman means “suicide” for the Tory party and Rishi Sunak has just “thrown the election away” according to leaked WhatsApp messages between members of a grassroots Conservative organisation leaked to Sky News.

Members of the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), a momentum-style group created out of frustration at the ousting of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and backed by Priti Patel, called on Tory MPs to submit letters of no confidence in Rishi Sunak after Monday’s reshuffle.

Conversations between CDO members on Monday reveal they believe “Sunak has committed political suicide” and “the cabinet is pretty much the exact opposite of what we voted for in 2019” while another asks “is it April Fool’s day???”

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The CDO, whose president is Lord Peter Cruddas, aims to change the rules of the Tory party to give the membership a bigger voice in its running.

Sky News has seen messages from regional WhatsApp groups where CDO members give their views on the reshuffle. Many, but not all, are Conservative members, and almost none are nationally recognisable figures so are not being named by Sky News.

These views are not representative, therefore, of the whole Tory membership, but represent a slice of Conservative thinking inside and outside the party. It chimes with some Tory MPs on the right who believe the reshuffle will bolster Reform UK, the right-wing party created from the Brexit Party.

In the South East CDO group, one contributor calls the appointment of David Cameron a “very weak decision”, another calls it the “undoing of the party” and a third says “FFS”.

One says “the only good news would be if Kemi [Badenoch, business secretary] replaces [Chancellor Jeremy] Hunt but I can’t see it”.

Read more from Sam Coates:
Sunak mocked in leaked WhatsApps by grassroots
Scale of civil war between Tory MPs over police revealed

Some in relation to Cameron refer to conspiracy theories about an elite in Davos controlling the world.

“His biggest regret was Brexit, even though he was always a eurosceptic. Why? Because it robbed him of post PM £s on the Davos circuit. He’s back to redeem himself under Davos darling Nutsak”. “Nutsak” is an occasional nickname for Sunak in this group.

“I’ve not been this angry since Boris was forced out”, says one.

In the same group, they respond to the sacking of Ms Braverman as home secretary with dismay.

“I call on Conservative MPs to submit their VoNC [vote of no confidence] letters to the 1922 [Committee]. Rishi Sunak & his out-of-touch squad, must be outed from No10,” said one. Later that day, Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns did submit such a letter.

“Is Suella a member of the CDO?” asks one. “How can we help her and thereby help ourselves and our country? I am really unhappy about this… Let’s push for letters to go in.”

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Richard Holden’s appointment as party chairman is also the source of dismay because he is seen as close to Mr Sunak.

“Apparently an ex CCHQ staffer, otherwise known as a full commitment to the lunatics taking over the asylum,” one said.

Read the full exchanges below.


[08:39] Activist 1: Reshuffle starting now…

[08:40] Activist 1: Suella has just been sacked. The end of the Conservative party

[08:40] Activist 2: Harry Cole was reporting that it was expected because of the vague agenda for today.

[08:42] Activist 2: Let’s hope it’s the beginning of the end for Sunak

[08:4?] Activist 2: He’s now jumping to the bark of Labour

[08:45] Activist 3: If Suella has been sacked, then he should go. Is Suella a member of CDO? How can we help her and thereby help ourselves and our country? I am really unhappy about this.

[08:46] Activist 2: Now it’s time for the backbenchers to put up.

[08:46] Activist 3: Let’s push for the letters to go in.

[08:46] Activist 4: He is demonstrating he is a follower not a leader.

[08:47] Activist 2: It’s so weak. Even if he wanted to sack her he shouldn’t indulge in the left

[08:47] Activist 3: An unelected one at that. Disgraceful.

[08:47] Activist 5: Suella has been sacked – it’s on the news websites now.

[08:50] Activist 6: I call on Conservatives Mp’s to submit their VoNC letters to the 1922. Rishi Sunak & his out-of-touch squad, must be ousted from NO.10. To those few are still members, please write your Association(s). #Ready4Rishi2Go

[08:58] Activist 7: Sunak & he party is sunk. They’ve backed the wrong horse(s)

[08:59] Activist 2: Cleverly as HS

[09:00] Activist 8 : Not sure what he was thinking, she can do more damage to him on the backbenches! Thanks for that was about to write to Cleverly about a matter abroad!


[08:41] Activist 1: Suella has been sacked

[08:41] Activist 2: What an idiot!

[08:42] Activist 3: Activist Sunak got to go

[08:42] Activist 4: Well on the bright side Suella is free now to replace him when the time comes…

[08:43] Activist 5: It’s nothing like the party I joined in the 1970’s when we had a clear vision and direction. My MP doesn’t share many of my Conservative principles sadly like many of his colleagues.

[08:43] Activist 6: I think this trigger for letters to go in

[08:51] Activist 6: Tell your MP’s!

[08:54] Activist 5: Just sent an email to my MP

[08:57] Activist 6: Great yes pile on everyone

[10:13] Activist 2: There are no pliable MPs left for Sunak and his squad to call upon. What an utter clown show. What now Activist 6?

[10:15] Activist 6: Now letters must go in and Sunak replaced urgently. We could have a leadership election in 3 weeks including limited hustings and members vote.

[10:16] Activist 7: Do you think there are enough MPs with a backbone to do it though?


[07:08] Activist 1: The current Tory government

Rishi Sunak: Stabbed the one person who gave him a top job, rejected by us, done nothing in the year he’s been the cuckoo prime minister, rejected by the people according to the pills.

