But whatever song they are singing, Tories are consumed with their own in-fighting and not concentrating on the real issues facing the country. – Owl
From today’s Western Morning News:
Rishi Sunak has won the backing of the majority of Westcountry Tory MPs.
Ed Oldfield reports
A majority of MPs in Devon and Cornwall are backing Rishi Sunak as the next Prime Minister – against the polling of party members, which puts Liz Truss way out in front.
Six of the eight Tory MPs in Devon are backing the former Chancellor to be Conservative Party leader and succeed Boris Johnson. They include Central Devon MP Mel Stride, who is running the campaign for the former chancellor.
In Cornwall, George Eustice, the Environment Secretary and MP for Camborne and Redruth, and Steve Double, the St Austell and Newquay MP, have also thrown their weight behind Mr Sunak, who was accompanied by North Cornwall MP Scott Mann – also a supporter – on a visit to Launceston this week.
Mr Sunak made a bid for the rural vote when he spoke at the Westcountry hustings event at the Great Hall at University of Exeter on Monday. He said he would make sure post-Brexit international trade deals do not penalise farmers, and said fields should be used for food production not solar panels.
Mr Stride, speaking after the meeting, said suggestions that Ms Truss was in the lead with party members was not proving to be the case, and said Mr Sunak had “everything to fight for” because there were a large number of undecided voters. He added: “He is the best person to beat Labour – the central thing is, he can beat Keir Starmer.”
The other declared supporters for Mr Sunak in Devon so far are Torridge and West Devon MP Sir Geoffrey Cox, Selaine Saxby in North Devon, Simon Jupp in East Devon, South West Devon MP Sir Gary Streeter, and Anthony Mangnall in Totnes. Torbay MP Kevin Foster outlined his support for Liz Truss in the initial stages of the contest, while Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris backed Tom Tugendhat, who has since backed Ms Truss.
Mr Foster and Ms Morris attended a meeting on Monday in South Devon with Ms Truss, and the Torbay MP tweeted afterwards: “She will deliver on her pledges and unite the party behind her to do so”. Both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss pledged to win back the Tiverton and Honiton parliamentary seat, which was lost to the Liberal Democrats in a by-election in June after the resignation of Neil Parish for watching pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons chamber.
After Monday’s meeting, Devon County Council leader John Hart said he had come to listen and was still undecided, but added: “I was very impressed with Rishi.” How he dealt with a question about loyalty following his resignation from the Cabinet, which was one of the triggers for the departure of Boris Johnson, impressed Mr Hart.
Mr Sunak told the audience: “The Government found itself on the wrong side of yet another ethical debate that I found it hard to defend.” That related to what Mr Johnson knew about misconduct allegations against deputy chief whip Chris Pincher. Mr Hart said the response from Mr Sunak had “cleared the air”. Such opinions will be seen as an important factor as Conservative Party members make their decision about who to support in the postal ballot during August.
Who MPs support will affect their promotion prospects, when the winner is announced on September 5 and appoints a team of ministers.
It emerged on Tuesday that the Conservative Party has delayed sending out ballot papers for the leadership election over security concerns. The party has made changes to its process on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, following warnings that hackers could change members’ votes.