Tory conference: Suella Braverman faces Tory backlash as rumours grow of leadership bid
Suella Braverman is facing a growing backlash from within her own party after being accused of trying to position herself for a leadership bid.
Making her conference speech in Manchester on Tuesday, the home secretary was widely condemned by Tory figures who believe she is seeking to distance herself from Rishi Sunak ahead of the next general election.
Many Tory MPs believe both Ms Braverman and trade minister Kemi Badenoch are “freelancing” for themselves, especially the home secretary following her visit to Washington DC, widely regarded as a move to bolster her chances.
Speaking to Conservative figures, however, there was not only anger at her actions, but widespread derision. MPs loyal to the Prime Minister suggested she had “zero chance” of ever becoming leader.
One Tory MP told The Scotsman Ms Braverman should stick to her brief and think about the good of the party.
They said: “Suella Braveman as leader, I mean come on. There is no groundswell of support for her at all. She’s been drinking her own Kool-Aid.
“Nobody serious would ever accept her as prime minister, and if she thinks otherwise she’s completely lost it. She’s not popular with anyone outside this conference and would do well to remember that.”
The criticisms came as a senior elected Tory was ejected from the Conservative conference for heckling Ms Braverman as she railed against the “poison” of “gender ideology”.
London Assembly member Andrew Boff told reporters the home secretary had been “vilifying” gay people in her speech as he was removed from the Manchester convention centre on Tuesday.
Before being approached by officials and police, Mr Boff had said from his conference seat: “There’s no such thing as gender ideology.”
Despite the incident, Ms Braverman was loudly applauded in the conference hall, as MPs outside the centre rolled their eyes.
Another Tory MP offered a fiery defence of Mr Sunak, insisting removing him would undo the “good work” the Prime Minister had achieved, bringing stability back to the party.
They said: “The Prime Minister is getting on with the job after the chaos of the last few years. There is no appetite to remove Rishi Sunak, nor is there anyone who could command the respect of MPs or the country the way he can.
“Any colleagues thinking of themselves would do well to focus on delivery and winning the next election”.
Multiple figures criticised Ms Braverman’s record in Government, and insisted while Ms Badenoch was very talented, it was “far too early” for her to think about a run.
A Government source: “It’s very telling that the two leadership hopefuls have absolutely zero support in the party. Traditionally rivals might have factions behind them, but there is no one trying to make either Kemi or Suella leader.
“Neither have enough Government experience for the role, and nobody would take them seriously. Nobody in the party thinks they should be prime minister, and it’s a shame both are putting themselves ahead of the party.
“Rishi Sunak has always been more to the right of Boris Johnson, and this conference voters and MPs will see that, and know he’s on their side.”
There was particular anger towards Ms Braverman, with one Tory activist claiming MPs were now conspiring to sully her image among their parliamentary colleagues.
They said: “It’s so transparent that people are going around telling MPs to badmouth her. MPs are trying to organise a briefing war to make clear they hate her and reiterate she’s an anchor around this Government.
“She’s totally disgraceful, and chosen running to be leader and losing over ever being in the Cabinet again”.
It follows a series of polls showing the Tories are on course to lose the next election. Mr Sunak has privately told MPs there is a “small window” to win the next election, and has urged Conservatives to keep the faith.
Set to deliver his conference speech on Wednesday, Mr Sunak is expected to make a policy heavy pitch, as well as reassert his authority over the party.
A Government source added: “It will show his principles, who he is and where his values come from. Long-term plan isn’t just a phrase, it’s a core belief that he can change this country for the good, and [he] had a plan to do so.”
However, not everyone believes Mr Sunak, The Scotsman has been told, with many in the party frustrated at its direction, not wanting the Prime Minister or any of those said to be vying to replace him.
Particularly among younger figures in the party, there are claims the culture war has damaged the Tories when there are real issues to be addressed.
One told The Scotsman not only was there no progressive option who they believe could turn it around, but that they had a wealth of talented future candidates who would now suffer because of the past few years.
They said: “I didn’t join a party that behaves like this, and the problem is, everyone good is leaving or hasn’t got a hope of winning.
“I’m so angry with the party, whether it's the trans issues, Brexit, or not building any homes … we’re going to be out of party for 15 years.
“We have so many good activists who I can see being future MPs, but now they might not get the chance for a generation.
“All the good ideas are coming from the next generation of young Tories, and successive leaderships have decided going after a core vote that won’t be around forever is the way to grow the party.”
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