Hunt: Rejected by us 4 times and disliked by the people according to the polls.

Cameron: Didn’t like the result of a democracy so ran away and let down his constituency by resigning. Got caught being a naughty man.

Did I miss anything? :/

[08:42] Activist 2: He’s sacked Suella! He’s on a suicide mission for the party!

[08:43] Activist 3: Sunak has committed political suicide

That being said, I’m sure this is a positive step towards a Bravermen leadership.

[08:45] Activist 4: Time for the letters to go in! Let’s see what mess is made of reshuffle too.

[08:49] Activist 2: I’m furious.

[08:49] Activist 2: He is no Politician. He doesn’t understand that the Tory faithful are pretty much only still faithful because of Suella.

[08:52] Activist 2: I’m a party member, I’ve always voted Tory. I’m active in the local association and I am really struggling with the idea of voting for them at the next GE. Sorry, but they need a kicking.

[08:52] Activist 3: I would be furious if I wasn’t rather excited to watch Sunak’s unravelling and a (potential) leadership bid by Suella.

Rishi has signed his political death warrant, and Suella will be back – so the situation is bittersweet.

[09:50] Activist 5: This is just awful.

[09:50] Activist 5: Sunak is not even a Tory

[09:50] Activist 5: MPs: Get him out NOW!

[09:50] Activist 2: I’m so angry I can’t focus on work.

[10:13] Activist 6: I feel the same, I’m furious. Just watched the idiots on GB News saying Suella was out of control. She was the first minister in years I actually felt was a real Conservative with genuine Conservative values. I hope she runs for leadership and kicks Sunak to touch.

[10:19] Activist 2: This cabinet is pretty much the exact opposite of what we voted for in 2019.

[10:44] Activist 7: If she does and gets voted in overwhelmingly by the membership, the snakes will oust her, ignore us all and install another puppet!

[10:45] Activist 8: It’s 10:45.

What’s the delay in those letters to Sir Graham? There’s not a postal strike is there?

[10:45] Activist 9: Exactly, as we are unfortunately accustomed to.

[13:15] Activist 10: I see the ‘one nation’ tories are full of glee today.

[13:34] Activist 11: They won’t be after next year’s general election results.

[13:36] Activist 11: Although saying that, they might actually be gleeful, since they seem so hellbent on causing as much reputational damage to the party as possible.


[10:12] Activist 1: I can’t believe it. Suella sacked and Cameron in as foreign secretary!

[10:13] Activist 1: Is it April fools day????

[10:14] Activist 2: Incredible – has just thrown the election away! I bet Starmer sends him a crate of champagne to thank him! We need to get off our bums and write in and voice our anger.

[11:08] Activist 3: I wonder who made him sack her? Dr. No or another member of the cabal really running the country? Looks like time to quit the party for me.

[11.10] Activist 4: Stay as a member. You will have more influence in the future.

[11:10] Activist 5: It’s not our party anymore… It hasn’t been for a while.

[11:10] Activist 3: Exactly true!

[11:16] Activist 6: I’m not quitting. I want the satisfaction of being involved in rebuilding once these people have moved on. Unfortunately unless the backbenchers grow a pair we are going to have to go a few years of socialism in order to move them on .

[11:18] Activist 7: A few years? We’ll never get into power again… Votes will be opened up to 16 year olds, non-British nationals too.. We’ll then have another referendum and be back under the globalists boot. Democracy will be dead, and this party with its blatant corruption, enabled it.

[11:39] Activist 8:v I heard they’re going to change the membership vote for PM, just in case we have the audacity of not choosing the right person. It breaks my heart to say this, but the conservative party, that I’ve supported for years, is well and truly finished. A vote for this shower is a wasted vote.

[11:43] Activist 9: Will Cameron become leader?

[13:24] Activist 9: Hague orchestrated Cameron. It’s to stop a Boris or Farage come back.

[13:26] Activist 9: We need to split.

[13:38] Activist 9: Right wing members of 2 groups meeting this afternoon. Let’s see the letters but i think we need a breakaway.

Adam Boulton: Double by-election defeat leaves Tories asking is this a re-run of 1992 or 1997? | Politics News

Voters in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire have just given a resounding answer to the question obsessing Westminster watchers all year:

“Does the run-in to the next general election feel more like the approach to the 1992 or the 1997 election?”.

This is really the political nerds’ version of the basic question of interest to most of us:

“Is there going to be a change of government?” or, more bluntly still, “Are the Conservatives going to lose?”.

More on the 1992 false dawn for Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party later in this article.

Politics live: Leaked WhatsApp messages reveal Tory dismay

First look at the developing similarities in the parliamentary by-election records from 2019 to the present day and 1992-1997, when John Major’s full term ended with the Labour landslide led by Tony Blair.

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Is Starmer on the path to Downing Street?

A lot of the comparisons are statistical. There is also a mirror image similarity in that both eras witnessed a collapse in both the morale and the morals of the ruling Conservative Party.

Among other issues, this can be seen in the quality of the candidates they are putting forward today.

It is of course the luck of the draw which seats fall vacant between elections.

But as the number of by-elections mounts over a typical four or five-year parliamentary term, a comparable list typically emerges.

Ghosts of elections passed

For example, by a quirk of fate, the last by-election in the Tamworth constituency was in December 1995.

Labour captured South-East Staffordshire, as it was then named, with a swing from the Conservatives of 22.1%.

