Rishi Sunak Swerves Party Mutiny With Suella Braverman Still In Post
Rishi Sunak leaving Downing Street (alamy)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared to have swerved a backbench rebellion on Wednesday despite "noise" from a vocal minority of right-wing Conservative MPs who blame senior government figures for fallout surrounding Boris Johnson and Suella Braverman.
MPs on the right of the party, who were already agitated by the threat of an investigation into whether Home Secretary Suella Braverman broke the ministerial code with a request for a private speed awareness course, were further incensed when the covid inquiry threatened the government with legal action over a refusal to hand over Boris Johnson's diaries and WhatsApps from his time in Downing Street.
On Tuesday one Tory MP told The Telegraph that "active conversations" were underway to demonstrate their discontent to party leadership, claiming "nothing is off the table". But such threats in response to what loyalists characterised as a “witch-hunt” have so far proven hollow.
"We should keep the distracting noise from the Johnson and Braverman camps in perspective," former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told PoliticsHome.
“After a miserable few months we are now enjoying a more professional, measured and productive period in politics thanks to Rishi Sunak’s leadership. As we progress in the polls, these ever shrill voices failing to rally behind the Prime Minister are looking increasingly isolated and should be ignored.”
A former cabinet minister told PoliticsHome that complaints were coming from “a small number of people who are very noisy but with not much reach”.
Another said only a few MPs were driving the "Boris noise" and did not believe he had "a large group supporting him".
According to one senior Tory, today's unrest was little more than "a few people left fighting in the jungle, the kinds we saw at the National Conservatism Conference".
Shortly before what many speculated would be an incendiary Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Sunak made a decisive move to clear Braverman, confirming that following discussions with his ethics adviser, he did not believe she had broken the ministerial code when she made inquiries into the possibility of a private speed awareness code, and that she would continue in her role as Home Secretary.
Sunak's decision not to pursue an investigation into Braverman's conduct was broadly welcomed by Tory MPs, with one senior Conservative suggesting anger will likely “die down” as a result.
A former secretary of state said Sunak's response was “appropriate” and felt earlier interventions from the backbenches had been “unhelpful noise”.
One Conservative MP welcomed the retention of a “good and robust” minister in Braverman, arguing that any attempt to try and arrange a private speeding awareness course may have been ill-advised but was far from sackable.
A former secretary of state agreed that her actions amounted to a “minor breach,” but felt she might not be safe if Sunak decided to shake up his top team, suggesting recent events made her “eminently shuffleable”.
They added that the general feeling on the right and centre of the Conservative Party was that she was “not up to the job”, and worried the speeding row was a distraction from “serious things” like behaviour of police and small boats.
James Sunderland, MP for Bracknell, felt the speeding issue was nonsense and the government was focused on “cracking on with its job”.
During Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon, the atmosphere appeared neither enthusiastic or hostile towards Sunak. Backbenchers were vocal in their support towards the Prime Minister after he reeled off a list of achievements such as English children being the most literate in Europe.
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