Braverman warns Tory party will cease to exist unless it neutralises Farage and Reform

Suella Braverman has become the first potential Conservative leadership candidate to admit that the party’s very existence is now at stake after the most disastrous general election result in its history.

The former home secretary was one of three potential leadership candidates to do the Sunday morning political shows, along with ex-health secretary Victoria Atkins and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick in an attempt to start diagnosing what went wrong.

It followed the Tories winning a mere 121 seats, their worst result in the party’s 190-year history, as millions of their voters switched to Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

Suella Braverman believes Nigel Farage could destroy the Tories (PA)
Suella Braverman believes Nigel Farage could destroy the Tories (PA)

Mr Farage told The Independent on Saturday he will no longer seek Tory MPs past or present as defectors or push to take over the party. Instead, he has decided he wants Reform to replace the Conservatives altogether.

Speaking on GB News on Sunday, Ms Braverman addressed the surge in support for Mr Farage and Reform and its effect on the Tories, warning: “We are facing an existential crisis. No party has the right to exist.”

Ms Braverman also claimed “there is a serious attempt to cut out the [party] membership” from the next leadership vote, warning this would be a disaster for a party that has lost contact with its base and seen millions switch to Reform UK.

She went on to say: “There is no urgency to elect a new leader. What is urgent and absolutely essential now is that we as a party reflect on what got us into this existentially damaging situation.”

But, having penned an article attacking Rishi Sunak’s election campaign just 48 hours before polling day, she was also challenged on the issue of loyalty and party discipline.

Ms Braverman hit back at her critics arguing that they had done the same in forcing Boris Johnson out.

Mr Farage speaking to David Maddox (Stuart Mitchell)
Mr Farage speaking to David Maddox (Stuart Mitchell)

“What is party discipline?” she asked. “What is loyalty? Over the last several years we have had prime minister after prime minister. I mean many people were dismayed that Boris Johnson was brought down in the way he was.”

Her comments came as ex-Tory MP Marcus Fysh, a fellow Brexiteer on the right of the party, suggested it would be better for the country if the Conservatives did cease to exist.

He told Times Radio: “I just don’t think it is a viable entity anymore. The new composition in parliament means I don’t think there is any chance it will do the things needed to be actually electable again. I’m just calling it how I see it; if it was my business I would wind it up.”

One rival on the right, Mr Jenrick, struck a more managerial note on why the party had been turfed out of office, arguing that it had been a failure to deliver.

The former minister said he was being “painfully honest” about what went wrong, adding the Tories “didn’t have a good enough diagnosis of just how broken some of our public services were”.

Former health secretary Victoria Atkins and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick both appeared on the BBC’s flagship political show but insisted they were not yet launching leadership bids (PA)
Former health secretary Victoria Atkins and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick both appeared on the BBC’s flagship political show but insisted they were not yet launching leadership bids (PA)

He told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “And we didn’t have the willingness to take the tough decisions that were necessary to deliver for the British public; when we said, for example, on immigration that we would do whatever it takes, we didn’t do whatever it takes.”

Mr Jenrick suggested “migration was at the heart” of the defeat, adding: “Two-thirds of the constituencies that sadly we lost at the general election, the majorities, the margin of defeat was less than the Reform vote – and that was the case in the North, the South, in Scotland, Wales, everywhere including, for example, in seats that we lost to the Liberal Democrats.”

He is understood to have the support of influential figure Danny Kruger, founder of the New Conservatives, who also argued that lack of competence was the main cause for the humiliating defeat.

Writing for the Telegraph, he said: “We lost this election because millions of people who voted Tory in 2019 abandoned us – not for Labour or the Liberal Democrats, but for Reform. They did so principally because we failed on immigration. No other analysis can possibly be sustained on the evidence of Thursday night.”

Lord Ben Houchen, the Mayor of Teesside, the only major Tory election success in recent times, warned about “competency” in an article for The Sunday Times.

He wrote: “If my experience tells me anything, it is that reactionary politics are not the answer to our recent setback. The Conservative Party’s true failing was not ideological; nor was it due to the election campaign or Rishi Sunak. The loss stemmed from a loss of confidence and trust, and a lack of belief in our ability to deliver at Westminster.”

Former health secretary Victoria Atkins, who is being championed by the One Nation left of the party, did not rule out standing in the Tory leadership race but said it was not yet time for candidates to launch their campaigns.

“This weekend is not about leadership,” she told Kuenssberg. “The absolute focus at the moment, and the reason I came on today, was genuinely not to talk about leadership because this is not the moment for this.

“We need to show the public that we understand they have sent us some very, very loud messages, that we are listening, that we are reflecting and then we as a party need to get together and unite and work out what we want for the future.”

But already there has been a warning from leading figures outside the parliamentary party that tacking to a managerial line will not help defeat Mr Farage and Reform.

Former David Cameron adviser and ResPublica think tank director Phillip Blond said: “Lots of stuff from putative leadership contenders for the Tory leadership and advocates out there but it’s all visionless management speak that won’t shift a single voter.

“Stuff about delivery is a necessary but not sufficient condition for renewal – what’s missing is recognition that the whole original Tory offer is an abject failure and what’s needed is not more technocratic wish fulfilment but a genuine enhancing new vision of Conservatism. Without this voters will stream to Farage.”