On Thursday night Labour gained Tamworth with a record swing of 23.9%.

Tamworth and Mid Beds were the eighteenth and nineteenth by-elections this parliament. Of those 10 seats changed hands between parties.

The Conservatives lost eight of them, four to Labour and four to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour also won Rutherglen and Hamilton from the SNP earlier this month and the Conservatives took the “classic red wall” constituency of Hartlepool off Labour at the height of Boris Johnson’s premiership in early 2021.

A lot has changed since then.

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Labour ‘can see the summit’ after by-election wins

There were seventeen by-elections in Great Britain in the 1992-1997 parliament, eight won by another party.

The Conservatives lost all of these, four to the Liberal Democrats, three to Labour, including SE Staffs, and one, Perth and Kinross, to the SNP.

Labour, the main opposition party, seems to be doing better in this cycle than it did a generation ago, in spite of the popularity of the leader then, Tony Blair, far exceeding the ratings of Sir Keir Starmer today.

Back then the Liberal Democrats won more seats than Labour. This time they are behind 5-4, having lost their challenge to Labour in the three-way Mid Beds battlefield, which they claimed was ideal Lib Dem by-election territory.

The Lib Dems were also down to 1.6% in Tamworth, losing their deposit. In the aftermath on Friday morning Daisy Cooper, the ambitious Lib Dem deputy leader, claimed that her party had served Labour by winning over some Conservative voters.

Labour campaigners don’t see it that way.

Read more:
Tory party chair won’t resign despite by-election losses
Sunak puts by-election disasters down to mid-term blues
Starmer cannot afford to be ‘boring’

In the ’92 parliament, four seats changed hands on swings of 20% or more – two Lib Dem and two Labour.

Labour have clocked up three victories on that scale since July.

The by-election results last week suggest that the voters are worried about the cost of living crisis and poor standards of government.

Most seem to have put Brexit to one side. Tamworth, like most of the Midlands, voted heavily to leave the EU.

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‘Looking at exceptional swings’

The Conservatives will also be worried that the Reform Party drained off 3.7% of the votes in Tamworth and 5.4% in Mid Beds.

In each case Reform’s total was bigger than Labour’s new majority.

One option for the Tories would be to try to woo them by shifting to the right.

Unlike the run-up to ’97, when the SNP was stirring, Labour’s support appears to be recovering in Scotland.

This is one of the three reasons why Peter Kellner, the habitually cautious political analyst and founder of YouGov, now anticipates a Labour majority government.

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Labour wins Tamworth: ‘It’s time for change’

His other pointers are Rishi Sunak’s declining ratings and evidence of anti-Tory tactical voting.

Kellner also concludes that Keir Starmer has overcome the Labour “fear factor”.

YouGov’s data shows that “he has persuaded seven million Tories (out of the 14 million last time) that they have nothing to fear from a Labour government”.

Back to basics – back again?

This is very different from the run-up to 1992, when Conservatives and their allies in the media successfully targeted Labour leader Neil Kinnock and the tax rises proposed in the shadow budget.

After taking over from Margaret Thatcher, John Major won the 1992 election. A few months later on Black Wednesday, 16 September 1982, his government’s economic credibility collapsed.

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Defeated Tory candidate walks out

The Conservatives’ popularity plunged and never recovered. People had been threatened with dramatic increases in the cost of their mortgages.

Meanwhile senior Tories were caught up in a succession of so-called “sleaze’ allegations, some more serious than others, of sexual or financial impropriety.

Following an ill-judged party conference speech by Prime Minister Major theses came to be known under the headline “back to basics”.

Ministers and senior MPs implicated in scandals included David Mellor, Michael Mates, Tim Yeo, Alan Duncan, Michael Brown, Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken.

Since Boris Johnson won his “stonking” general election victory in 2019, the public has been hit by two shocks – one sleazy and one economic.

Both resulted in sustained drops in the Conservative Party’s poll ratings.

Partygate, the revelations of routine flouting of COVID restrictions by Boris Johnson and his staff contributed to his downfall.

Policies introduced by his short-lived successor Liz Truss did lasting damage to the UK economy and household budgets.

Truss was feted at this year’s Conservative Party conference.

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Unsuitable candidates

More broadly the Conservatives seem unwilling to respect the common decencies of behaviour, rightly demanded of politicians.

Both the recent by-elections resulted from the personal misconduct of the departing MP: allegations of groping men by Chris Pincher, and Nadine Dorries’ strop over not getting a peerage.

The Tory Party then failed to get a grip on the two candidates who replaced them.

Festus Akimbusoye would have had to resign as local Police and Crime Commissioner if he had won.

To avoid another by-election, the Tories rejected a neighbouring MP, Eddie Hughes, who had already been chosen to fight Tamworth under new boundaries.

His replacement Andrew Cooper, a local councillor and former soldier, was found to have said “f*** off” on social media to benefit claimants with phone or TV subscriptions.

Cooper broke with tradition at the count declaration by leaving the stage before the candidates made their traditional speeches of thanks.

The Conservative strategy in both campaigns was to keep their candidates under wraps and avoid exposing them to the media.

The party is now claiming that the low turnout by voters, which is normal at by-elections, suggests there are masses of Conservative voters who sat at home but will turn out at a general election.

We shall see.

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PM: ‘I’m hungry for change’

Labour held the three seats it won in by-elections before 1997 until at least 2010.

