Cabinet allies say Rishi Sunak should stay on as Tory leader even if he loses the election – as Labour could quickly ‘implode’
Rishi Sunak’s allies are privately bracing to convince him to cling on as Tory leader even if he loses the election.
Supporters insist Mr Sunak could survive a ‘narrow’ defeat – pointing to the ‘incredibly difficult situation’ he inherited.
They also argue that Labour could quickly ‘implode’ even if Keir Starmer initially takes the keys to Downing Street, insisting that the Tories must be ‘ready to come back’ rather than ‘lurching to the right’.
Conservative minds have been turning to the potential aftermath of an election – expected next Autumn.
Many MPs are gearing up for Opposition, with polls consistently showing Keir Starmer holding double-digit leads.
However, Labour needs a huge swing from the last election to get a majority, after Boris Johnson stormed to an 80-seat win.
Reclaiming the Red Wall and taking dozens on seats from the SNP in Scotland will be pivotal if Sir Keir hopes to end up in No10.
Supporters insist Rishi Sunak could survive as Tory leader after a ‘narrow’ defeat – pointing to the ‘incredibly difficult situation’ he inherited
Many Tory MPs are braced for defeat, with polls consistently showing Keir Starmer holding double-digit leads
But he is likely to become PM if Labour is the largest party in a hung Parliament, or has close to the same numbers as the Tories – with the Lib Dems making clear they will not prop up the Tories.
The conventional wisdom at Westminster has been that Mr Sunak would step down if he fails to keep the Conservatives in government.
Jockeying has been well underway among potential successors for months, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused of blatantly positioning herself to be the right-wing candidate. Kemi Badenoch has also been tipped as a contender.
However, in February 1974 Edward Heath stayed on as Tory leader after there was a hung Parliament and Harold Wilson took over as PM. Wilson managed to get a tiny majority in another election the following October.
A Cabinet minister told MailOnline that many interventions by ministers were ‘all about the leadership’.
‘There are people using the classic techniques – outriders putting their points, putting round polling, pitching to the party right,’ they said.
‘I’d like to see Rishi stay on if we only lose narrowly. I would be strongly urging him to.
‘He is the best we’ve got, he would be at the top of any business. He has inherited an incredibly difficult situation.’
Mr Sunak’s personal ratings have been dismal, but Cabinet supporters insist he is the ‘best we’ve got’
The senior minister said Labour was ‘not going to be able to spray money around if they do come in’ – which could fuel festering divisions. Sir Keir is already struggling to control bitter splits over Gaza policy.
They said Sir Keir’s early moves could drive voters back into the Tories’ arms, as long as the party did not ‘lurch to the right’.
‘Labour are trying to ape us at the moment, because this is basically a Tory country. Labour governments are usually blips,’ the minister said.
‘What happens if they can’t do the things their activists expect?
‘We should be ready to come back, not lurching to the right.’
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