Published On: Mon, Jul 8th, 2024
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New data reveals boost for surprise Tory leadership hopeful | Politics | News

As the Tory party lay smouldering this Saturday in the wake of its worst-ever election defeat, top party peer Lord Frost broke his silence to slam the centrists who he accused of causing it.

A swathe of the Tories’ most senior and experienced ‘one nation’ MPs were swept from office by the Labour tsunami, including former deputy PM Damian Green, Matt Warman, Robert Buckland, Stephen Crabb, Tobias Elwood, Laura Farris and Victoria Prentis.

Even Rishi Sunak’s deputy chief of staff, Will Tanner, failed to hold one of the party’s former safest seats.

Lord Frost said: “One of the few bright points of this debacle is to see so many so-called ‘one nation’ MPs becoming victims of the electoral strategy they advocated so vigorously.”

Despite the fury this invoked among the party’s centre, new analysis of the party’s remaining 121 MPs suggests the centrist bloc of MPs may still have huge sway over their next leader.

Research by The Express suggests that nearly 50% of sitting Tory MPs backed candidates in the July 2022 leadership contest that represented the centre of the party.

If these MPs stuck with a ‘centrist’ or ‘One Nation’ candidate, they would breeze into the membership round. Of the 121 MPs sitting in parliament, 26 are newly elected and 3 never went public in either the July or the October 2022 Tory leadership elections, so are unknown entities in the forthcoming contest.

However 57 sitting MPs, representing 47% of the Commons caucus, backed ‘centrist’ candidates. They include 38 MPs who backed Rishi Sunak, 14 who backed Penny Mordaunt, and six who backed Tom Tugendhat.

This news will delight Tom Tugendhat, who is widely expected to declare his candidacy shortly and who is most likely to hoover up the nomination for the party’s centre-ground candidate.

Despite some overtures by former health secretary Victoria Atkins, Mr Tugendhat’s chances have been significantly boosted by the narrow defeat of Penny Mordaunt in her Portsmouth North constituency last Thursday.

The Express also calculates that the next largest block of Tory MP voters in 2022 were those categorised as ‘free marketeers’, almost all of them Liz Truss backers, and largely support Brexit.

A total of 21 remaining MPs – 17% – backed Ms Truss, and these MPs could be crucial to securing the second spot in the membership round.

The third largest block is those who supported candidates whose main pitch was around ‘cultural conservatism’, with policies including fighting woke, and cracking down on immigration.

A total of 12% of remaining Tory MPs – 14 in total – supported candidates of this description, including Priti Patel, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch.

All three of these candidates are considering running again, suggesting there will be a big scrabble within the party to secure support from a very small rump of MPs.

If Tom Tugendhat is the preferred candidate of nearly half of MPs, however, this could quickly lead to another Liz Truss-style leadership crisis if members row in behind the more right-wing rival.

With just 15% of MPs required to force a vote of confidence in the leader, the current threshold is a minuscule 18.

Talk is currently about significantly raising this, however, to avoid more 2022-style crises of confidence.

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