Tory former minister blasts 'utterly selfish Number 10' in wake of election humiliation
A Conservative former minister has branded Downing Street "utterly selfish" after the party suffered a local elections drubbing.
Robert Halfon said failures over Brexit and a lack of strong leadership from Theresa May had weakened the party as he warned its grassroots campaigning power was on "life support."
The former deputy chairman of the Conservatives launched the blistering attack on Downing Street after the party last week lost almost a third of the councils it was contesting at the local elections.
Writing for the ConservativeHome website, Mr Halfon branded the campaign a "shitshow".
"More than 1,300 seats lost. Over a thousand hard-working councillors out on their ear - not for the most part because of anything they did wrong, but because of a disastrous national situation," he wrote.
"We haven't just lost councillors, but also a huge activist support network in the shape of their friends and families. Our grassroots operation, already weakened, has been further damaged."
The former skills minister added: "Our failure to deliver Brexit, broken promises to properly address burning social injustices, our continued party disunity and a lack of strong leadership brought about this disaster."
Speaking at the Welsh Conservative conference on Thursday, Mrs May said the elections had been "difficult" for her party as she admitted many councillors had lost seats through "no fault of their own".
'SELF INDULGENT DRAMA'
Mr Halfon also took aim the "incomprehensible" sacking of former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson just hours before the polls opened, over his alleged involvement in a security briefing leak.
He said Downing Street had chosesn to "ignore the thousands of councillors and unpaid volunteers" by sparking a news storm.
"Creating such a self-indulgent drama was an utterly selfish decision from an utterly selfish Number 10 machine," he argued. "Do they even care about the future of the party?"
His searing attack on the Downing Street operation comes amid growing calls from senior Conservative MPs for the beleaguered Prime Minister to step down.
But Mr Halfon hit out at those vying to take the top job, saying they were "busy holding a beauty contest" instead of focussing on key issues, such as housing and jobs.
FARAGE PARTY WARNING
Elsewhere, Mr Halfon warned the Tories could be overtaken by the new Brexit Party led by ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage, which has seen soaring membership figures driven by a slick social media campaign.
"The new Brexit Party represents a tsunami in terms on political disruption", he said. "Nigel Farage has matured and has some serious and credible Euro-Parliamentary candidates.
"In just a couple of weeks, they have 85,000 paying members. In a few months, as things stand, they will probably leapfrog over our membership numbers.
"If they stand at the general election and we haven't left the EU - or there is a second referendum - the chances of change at Westminster is huge."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe