Right-wing Tories plot to replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt before general election

Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt has emerged as the preferred candidate among rival Tory factions

Rishi Sunak at PMQs asked about Frank Hester

The plot among right-wing Tory MPs to remove Rishi Sunak before the general election has intensified, with reports over the weekend that a number of those on the right of the party met with moderates to rally behind Penny Mordaunt.

It comes after a week in which talk of changing the Tory leader is getting louder, meaning that the party is preparing to usher in its fourth leader since the last election. Dire poll ratings, an underwhelming budget which has failed to have the desired effect on boosting Tory support and a number of crises within the Tory party, including the defection of Lee Anderson to Reform UK, have all served to further embolden Tory rebels.

The Tories have consistently trailed Labour by around 20 points, and with Sunak’s failure thus far to reverse the party’s fortunes as a general election looms, talk has quickly turned to replacing him.

Leader of the Commons Mordaunt has emerged as the preferred candidate among rival Tory factions and the preference among rebel Tory MPs is to replace Sunak in a “coronation” following a no-confidence vote, as opposed to putting their party and country through another leadership contest.

A source on the Tory right told the Telegraph: “Some Right-wing MPs met with Team Penny this week, where they expressed the view they were prepared to back her. They take the view that Penny is preferable to Rishi Sunak right now.”

The source added: “Penny Mordaunt is now seen as the most likely person to stem the losses.” Ms Mordaunt, currently the leader of the House of Commons, was the last to fall to Mr Sunak and eventual victor Liz Truss in the 2021 Tory leadership race, since when her profile has been somewhat boosted by her sword-wielding role in the coronation.”

The momentum to replace Sunak could grow further, with a number of key dates proving crucial to the Prime Minister’s future, including the results of the May 2 local elections. Should the Tories suffer heavy losses, it will only serve to further embolden those wanting to see the back of Sunak.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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