Rishi Sunak Hopes Hog Roast Will Help Lift Tory Spirits
Rishi Sunak visiting Wonderground festival in 2021 (Alamy)
Rishi Sunak will host a Downing Street barbeque for Conservative MPs on Wednesday night as the Prime Minister tries to rally his troops ahead of three key by-elections this month and another two looming.
Sunak has invited all Tory MPs to attend a hog roast in the garden of No 10 later this week, PoliticsHome understands.
It is the latest in a series of Downing Street events put on for Conservative backbenchers by Sunak, and will give them the opportunity to grill the PM about the state of the party before they go back to their constituencies for the lengthy summer recess next week.
A senior Tory MP who is a former secretary of state said Sunak had been "miles better" than previous prime ministers Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Theresa May when it comes to giving face-time to Tory backbenchers since he entered No 10 in October.
But the Prime Minister will likely have to provide reassurances to Conservative MPs who are worried about Labour's prolonged period of large, double-digit leads in the opinion polls, and the prospect of the Tories losing in all three by-elections taking place next week on 20 July.
A poll published last week put Keir Starmer's Labour 12 points ahead in Selby & Ainsty, where the Conservatives are defending a majority of over 20,000. The Tories also face losing Johnson's old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip to Labour, while the Liberal Democrats are confident of overturning another big 'blue wall' majority in Somerset & Frome.
At the weekend PoliticsHome reported an increasing sense of gloom among Tory MPs who are disheartened by the growing gap between Labour and the Tories in the polls, as well as indications that Sunak's five pledges could be tougher to achieve than the government had initially hoped.
Speaking to PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown last week, Conservative MP Mark Garnier said "unbelievable class act" Sunak could still turn it around for his party, but needed to set out a more "bright, optimistic" vision for the country to have a fighting chance at the next general election.
The MP for Wyre Forest said he wanted to see "much more" than Sunak's five pledges.
"These are issues which every government is going to have to deal with and dealing with them just demonstrates that we are competent. What Rishi has got to do is create an image which people want to subscribe to," said Garnier.
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