Tory rebel Braverman urges Sunak to change course after election blows

The senior Tory urged the Prime Minister to move to the right in response to the poll defeats.

Former home secretary Suella Braverman speaks to Laura Kuenssberg
Former home secretary Suella Braverman speaks to Laura Kuenssberg (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Rishi Sunak must change his political course to remain in power as there is no time to change Tory leader, Suella Braverman has said following a bruising set of local election results.

The senior Tory urged the Prime Minister to move to the right in response to the poll defeats, which saw a shock victory for Labour in the West Midlands mayoral contest on Saturday night.

Labour’s Richard Parker seized victory from outgoing Conservative mayor Andy Street by a mere 1,508 votes.

The party also stormed to victory in the London mayoral poll, with Sadiq Khan securing a historic third term in office, with a majority of some 275,000 over Conservative rival Susan Hall.

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

“The plan is not working and I despair at these terrible results,” Conservative former home secretary Ms Braverman told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

“I love my country, I care about my party and I want us to win, and I am urging the Prime Minister to change course, to – with humility – reflect on what voters are telling us, and change the plan and the way that he is communicating and leading us.”

Asked about whether she wanted to see a change in leader, Ms Braverman said: “I just don’t think that is a feasible prospect right now, we don’t have enough time and it is impossible for anyone new to come and change our fortunes to be honest.

“There is no superman or superwoman out there who can do it.”

Instead she called on Rishi Sunak to “own” the result, adding: “Therefore he needs to fix it.”

Among the measures Ms Braverman has urged the prime minister to adopt to win back voters are further tax cuts and a cap on legal migration.

She claimed Tory voters were currently “on strike”, and warned: “I talk to many of my colleagues who are privately demoralised and incredibly concerned about the prospects.

“At this rate we will be lucky to have any Conservative MPs at the next election.”

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, a Conservative former minister who submitted a letter of no-confidence in Mr Sunak in November, meanwhile suggested former prime minister Boris Johnson should return to frontline politics to ease the party’s woes.

Andrea Jenkyns speaking to media at Westminster
Andrea Jenkyns speaking to media at Westminster (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

She told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “I think now we’ve got to take the fight to Labour, I would like to see real common sense conservatism, honouring our manifesto commitments, I would like to see the return of Boris on the front line of politics, whether that’s going for a seat in the next election and being front and centre of our election campaign.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisted the Conservatives still had “everything to fight for” ahead of the general election.

He would not, however, be drawn into a pull-and-push about the future direction of the Conservative party.

Outgoing West Midlands mayor Mr Street had urged the Prime Minister not to heed calls from Tory rebels to shift to the right following the local election results, and instead adopt a moderate position.

Asked about Mr Street’s remarks by Sky News, Mr Harper said: “What he is talking about there is what I just said.

“He is talking about you focus on the priorities of the British people, that is what you do.”

Mark Harper speaks to the media outside BBC Broadcasting House in London
Mark Harper speaks to the media outside BBC Broadcasting House in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

In a statement released after the blow in the West Midlands, the Prime Minister acknowledged the result was “disappointing”, but added he would “continue working as hard as ever to take the fight to Labour and deliver a brighter future for our country”.

The West Midlands contest, which the Tories were on course to win, was seen as a potential lifeline in an otherwise disastrous set of results for the Conservatives.

The Prime Minister had hoped a brace of wins – alongside Lord Houchen’s victory in the Tees Valley mayoralty – could be enough to stave off rebellious Tory backbenchers.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hailed the result in the West Midlands as “phenomenal” and “beyond our expectations”.

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

It came after his party dominated mayoral elections across England – winning in Liverpool, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and in Greater Manchester.

With the results of 107 councils in England that held elections on May 2 declared, Labour has won 1,158 seats, an increase of more than 232.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 552 seats, up nearly 100.

The Tories are just behind on 515 seats, down nearly 400.