In contrast the Conservatives won back all seven by-election constituencies they had lost at the subsequent 1992 general election.

There are currently around 16 MPs sitting as independents having lost their party whip.

Eight of them were Labour, including Nick Brown, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott.

Kier Starmer, the former public prosecutor, has adopted a zero-tolerance stance. If they are not reinstated they will not be able to stand as Labour candidates at the next election.

Standards of behaviour expected of MPs are changing.

Some of the women members standing down have complained of their treatment while in parliament.

Five of the eight successful candidates who snatched by-election victories during this parliament were women.

Meanwhile the proportion of women selected to fight seats for the Conservatives in England is down to less than one in four.

Another by-election?

There is another potential by-election in the offing.

A recall petition will be triggered in Wellingborough if MPs vote to uphold the six-week suspension of Conservative MP Peter Bone recommended by parliament’s Independent Expert Panel for bullying and sexual misconduct.

The outspoken Brexiteer and Johnson-era minister held the Northamptonshire constituency with an 18,540 majority in 2019.

The voting profile is similar to Tamworth’s. It would take a swing of 17.9% for Labour to take it.

This parliament could yet get worse than 1992-1997 for the Conservatives.

Rishi Sunak mocked in leaked WhatsApps as grassroots Tories vow to ‘go to war’ with party’s liberals | Politics News

Grassroots Conservative supporters are saying they want to oust Rishi Sunak and “go to war” with the liberal wing of the party in leaked WhatsApp messages obtained by Sky News.

We have obtained the discussions amongst members of the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), founded in December 2022 by donor and Johnson-backer Lord Peter Cruddas after the ousting of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

The group has had high profile support from senior figures on the right of the Conservative Party. Its conference in May featured speeches from Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.

The leaked WhatsApps show the vitriol among some of its members aimed at Mr Sunak, little expectation of victory in the general election and a desire to take back control of the Tory party for the right, post-election.

A Tory source said that it was wrong to characterise Mr Sunak as being on the liberal wing of the party, saying he is “significantly more Conservative than Boris Johnson”.

Some of the screenshots suggest a handful of members believe in conspiracies, referring to “globalists” and a WEF government – a reference to the World Economic Forum held in Davos – which some conspiracy theorists believe to be home of a secretive world government which benefits elites.

Sky News has not named any of the activists involved, and not published the screenshots, since the participants in these conversations are not nationally significantly figures.

Several of the messages show the anger felt towards other wings of the Conservative party.

One activist said: “It’s time to go to war … unfortunately it’s with the liberals in our party. Needs to be done we need the party back.”

They go on: “Listening to my local party’s WhatsApp broadcast it’s like the last days of Rome… carrying on with the same old policies that have lost year after year. Ignoring actual conservatives and a conservative message… preferring to appear liberal to appease the middle class liberal climate guilt voters…. Personally I can’t see past the cowardice…. I’m pretty sure that’s all the public see too.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham where the HS2 rail project is under construction.
Some people want to see a return of Boris Johnson

Read more:
What are the different factions in the Conservative Party?

Ten conference moments that made headlines

The WhatsApp messages, almost all this year and some from the last few weeks, show:

• Members of the group mocking Mr Sunak, one saying he has the charisma of a “doorknob”. Another says he is “uninspiring” and saying the “govt can’t get anything right”, and characterise it as a party of “globalists”.

• Members of the CDO believe that Sunak, who voted for Brexit, is governing like a “remainer”. “CDO needs to rethink Rishi and pals, remainers have a firm hold on the party”, says an activist. Another says: “It’s no longer a conservative government I would vote for.”

• Some calling on them to remove Mr Sunak before the election, others hoping for a return of Boris Johnson. Others think an election will help Conservatives “find out who their voters are and rebuild from there”.

• Many rail about the way he was chosen to be leader, saying he “trampled democracy underfoot”. He became prime minister unopposed after Tory MPs ousted Ms Truss. Another said: “He staged a coup”.

• Many have given up winning the next election, with one saying “we’re gunna (sic) be out of power for a lot longer than 4 years and giving (sic) the cultural shift we may never get back in”.

• Others tout alternative leaders. An activist asks: “Is Tom Harwood a Conservative. If he is, he would make an ideal prime minister”. Mr Harwood is a political journalist at GB News.

• The group also criticises Mr Sunak’s cabinet. During the reshuffle earlier this month, one queried Grant Shapps’ appointment to the defence brief. “I just don’t find Shapps credible. Certainly not to take over the mantle from Wallace who was beyond excellent.” Another calls him a “crony appointment; Jack of all trades, master of none.”

Some CDO WhatsApp members see a conspiracy behind the poor performance from the Tories.

One says: “No party can be this incompetent on purpose. It’s got to be by design. And the only conclusion I can come to of why they would do this, is that they are all bought and paid for, same for Labour and the other cretins in parliament.

“Someone is pulling the strings to turn our country into a third world s**thole”.

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However, other members rejected the conspiracy theories.

One member of the Yorkshire CDO group said: “Infighting is what they’re best at. Who can stop that? Factions have formed and need breaking up. Who can do that? We can help if we’re not amongst them.

“They all need to see sense – immediately. But we need to know who’s in which faction in order to set targets to break them up.”

The majority of the group appears to have clear boundaries. When one commenter talks about Londistan and makes a link to Sadiq Khan, others jump in to condemn them, saying the CDO does not tolerate racism and that “true Conservatives are inclusive”.

