Nadine Dorries suggests Rishi Sunak was part of ‘coup’ to oust Boris Johnson | Conservative management
Nadine Dorries has suggested Rishi Sunak was part of a ‘coup’ which brought down Boris Johnson, and said Tory MPs had made a ‘huge mistake’ in firing the Prime Minister.
The culture secretary, who is one of Johnson’s staunchest supporters, said he was a “great leader” and was “very disappointed” that he was stepping down on September 5.
But Dorries said they needed to look to the future and hailed Liz Truss as ‘someone who has both integrity and loyalty and is able to pick up the slack using those very important qualities to move the country forward “.
Despite making pointed criticisms of Sunak that escalated a blue-on-blue slang match between the two Tory leadership camps, Dorries tried to avoid being dragged into criticizing the former chancellor.
“It’s no secret that things happened that shouldn’t have happened and that Boris Johnson was deposed in a coup,” she told Sky News when told asked his opinion on Sunak.
Despite being made aware of a YouGov survey which found Johnson had a -90% net preference rating among 2019 Conservative voters who plan to switch to Labor in the next election, Dorries said: ” I don’t really take the polls very seriously.”
She said “there is only one that counts”, the result of the last general election where the Conservatives obtained an 80-seat majority. Dorries said the UK had lost a leader who helped secure that victory, led the UK through Covid and offered support to Ukraine after Russia invaded.
But speaking from Birmingham, where the Commonwealth Games will take place from Thursday, the culture secretary declined to comment further on her public criticism of Sunak.
She said the Commonwealth Games and England football team preparing for the Euro 2022 final on Sunday meant that “the next few days are not about leadership, they are about showing what is great in this country”.
The Tory leadership race “will continue through the summer”, Dorries said, adding: “It’s a very important day and I think we should focus on the positives.”
The interview was cut short after an altercation with an off-screen man who could be heard arguing with the cameraman filming the Sky News interview. “I’m afraid we have to leave now,” she said.
A man was heard shouting, “Touch me then? You can’t because they’ll have you arrested for assault.
Dorries replied, “He’s not touching you”, before looking around and asking for security.
The man replied, “He can’t touch me, lady, what does it mean that he doesn’t touch me?” He can’t, I’ll have him arrested in five seconds flat.
Dorries doubled down on his attacks on Sunak in a later interview, saying the “ruthless coup” against Johnson was “largely led” by the former chancellor.
She slammed him for wearing a pair of Prada shoes during a visit to Teesside earlier this month, saying it was ‘one of our most socially deprived areas’, and added: ‘If you going to be Prime Minister of this country, you have to understand people’s lives, you have to have walked in their place.
Dorries defended owning an expensive pair of shoes herself, saying: ‘I am not and never will be a candidate for Prime Minister.
She suggested it was not impossible that Johnson would return as prime minister in the future. “They used to say a week was a long time in politics, but a few minutes is a long time in politics these days. Who will be crazy enough to predict the future? Dorries said in the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Although some Tory members insisted he be on the leadership ballot, Dorries said Johnson had explicitly told her in the past few days: ‘Tell them to stop, it’s not right “
She also played down the suggestion that Johnson would serve in the cabinet after stepping down in five weeks, and described a report in the Daily Mirror that he was seeking a safer seat in parliament as “100% nuclear-grade tosh”.
Victoria Atkins, a former Home Office minister who resigned as part of the wave of resignations that toppled Johnson, said the reason a leadership race was taking place was because of the Prime Minister’s conduct and his surroundings.
“I don’t think we can pretend otherwise, nor should we pretend otherwise,” she told Sky News.
Atkins, who supports Sunak, said she disagreed with Dorries’ comments about a coup, but said – with a smile – that her colleague had “a range of language very exuberant”.