Rishi Sunak has told Conservatives fearing they face being electorally “massacred” that he is “making progress”, as he urged them to stick with his plan.
Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke’s warning that the Tories face oblivion at the next election without a change in the Prime Minister was followed by fresh gloom from an adviser.
Will Dry, a former aide to Mr Sunak who conducted polling for No 10, said the country is “on course for at least a decade of Labour rule” as he joined a rebel plot to oust the PM.
Senior Conservatives have leapt to the defence of Mr Sunak to remain rather than move on to their fourth leader since their 2019 general election victory.
But the public warring has done nothing to soothe Tory nerves as Labour remains 23 points clear in the polls – with the next election set to take place this year.
Mr Sunak said he knew when he took over as Conservative leader that it “wasn’t going to be easy”, as he was questioned over Sir Simon and Mr Dry’s warnings in a visit to Scarborough.
“I really do think that we are now making progress, take the economy for example,” he told broadcasters, pointing to reduced inflation.
He argued that “because of that careful management of the economy, we’re now able to cut people’s taxes”, citing the national insurance reduction earlier this month.
“If we stick with this plan then we can ensure that everyone has peace of mind, that there’s a brighter future ahead, and a renewed sense of pride in our country – that’s what I’m focused on,” he added.
Mr Dry issued a statement saying he had quit No 10 after concluding that the Tories “are heading for the most almighty of defeats”.
He is reported to have joined a group of donors going by the name of the Conservative Britain Alliance, whose bleak polling has been used to call for Mr Sunak’s removal.
Sir Simon, who served as Liz Truss’s levelling-up secretary, faced a backlash from fellow Tory MPs after warning the party would be “massacred” at the election without change.
Defending his own intervention, Sir Simon told BBC News: “No-one likes that guy that’s shouting ‘iceberg’ but I suspect that people will be even less happy if we hit the iceberg.
“And we are on course to do that.”