Claire Bullivant, co-founder and chief executive of the CDO, said: “The CDO is a place for everyone who cares about democracy, and we certainly aren’t made up of just Conservative Party members.

“In fact, we have a lot of members who belong to Reform and other parties who all hold different views on various politicians. Some love Rishi, some don’t. Some want Boris back, some don’t.

“It’s normal… it’s by the by. What we care about is democracy and bringing a voice back to the people.

She added: “I personally follow the Ronald Reagan principle as I am a Conservative and I don’t really like bashing fellow Tories.

“But you’re showing me WhatsApp messages that could have been written by anyone who has joined some of our WhatsApp groups.”

She went on to welcome the publication of the leaks by Sky News.

“Of course the media will try and make a story about it. Go for it. Thank you for the publicity,” she said.

“It’s great that more people will hear about us. More and more people are joining CDO everyday.

“Like us they want democracy, and they want a centre right party that believes in free people, free markets, free speech, small governments and low taxes.

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“The fact is no-one wants Starmer, no-one wants 20mph limits, no-one wants unions running the show, no-one wants wokery, no-one wants ULEZ expansions and big government breathing down your neck every second. The average man on the street does not want Labour.

“I’m proud of what the CDO has achieved in such a short time and this is just the start. We have a great relationship with CCHQ and are excited to work with the Conservative Party moving forward.”

The Tories are struggling in the polls. Can Team Rishi turn things around before the next election? | Politics News

As Rishi Sunak prepares to launch his re-election pitch from the stage in Manchester this week, it’s worth remembering that this time last year, the now prime minister – and many of his supporters – were put out to pasture and didn’t even bother to turn up for the annual Tory jamboree.

Those who did looked on with widening eyes at the accelerating car crash of the Liz Truss premiership, as her mini-budget began to unravel in real time at party conference (remember the panicked decision to U-turn on cutting the top rate tax no sooner than conference kicked off), with her administration’s complete collapse coming less than three weeks later.

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Truss’ time as PM, one year on

It is a chapter of Conservative history that Rishi Sunak has sought to put right – spending his first year as PM trying to steady the ship and bring an air of competence and professionalism to government. There is no doubt that the tenor and tone of what could well be the final party conference before a general election will be a world away from the last.

But when it comes to the fundamentals, has that much changed? If you measure politics in its most brutal sense as victory at the ballot box, the answer is not much. The Conservatives were experiencing their worst polling since the last 1990s this time last year. Look at our Sky News poll tracker now, and you can see average support for the party is pretty much the same – about 26%. It’s barely shifted at all.

To make matters worse, Mr Sunak – who will look in his leader’s speech to the country to cast himself as the heir of Thatcher – goes to conference as the Conservative prime minister who is presiding over anything but a Thatcherite economy.

The tax burden is on course to rise by more in this Conservative parliament than during any other since the Second World War, according to analysis released by the Institute of Fiscal Studies on the eve of conference. It will rise from 33% of national income to 37% by next year. A record leap that sees families and businesses paying more than £100bn extra in tax by next year compared with the last election, it has left many Tory MPs in despair and angry at the Sunak approach to the economy.

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Taxes are rising to near historic highs

The Sunak message will be that, during the pandemic, he had to do things and spend public money in a way that didn’t come naturally to him. He will argue he is a Thatcherite in both his personal work ethic and philosophy – an instinctive tax cutter and small-state Conservative, but is doing the hard work now – growing the economy, halving inflation – to reap the rewards later.

But his detractors are quietly fulminating. As one put it to me this week: “This heir to Thatcher business, it’s concocted vacuous stuff he’s come up with – ‘she grew up in a small shop, I [Sunak] grew up in a pharmacy’. Why didn’t he do that last year in a leadership campaign?”

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Truss ‘tried to fatten and slaughter the pig’

And if the message is stick to the plan and reap the rewards, there are some who have missed the memo. Divisions will surface on “economy day” as Liz Truss, Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg appear at the Great British Growth rally on Monday.

“The tax burden is now a 70-year high. That is unsustainable. And the people that pay the taxes are hard pressed Brits around the country,” former home secretary Dame Priti Patel told GB News on Friday as she insisted taxes had to come down. “As Conservatives, we believe in lower taxes. As Conservatives, we believe being on the side of hard-working households and families. As Conservatives, we believe in hope and aspiration.”

Poor polling and anxiety over the tax burden make for a tricky backdrop. Team Rishi insist that they can turn it around in the coming months, and the contour of that plan is taking shape.

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‘Not right to impose costs on people’

On net zero, the PM is trying to drill dividing lines between the Conservatives and Labour over environmental policies. He will use conference to position himself on the side of the motorist as he looks to further mine the advantage he gained in the Uxbridge by-election over taxing polluting diesel cars.

The fanning of the immigration flames – with Home Secretary Suella Braverman threatening to withdraw from the ECHR last week – is helpful to a prime minister who is looking to win back lapsed 2019 Conservative voters and regroup on the right.

His team see a narrow path to victory with all pivots on economic recovery, coupled with the message “we’re back on track, don’t risk Labour” and winning back voters over core issues – environment, immigration – to narrow the polls (someone told me that 14% of lapsed Conservative 2019 voters have moved to Reform, get a chunk back and the gap begins to close).

