Are Allies Of Boris Johnson Out To Kill Off Rishi Sunak's Premiership?

The new prime minister has never been forgiven for his part in the former PM's downfall.
Nadine Dorries, Jake Berry and Iain Duncan Smith have all spoken out since Sunak became PM
Nadine Dorries, Jake Berry and Iain Duncan Smith have all spoken out since Sunak became PM

Barely two weeks into the job, Rishi Sunak is giving the strong impression that he is not, so far at least, enjoying being prime minister.

With an economy on life support and a fractious Tory Party at war with itself, it was never going to be an easy time to assume the top job.

Nevertheless, Sunak’s first fortnight in Number 10 has still been a disappointment for those who believed his elevation would mark a return to sensible, managerial government and a resulting turnaround in Conservative fortunes.

The U-turn on attending Cop27 was an unnecessary own goal, while his gamble on bringing Gavin Williamson back into government spectacularly backfired.

Even some Sunak supporters are beginning to wonder whether the task he faces is simply too big for him to carry off.

However, it is undoubtedly the case that his job is being made more difficult by unhelpful noises-off from Tory MPs who also happen to be supporters of Boris Johnson.

Sunak will never be forgiven by some for the pivotal role he played in bringing down the former prime minister, an “offence” he then compounded by rejecting Johnson’s plea that he stand aside to let him have another crack at the job when Liz Truss resigned.

One MP who has almost gone out of his way to make life difficult for Sunak is Sir Jake Berry, who was sacked as Tory Party chairman when the new PM came to power.

As controversy swirled over the prime minister’s decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as home secretary just six days after she was forced to resign over a security breach, Berry popped up on Talk TV to point out she had breached the ministerial code on “multiple” occasions.

Berry also waded in over Sunak’s equally-contentious decision to make Gavin Williamson a Cabinet Office minister, despite previously being sacked twice and his deep unpopularity with many Tory MPs.

As details of abusive text messages Williamson sent to former chief whip Wendy Morton emerged, Berry went on the record to point out that he had made Sunak aware of the allegations before he decided to give him a job.

Nadine Dorries, meanwhile, has also not been slow to criticise the new PM when the opportunity has arisen.

Last month, before his eventual U-turn, she said Sunak was “wrong” to rule out attending Cop27, while she was also critical of the lack of new faces in the PM’s first cabinet.

And this morning, she took to Twitter over a report in The Times that Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt plan to postpone Boris Johnson’s plan to put a cap on social care costs.

Iain Duncan Smith, who backed Johnson’s bid to be leader in 2019 and helped to run Liz Truss’s campaign against Sunak in the summer, is another MP who is proving to be a thorn in the PM’s side.

Speaking to Sky News, he warned against raising taxes in the autumn statement on November 17, claiming it would lead to a deeper recession.

Asked how tax rises would go down among Tory MPs, he said: “It will be deep concern if we go over the top on tax rises because, as I say, it is absolutely a fact of life that tax rises will make the recession deeper.

“It won’t go down particularly well because many people and economists too think it will be a [problematic] decision to make. I think he has got to focus on finding the spending [cuts].”

Therein lies Sunak’s dilemma. While he still retains the support of a majority of his MPs, that will be severely tested by any moves to further increase the tax burden while also imposing swingeing public spending cuts.

He may still be getting his feet under the table at Number 10, but some on the Tory benches are already sowing the seeds of his downfall.


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