CONSERVATIVE MP Adam Afriyie was touted yesterday as a surprise contender to be the next party leader if David Cameron fails to deliver a majority at the 2015 general election.
Several Sunday newspapers reported that MPs had been approached to endorse the credentials of the self-made IT millionaire, who became the party’s first black MP in 2005.
It was said to be a “well organised” campaign by individuals concerned about the party’s prospects of being returned to office amid poor opinion poll ratings and grim economic news.
However, the Prime Minister’s popular promise of an in-out referendum on Europe appeared to have squashed speculation that it could be part of a plot to oust him before the election.
Mark Field, one of those reported to have been pushing Mr Afriyie as a potential leader, said: “I do not think it’s any plot against the Prime Minister”.
It was reported that Windsor MP Mr Afriyie, when asked about the campaign, said: “You are being very mischievous. I supported David Cameron to become leader. I love him and want him to be leader for the next 20 years.”
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps said: “I know Adam pretty well, he says it’s completely untrue, he’s quite annoyed by the whole thing. It’s one of those silly stories that appears from time to time.”
Mark Pritchard – who has been a thorn in the side of Mr Cameron over issues such as Europe – said: “This is a time to build on the unifying message of David Cameron’s EU speech, not for unhelpful speculation”.