Politics

Sunak supporters are ‘rattled’ by new Tory democracy movement

Nadhim Zahawi says Boris Johnson won't make comeback as PM

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Supporters of Rishi Sunak have been described as “rattled” by a new movement in the Conservative Party which aims to restore democracy for members. It comes as ministers close to the Prime Minister have briefed that the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) is “a front to bring back Boris Johnson.”

The CDO was established on the back of fury among the party membership over the way Tory MPs threw out first Boris Johnson following the Partygate allegations of lockdown breaches in Downing Street, and then Liz Truss because they disapproved of her tax cutting mini budget.

In both cases, ordinary Tory members were not asked if they wanted to accept the decision by MPs and then after Ms Truss’s departure they were not even given the opportunity to elect a replacement.

A threshold of 102 MPs for nominations ensured that Mr Sunak was the only candidate.

One CDO organiser told Express.co.uk: “What we had was a coup by the liberal wing of the party. The membership did not want Sunak and were completely bypassed.”

But the last leadership contest almost saw a comeback from Mr Johnson who withdrew despite getting 110 MPs to nominate him.

A minister said the new CDO is “a budget front organisation” for the Bring Back Boris campaign.

The main backers are known close friends and allies of the deposed Prime Minister, including former Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is fronting it as the senior MP; ex party treasurer Lord Cruddas and former MEP David Campbell Bannerman as well as the Conservative Post.

Over the summer Lord Cruddas and the Conservative Post organised the Bring Back Boris petition to change the rules to allow members to get a vote on whether Mr Johnson should stay or resign.

The petition gained thousands of signatures but the party insisted that it had not reached the threshold required for a rule change to be considered.

Mr Campbell Bannerman, who has previously campaigned for the party members to elect the chairman, was also involved with the petition before backing Liz Truss.

Lord Cruddas, who is bankrolling the CDO, was dismissive of claims it was a front for Bring Back Boris.

He said: “I heard that Rishi MPs were going to try and say this. It shows that they are very worried as if we mobilise the members then we get control. Also senior MPs are supporting and encouraging us behind the scenes.”

He had previously told Express.co.uk that the campaign to give members a vote on Mr Johnson over the summer had become a wider one to restore democracy to the party.

Meanwhile, Mr Campbell Bannerman said many MPs are “rattled”.

He said: “They are rattled because they know that many members have had enough with the lack of democracy in the party.

“The problem is that all members get for their fee is two hours at conference to debate issues they want.

“They get hardly any choice on candidates with most of the selection controlled by CCHQ and now they are being kept out of the leadership vote too.”

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Mr Campbell Bannerman pointed out even Mr Sunak had said party democracy needed to be looked at.

However, many MPs, particularly those who backed Mr Sunak, want members to be denied a vote on who the party leader is, too.

Mr Campbell Bannerman said: “It is because of this sort of attitude that the membership has dropped from 500,000 to 172,000 and is dropping further rapidly.

“If MPs want to prevent members from voting on the leader they need to allow them to have the power to select candidates in their constituencies.

“They should also allow members to select the party chairman.”

There are also concerns that Mr Sunak and his tax raising Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have taken the party away from true conservative values and represent “a liberal pseudo conservative cabal”.

Express.co.uk has been told the party is struggling to select council candidates now with a by-election in West Hythe in Kent in a normally safe seat attracting nobody to stand.

A local Kent activist said: “The problem is that everyone asked says ‘I don’t want to stand for a pseudo Conservative Party.'”

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