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Sat, 24 February 2024

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PopCon Tories Say They Do Not Want To Oust Rishi Sunak

Former prime minister Liz Truss will speak at the launch of Popular Conservatism on Tuesday (Alamy)

3 min read

Senior Conservative MPs will stress that the new Popular Conservatism movement being launched on Tuesday does not aim to attempt to oust Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as Tory leader.

Former prime minister Liz Truss, ex-Cabinet minister Jacob Rees Mogg and erstwhile deputy chair of the Conservative party Lee Anderson are all expected to make speeches at the central London launch of Popular Conservatism, also known as 'PopCon' on Tuesday morning. 

According to Mark Littlewood, the right-wing political figure and major Truss ally who is behind the new campaign, it will seek to promote a brand of Conservative politics focussed on "freedom", including lower taxes and protecting freedom of speech.

Writing in The Telegraph, Littlewood, who was formerly general director of libertarian think tank Institute for Economic Affairs, said: "It's time to give people their freedom back – that was what Brexit was supposed to be about: taking back control". 

Since the event was announced in January, there has been speculation the the PopCons were lining themselves up to oust the beleaguered Prime Minister, whose party trails Labour in the polls. But those involved in the campaign have sought to stress that the purpose is to shape future Conservative party policy and the Tories' 2024 general election manifesto, and not to push for Sunak to be replaced as leader of the Conservative party.

The fact that Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister who last month called on the Prime Minister to go, has been dropped from the lineup demonstrates that point, one insider told PoliticsHome.

"It’s nothing to do with personality or party leadership or all that nonsense," they said.

They also insisted that it is "not another parliamentary faction" like the European Research Group and New Conservatives of Tory MP. "It is broader and deeper than that," they said, and claimed that unlike parliamentary Tory party groupings it is more rooted in the "grassroots".

Truss, who replaced Boris Johnson as prime minister in September 2022 before being forced to step down only a month later, has refused to withdraw from the Westminster political scene despite her time in Downing Street being the shortest lived in British political history.

Tory backbenchers ousted the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk after just a few weeks in office when her plans for wholesale tax cuts triggered chaos in the financial markets and forced her into a major reversal of her economic agenda.

Truss' tax-cutting brand of Conservative politics continues to enjoy significant support in the Tory party, and the former foreign secretary is expected to play a significant role if there is a leadership contest to find Sunak's successor following the next general election.

An ally of the former PM told PoliticsHome she will be "speaking from the heart" about the future of Conservatism when she takes to her feet on Tuesday.

However, while Truss may continue to enjoy some support within her own ranks, polling published on Monday indicated that she remains an unpopular figure with the general public following her brief stint in power.

New research by Savanta found that her net favourability was -54 per cent — putting her at the bottom of names put to respondents. Sunak was on -27 per cent while Johnson, who was forced out of No10 following the partygate scandal, was on -25 per cent.

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