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‘Being gay isn’t enough to claim asylum’

“I wouldn’t bet against us to turn it around in the coming months,” said one No 10 insider. “Rishi genuinely believes he can make it better for the country and get into the best possible position for an election next year. Seeing how politics has changed over the past one, two years, I wouldn’t bet against us being able to turn it around. We have got to be the party of change.”

But the huge problem for Mr Sunak is that voters seem to have tuned out. He has been in No 10 for a year, and still the polls are unchanged. This conference, likely the last before an election, is his final chance to capture attention and start to regain voters’ ears.

But he has a problem too with a party that is in despair. While No 10 were pleased that the net zero announcements didn’t spark at backlash from pro-green One Nation Conservatives, the right of the party is restive over economy and waiting for the prime minister to placate them on spending and tax cuts. One figure suggested to me this weekend that Mr Sunak might use the cancellation of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 as a way of finding room for manoeuvre when it comes to promises on tax.

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Labour: ‘We want HS2 to go ahead’

Closing the gap with Labour is the goal for now as speculation grows around whether it will be a May or October election. (If it’s May you can run it with the local elections and not risk a small boats summer crisis or a vote in the autumn after a local election wipeout – but the PM might just want to hold out.)

But away from the No 10 bunker, and even his most ardent backers think the best Mr Sunak can achieve is holding Labour back from an outright majority.

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As for some of his more seasoned MPs, they are resigned to what they see is their fate: “Instinctively, I don’t feel that we can win. This feels like a damage limitation project.”

Manchester will be the acid test as to whether Mr Sunak can shift the momentum.

Tories accused of ‘unforgivable lack of urgency’ to improve support for rape survivors | Politics News

Labour has accused the government of displaying an “unforgivable lack of urgency” in tackling the needs of rape victims and implementing crucial recommendations made by two scathing reports.

Analysis by the party shows that several “immediate” recommendations from the Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates (CJJI) have been left unfulfilled.

The CJJI conducted two comprehensive reports, one in July 2021 and the other in February 2022, focusing on the treatment of rape victims by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

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The reports found that the criminal justice system was failing victims of rape and widespread reform is needed to build trust and secure justice.

Labour said that 18 months on from delivery of those reports, “ministers have yet to lift a finger on most of their recommendations”.

They pointed to six recommendations where the CJJI called for “immediate action” to be taken.

These include establishing specialist rape offence courts to help with the backlog of cases, and a consultation on creating a commissioner for rape and sexual offences.

Labour said the Conservative government had also failed to publish sufficient data on the use of special measures in rape cases, including the use of pre-recorded video evidence for victims.

The government has championed this as a tool for improving the experience of rape survivors when they are cross-examined, but Labour claims it is being “drastically under-used”.

As well as this, the collaborative use of bad character applications in rape cases, often crucial in securing a conviction, and providing victims with the opportunity to make a personal statement had not been acted on.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “At a time when we have a record backlog for rape cases going through our court system, ministers should be doing everything possible to support the victims of those attacks, and help them with the trauma they are facing.

Labour's Emily Thornberry
Labour’s Emily Thornberry

“Instead, their response to the recommendations from the Joint Inspectorate shows an inexplicable lack of focus and an unforgivable lack of urgency.

“The fact is that only a change of government will deliver the action we need.”

A report this year found victims of rape and sexual assault are waiting more than two years for their cases to be heard.

Barristers have previously told Sky News that the criminal justice system is “about to crack”, with a shortage of barristers, judges and court room hindering efforts to clear the crown courts backlog.

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The state of the justice system is expected to be a dominant issue at the next general election, with both major parties seeking to sell themselves as the party of law and order.

Ms Thornberry pointed to a Labour pledge to put specialist rape courtrooms in every Crown Court in England and Wales, and to halve violence against women and girls within 10 years of taking office.

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Justice Sec: Those who are convicted of rape are getting sentenced to on average 30% longer in prison than in 2010

But Home Office minister Sarah Dines hit back saying that Labour “have voted against every tougher sentence we have brought in”.

She claimed that when he was head of the CPS Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “oversaw a huge drop in the number of sexual offences which were prosecuted and Thornberry criticised his ‘backsliding'”.

Ms Dines was referencing a critical letter the Labour MP sent in 2012 to then director of public prosecutions Sir Keir and then-attorney general Dominic Grieve amid changes to guidance on specialist barristers and rape prosecutions.

In that letter, she condemned the government’s decision to “slash the Crown Prosecution Service’s budget by 25% over the course of the parliament”, which she said had resulted in victims not getting the necessary legal support.

Ms Dines added: “Conservative governments have increased convictions, increased sentences, reformed our justice system and quadrupled funding to better support victims – making sure that the full force of the law is brought to bear to protect women and girls.”

Brecon Beacons National Park: Tories criticise renaming as ‘symbolic’ attempt to look ‘trendy’ | UK News

A rebranding move to drop the name Brecon Beacons in favour of its Welsh counterpart has been criticised by senior Conservatives who suggested the money could have been better used to encourage tourism.

They also called it a symbolic attempt to look “trendy” which could undermine the region’s international identity.

The picturesque and rugged national park will now be known as Bannau Brycheiniog to reflect its Welsh language roots and remove any association with carbon emissions.

As part of the overhaul, there will be a new green and white logo to replace a brightly burning beacon.

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Can you pronounce the new Brecon Beacons name?

The park’s management admitted any connection with a wood-burning, carbon-emitting blazing beacon was “not a good look” for the Brecon Beacons, which covers around 520 square miles (1,350 sq km) of mountainous South and mid Wales.

