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Rishi Sunak will have to fend off attacks on his leadership if the Tories lose three once solidly Conservative seats in this week’s by-elections.
A former Cabinet minister warned that it will be the “final straw” for many MPs if all three are lost on Thursday.
Voters will go to the polls in Selby and Ainsty, Somerton and Frome, and Uxbridge and South Ruislip – the former parliamentary home of Boris Johnson.
The veteran Tory expects some MPs will be so frustrated they will send letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 group of Conservative backbenchers, requesting a vote of confidence in Mr Sunak’s leadership.
They said: “I think for a lot of my colleagues this would be the final straw. Everybody says you can’t change leaders with a year to go before the election – but what do you do when you have a leader who is not cutting the mustard?”
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Exclusive polling for the Sunday Express by Omnisis found that nearly half (46 percent) of Britons do not think he should remain as PM if all the by-elections are lost.
Just three in 10 say he should stay in the job, with 24 percent unsure.
Another former Cabinet minister said there is “definitely” still time to revive the party’s fortunes under a new leader, and urged Mr Sunak to consider whether he should stay in post.
They said: “I think quite frankly when we lose these by-elections this should be a moment when Rishi Sunak looks at himself in the mirror and says: ‘Am I the right person to lead this party?’”
Describing the unhappiness in Tory ranks, they added: “People are so fed up in the parliamentary party. We are treated with such disdain, discourtesy, we’re ignored. If you raise an issue like migrants you’re accused of not supporting the Government… Quite frankly we need a complete clear-out of everyone in this current Government.”
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MPs who are already anxious about holding onto their seats will grow more worried this week if Opposition parties can overturn the 20,137 majority in Selby and Ainsty – the former seat of Nigel Adams, a key ally of Mr Johnson – or the 19,213 majority in Somerton and Frome, formerly represented by David Warburton, who was suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies.
Some Conservatives believe they are “in with a chance” when it comes to holding onto Uxbridge and South Ruislip (majority 7,210).
This is due to anger at London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to extend the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, which means drivers of non-compliant cars will have to pay a daily charge of £12.50.
An ex-Cabinet minister cautioned frustrated Tories against attempting to oust Mr Sunak if he suffers a hat-trick of losses.
Looking ahead to the challenge of winning the next election, they said: “There’s nothing that could be done in terms of changing the leadership that would be helpful.”
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