Nadhim Zahawi sacked by PM Rishi Sunak
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Rishi Sunak is being urged to make former Home Secretary Priti Patel his new party chairman in a bid to start to heal the deep wounds in the Conservative Party. The Prime Minister is being warned if he hopes to survive he needs to start bringing into his top team some of the political big beasts who he consigned to the backbenches.
With the Conservatives trailing by 21 points in the latest teacker poll and facing an activist rebellion over the way Mr Sunak was installed as party leader and Prime Minister without a membership vote, Tory backbenchers are growing increasingly concerned.
Added to that the sacking of Mr Zahawi has added to the number of senior MPs on the backbenches who could cause the Prime Minister problems.
Already Liz Truss, who he replaced after a short Premiership, has launched Conservatives for Growth; Boris Johnson appears to be on a comeback tour which included stops at Davos and Ukraine; and Ms Patel has become the face of the grassroots movement the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) which wants massive reform in the party to give members a voice.
Ms Patel is understood to be “open to the idea” of becoming party chairman in charge of election campaigning to help start healing the rifts in the party and give the Tories a fighting chance at the next election.
One senior Conservative described her as “the golden thread who can weave together the party membership, parliamentary party and party leadrrship again.”
She was also one of the Brexit spartans who prevented a compromise deal with Theresa May and the EU which has endeared her to the Brexit wing of the party and much of the membership.
Another noted that Ms Patel is “at heart a grassroots Conservative who is never happier than when she is out on the stomp campaigning with members.”
Even advisors close to Mr Sunak warned the Tory leadership is “missing the stardust” of Boris Johnson and Ms Patel touring the country during the last election.
Another senior figure warned: “The party under [Sunak] is tanking in the polls among voters but it is also tanking among party members. The new chairman needs to be someone ike Priti who can give them something to believe in and fight for again.
“This leadership has put the party into terminal decline not even managed decline.”
One MP said keeping so many big beasts on the backbenches only increased “Rishi Sunak’s obvious sense of insecurity.”
The senior backbencher added: “He has a cabinet of [Boris Johnson] backstabbers and wannabes. Sunak needs some serious people.
“If he wants to survive and avoid the fate of his predecessors he needs to start bringing people like Patel, [former chairman Sir Jake] Berry and others in. They need to stop this irrational hatred of people who are close to Boris [Johnson].”
There is also strong support from the grassroots membership for Ms Patel to be given the job of preparing the party for the next election.
A Conservative Post petition calling for an elected chairman has Ms Patel in the top four of possible candidates including Boris Johnson, Lord Cruddas and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Stephen James, Chairman of Folkestone and Hythe Conservative Association, said: “Priti Patel is an exceptional politician with a proven track record of delivering proper Conservative policies. She is popular amongst the grassroots, a seasoned campaigner, and a conviction politician who is not afraid to engage in difficult conversations to promote her vision of Conservatism.
“Her upcoming attendance at our Association Spring lunch this April is a testament to her commitment to rallying the troops and her desire to put the party members first.”
“I am sure the experience she gained in the Home Office dealing with ‘Sir Humphreys’ has refined her ability to tackle bureaucracy and deliver results.
“Not only that, I hugely admire how she remained loyal to our Party Leader (Boris); to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling – whilst others lost heads, Priti kept hers; she is exactly the kind of leader the Conservative Party needs.”
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Lord Frost has also warned the leadership that it needs to pick “a proven campaigner” although he has declined to back any individual.
Mike Rouse, deputy chairman political and campaigning for Warwickshire and Worcestershire Area Conservatives, said: “As an area deputy chairman responsible for campaigning across 12 constituencies in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, I know we have a mountain to climb politically to secure a majority at the next general election and to return as many councillors as possible in May’s local elections.
“We need a party chair who can take command of our election-winning machinery, inspire our volunteers, and has the experience necessary to deliver victory against the odds.
“That is why I would back Priti Patel. She has been part of the Conservative family for more than 32 years, with experience of government dating back to the coalition, and she has been a strong voice for the members. Priti stood with us when they tried to remove the rights of members to vote for the Leader before and I have no doubt she would do so again.
“She knows how to get things done, and I for one would welcome the fresh dose of optimism and fighting spirit she would bring as party chair.”
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