And it said there was no evidence that beacons, which were once lit on peaks or coastlines to warn of an imminent attack, had ever been used in the area – so the Welsh name better reflected its heritage.

Brecon Beacons
Brecon Beacons

Bannau Brycheiniog translates in English as “peaks of Brychan’s kingdom” – a reference to the king who ruled that area during the fifth century.

But the renaming has been criticised by Tories including Welsh Secretary David TC Davies who said: “What concerns me is the fact there was no consultation and people who live and work in the national park were not given the opportunity to voice their opinion.

“It would be somewhat alarming if this was an entirely executive decision.

“The Brecon Beacons has a long-standing international identity and that is the name it will always be known by to so many around the world. I do question the cost and feel this is money that could have been used to encourage tourism in a better way.

“As a bilingual country, I fail to understand why the Welsh name cannot be used alongside the English name.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies. Pic: UK parliament
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies. Pic: UK parliament

‘Jumping on a sustainability bandwagon for PR purposes’

Brecon and Radnorshire’s Tory MP Fay Jones questioned the cost and impact of the “symbolic” rebrand and demanded to know why local people were not consulted.

“I’m amazed that a change of name should be imposed on those who live and work in the national park without any consultation,” she said.

“I am worried that this is symbolic. This is about looking trendy and jumping on a sustainability bandwagon for PR purposes.”

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said: “The Beacons are as recognisable outside of Wales as they are here. Why undermine that?”

However, Welsh actor Michael Sheen said he welcomed the “reclamation of the old Welsh name – an old name for a new way of being”, and he has filmed a promotional video to celebrate the name change.

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Catherine Mealing-Jones, chief executive of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Pic: Bannau Brycheiniog
Catherine Mealing-Jones, chief executive of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Pic: Bannau Brycheiniog

‘Providing leadership on decarbonisation’

Also, the park authority’s chief executive, Catherine Mealing-Jones, said: “Given that we’re trying to provide leadership on decarbonisation, a giant burning brazier is not a good look.

“Our park is shaped by Welsh people, Welsh culture, and as we looked into it we realised the brand we’ve got and the name we’ve got, it’s a bit of a nonsense, it doesn’t really make any sense – the translation Brecon Beacons doesn’t really mean anything in Welsh.

“We’d always had the name Bannau Brycheiniog as the Welsh translation and we just felt we needed to put that front and centre as an expression about the new way we wanted to be celebrating Welsh people, Welsh culture, Welsh food, Welsh farming – all of the things that need to come with us as we go through this change in the management plan.”

This result wasn’t just bad for the Tories, it was terrible. While they won’t admit it, they know it was | Politics News

A couple of hours before the result of the West Lancashire by-election was declared shortly before 2am, senior Tories at the count were prepared for the worst.

Privately, they were predicting a 60% share of the vote for Labour and 25% for the Conservatives.

They weren’t far wrong. The Tory vote has indeed slumped from over 36% at the 2019 general election to about 25%. But Labour’s share was higher than the Tories feared, above 62%.

That was a bigger share for Labour and smaller for the Conservatives in this constituency than in Tony Blair’s landslide general election victory in 1997.

After the result, Bill Esterson – Labour MP for the neighbouring seat of Sefton Central – took great delight in pointing that out.

For the Tories, Blackpool South MP Scott Benton told Sky News in a combative interview that the result here wasn’t good enough for Labour to send Sir Keir Starmer to Downing Street at the next general election.

In her victory speech, the winning Labour candidate Ashley Dalton – resplendent in a bright red trouser suit – said it was time for a general election. But there isn’t going to be one for at least 18 months.

Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives may be languishing on around 25% in national opinion polls – coincidentally about the same as their vote share in this by-election – but the government consistently wins votes in the Commons by comfortable majorities of about 60.

That doesn’t mean Mr Sunak isn’t in a perilous position, however. A trouncing at the local elections on May 4 similar to this by-election result will send many Tory MPs into a blind panic and plunge the PM’s future into real danger.

Pic: Twitter
The by-election was sparked by Rosie Cooper’s resignation. Pic: Twitter

Amid the latest run of dismal by-election results and the prospect of a drubbing in May, Mr Sunak’s tenure in No 10 is made all the more vulnerable by the resurgent threats posed by his two predecessors, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, with Mr Johnson undermining him in military aid to Ukraine and Ms Truss leading a renewed charge for tax cuts in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget on 15 March.

As for West Lancashire, it has a new MP who on the evidence of this morning – in her victory speech and subsequent interview with Sky News – will be a powerful and extremely vocal advocate for the constituency.

She highlighted the problems in the NHS, the cost of living crisis and transport issues as her top priorities when she arrives at Westminster after parliament’s half-term recess in 10 days’ time.

On transport, for example, the new town of Skelmersdale in the constituency has no railway station – and locals here complain that it’s a long and frustrating bus journey to Liverpool.

There had long been plans to rebuild a train station, but the government rejected these plans last year – a move West Lancashire’s previous MP, Rosie Cooper, described as a “cruel joke”.

Health, cost of living and transport – issues that are currently dominating politics nationally and were also the predominant issues in this by-election campaign.

