Senior Conservative MP, Sir Simon Clarke, has urged his party to replace Rishi Sunak as prime minister or risk a “massacre” in the upcoming general election. Writing in the Telegraph, Sir Simon claimed that the party needs a leader who aligns with the majority’s instincts. He criticised the party’s failure to take a strong stance on immigration and government reform, which he believes has resulted in the loss of key voters.
Sir Simon is the second former minister to publicly call for Sunak’s resignation, following Dame Andrea Jenkyns’ letter of no confidence in November. Sir Simon, who served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury during Sunak’s time as Chancellor, is a strong supporter of Liz Truss and a member of her cabinet.
In his article, Sir Simon warned that the Conservative Party under Sunak is on shaky ground and urged his fellow MPs to consider the long-term consequences of their decisions. His comments follow a week of open rebellion against Sunak over his controversial Rwanda Bill.
The bill, aimed at deterring migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats, has sparked divisions within the party. Two deputy chairmen resigned from their roles to vote for rebel amendments, while the One Nation caucus threatened to kill the bill if Sunak accepted any of these amendments.
Several former Tory cabinet ministers have criticised Sir Simon’s article. Dame Priti Patel accused him of “engaging in facile and divisive self indulgence”, while David Davis accused MPs of prioritising their own leadership ambitions over the UK’s best interests.
Labour shadow cabinet minister John Ashworth said Sir Simon’s article highlighted the deep divisions within the Conservative party. Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper described the discussion of installing a fourth prime minister without a public vote as “utterly ludicrous”.
Sunak is the third Conservative prime minister since the 2019 election, following Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Recent polls show Labour leading by 18 points, with a YouGov poll projecting a 120-seat majority for Labour if an election were held today.