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George Osborne says Tories are 'screwed' if Theresa May fails to connect with new voters

4 min read

The Conservatives will be "politically screwed" if Theresa May fails to reach out to a more diverse group of voters, George Osborne has warned.

The former chancellor - who was sacked by Mrs May in 2016 and now edits the Evening Standard newspaper - said the Prime Minister needed to find "a way to reconnect" with voters beyond the party's traditional base.

He told GQ: "If the Conservative Party does not try to reconnect with modern Britain, with urban, ethnically diverse, sexually diverse Britain, it is politically screwed.

"The current leadership needs to find a way to reconnect or we will need new leadership."

The ex-chancellor has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister since leaving the Cabinet and quitting as an MP, using the leader columns of the newspaper he edits to take frequent potshots at the Conservatives' current direction.

He was reported to have told friends he would not rest until Mrs May was "chopped up in bags in my freezer".

Elsewhere in his GQ interview, the Remain-backing ex-MP also blasted Brexiteers, saying they were "essentially being found out".

And he accused ministers of not being able to "stomach the cost of leaving" the European Union, leading to a state of "permanent transition".

"They promised this nirvana, this taking back control, so suddenly we'd be in charge of our money; our borders, our immigration policy and all that," Mr Osborne said of the Brexiteers.

"But the actual result is that they can't make a decision because the real cost of leaving the EU and the single market is so high they don't dare do it. So they keep putting off the decision.

"While we legally leave in March of next year, we're not actually leaving any of the arrangements. The irony is that the only thing we will leave next year is the room where the decisions are taken.

"We at least used to be in the room arguing from Britain's corner."

The former chancellor meanwhile dismissed as "totally unrealistic" demands for the Government to simply "get Brexit over and done with so we can talk about other things".

"We are in a kind of permanent transition," he said.

"We are unable as a country, rightly if you like, to stomach the cost of leaving. So we put off the practicality for years and years to come."


Mr Osborne's intervention came as former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, a key Conservative Remain supporter and ally of the ex-chancellor, compared Eurosceptics to climate change deniers.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Ms Rudd said that while the UK is set to formally leave the European Union next year, "disentangling regulatory and legal systems that have been entwined for more than 40 years will require delicate diplomacy".

The former Climate Change Secretary warned: "Such an endeavour will not be straightforward. Anyone who claims it will is being as cavalier with people’s future as those who deny that the belching of fossil fuels into the atmosphere is warming the planet.

"Just as we must listen to scientific warnings about the risks of manmade climate change, so we must listen to the businesses and economists warning that a chaotic Brexit will threaten our economy."

The ex-Cabinet minister urged colleagues to have "the courage to change our views to reflect the facts", and called on her warring party to give Mrs May "a free hand to secure the best outcome for all of us".

"Both Brexit and future climate negotiations will require British leadership," she said.


But the plea for unity behind Mrs May came as a string of Conservative activists attacked her premiership.

Seven chairs of Cabinet ministers’ local Conservative associations told The Telegraph they either disagreed with the Prime Minister's Chequers deal on Brexit or would pull their support from her if the UK gives further ground to the EU.

Richard Kellaway, the chair of Mrs May’s own Maidenhead Tory association told the paper: "If it were to be diluted it would ultimately not be acceptable."

The chairman of Andrea Leadsom's South Northamptonshire association meanwhile called for the Prime Minister to be ousted in favour of a "statesman".

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