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That suggests they are the main reason the Tories are haemorrhaging votes. Add to that the Tory sleaze and bullying allegations, “partygate” and the perception that the Conservatives are out of touch after 13 years in power – all of which we heard from Labour in West Lancashire – no wonder Sir Keir’s cheerleaders are cock-a-hoop about the result in this by-election.

And, despite the brave face put on this crushing defeat publicly by the Tories, the slump in votes here will privately fill many Conservative MPs with gloom and alarm.

No doubt those Tory predictions two hours before the result were intended to manage expectations in their party’s favour. But it didn’t work and this result wasn’t just bad for the Conservatives. It was terrible. And while they won’t admit it, they know it was.

Is Rishi Sunak’s five-point plan enough to turn the tide for the Tories? | Politics News

A term coined by Franklin D Roosevelt, “the first 100 days” has taken on a symbolic significance for political leaders as a benchmark to measure the early successes of a president – or, in our case, a prime minister.

But for Rishi Sunak, it has taken 71 days for the new PM to even set out a serious domestic policy speech, finally on Wednesday laying down his five priorities for his time at Number 10.

And what he has come up with misses the mark when it comes to grasping the nettle of the crisis Britain is now in.

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For this is a prime minister facing the worst strikes since the 1980s, as nurses, rail workers, paramedics, postal workers, border staff and other public sector employees, all walk out over pay.

The NHS is, according to many health leaders, facing the worst crisis in its history.

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimates that 300 to 500 people a week are dying as a result of delays to emergency care – a figure challenged by NHS England.

People are struggling to see a GP and worrying about whether an ambulance will turn up in time if they have to dial 999.

And the rail network is crippled by rolling strikes.

Yet in his keynote speech, the prime minister had few answers to the issue of ending rail strikes or settling with nurses.

Instead, he set out a five-point plan on which the public should judge him – pledges to halve inflation, grow the economy, get national debt falling, cut NHS waiting lists and pass laws to stop small boat crossings

He told the public he was not going to be one of those politicians who “promise the earth and then fail to deliver” (in an apparent dig at his two predecessors) and would focus on what he identified were the people’s priorities – the high cost of living, NHS waiting times and illegal migration.

And he should be confident he can deliver, given that pretty much all of his five pledges are already in train.

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Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby asks the prime minister: ‘How are you different to your predecessors?’

His economic pledges – halving inflation, growing the economy, getting national debt falling – look very simple to meet given that these are targets economists expect to happen too.

Inflation is expected to halve from its 11% high this year, while some forecasters expect the economy to be growing by the end of 2023.

As for reducing public debt, the prime minister has set this out as a medium-term goal, so it’s already baked into his plans.

When it comes to cutting NHS lists – latest figures have those waiting for treatment in England at 7.2 million – NHS England has already set out a plan of reducing wait times over several years, with the prime minister repeating the promise to get waiting times falling without setting out fresh targets.

Under current plans, waits of longer than a year for elective care are to be eliminated by March 2025, while the ambition is that 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by the same deadline.

If he sticks to this plan, Mr Sunak could claim success without the country necessarily feeling it.

And his final pledge, to pass laws to stop small boat crossings, has already been announced by the PM.

Last month, Mr Sunak promised new legislation to tackle small boat crossings as a record near 46,000 people crossing the channel on small boats in 2022.

His plan is to bring in new legislation that would bar anyone entering the UK illegally the right to remain in the UK.

So if the pledge is to pass laws to stop small boat crossings, he’ll deliver it.

But how effective the government will be in actually stopping the crossings or returning people to their countries of origins remains to be seen, given that many people will come from countries to which they cannot be returned. This could prove a pledge that is hardest to deliver.

Is it enough?

Mr Sunak ended his speech saying he’d only make promises on what he can deliver and will deliver on what he’s promised. And by that yardstick, he’ll probably be able to claim success.

But the reality of what the country is experiencing right now is far removed from his five-point plan.

And with the Conservatives still 20 points behind in the polls, the bigger question for this government and the Tory party is whether what Mr Sunak is offering is anywhere near enough to turn the tide.

Mortgages cost extra £530 per month after Tories ‘crashed’ economy, Labour claims | UK News

Liz Truss’s “disastrous premiership” means British families are spending an extra £530 a month on their mortgage than they were a year ago, Labour has claimed.

The Opposition claims the effects of higher interest rates will be felt by tens of thousands of households for years to come.

Labour’s analysis is based on the current average property price in the UK – which is £295,903 – and assumes there is a 70% mortgage on a 30-year term, meaning £207,132 is being borrowed.

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Annual interest rates stood at 2.25% last October, meaning that the typical monthly repayment in that scenario would have been £791.75.

But when Ms Truss stepped down on Thursday, rates had surged to 6.65% – taking repayments to £1,329.72, an increase of 68%.

Labour’s figures suggest that – over a two-year period – this would be an extra £12,911.06 that households need to find.

According to UK Finance, 1.8 million people will need to secure a new deal next year, which is about 26% of all mortgages.

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy has warned tens of thousands of households will be paying higher mortgages for years “because the Conservatives crashed the economy”.

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Labour leader calls for general election now

Ms Nandy said: “This is a Tory crisis, made in Downing Street and being paid for by working people … Despite the U-turns, the damage has been done.

“Even now, families are still paying more because the government has lost all credibility. The Tories simply cannot be trusted with the economy.”

Responding to Labour’s analysis, a Treasury spokesperson said: “Growth requires confidence and stability.

“A central responsibility for any government is do what is necessary for economic stability, and we have done so.”