Rishi Sunak has come under fire from the right wing of his party after his dramatic reshuffle, as allies of the ousted Suella Braverman accused the Prime Minister of abandoning 2019 voters.
Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, who co-chair the New Conservatives grouping of MPs, criticised Mr Sunak after he brought back David Cameron as Foreign Secretary and appointed key loyalists.
The reshuffle has angered some on the Tory right, who see the sacking of Mrs Braverman in the reshuffle as part of a broader pivot to the centre ground.
In a statement, Ms Cates and Mr Kruger stressed their support for the Prime Minister, but expressed deep disappointment that Downing Street had decided to give up on the voters Boris Johnson won over in the 2019 general election.
They said: “We are concerned that yesterday’s reshuffle indicates a major change in the policy direction of the Government.
“The Conservative Party now looks like it is deliberately walking away from the coalition of voters who brought us into power with a large majority in 2019.”
Mr Kruger was once Lord Cameron’s speechwriter, but has now become a prominent voice among right-wing backbenchers.
The New Conservatives group, which he co-chairs, has around 25 members from the 350 Tory MPs. Drawn largely from those elected in 2019, the group has pushed the Government to drastically cut migration and lower taxes.
The two MPs said Mr Sunak’s reshuffle means the party is now “sacrificing” the swathes of seats in former Labour heartlands won four years ago.
“Until yesterday, we held onto the hope that the Government still believed in the realignment – that they would work to rebalance our economy, reorient our foreign policy, radically reduce migration, and restore common sense in our schools and universities. That hope – the project of the realignment – has now dwindled.
“In political terms, it appears the leadership has decided to abandon the voters who switched to us last time, sacrificing the seats we won from Labour in 2019 in the hope of shoring up support elsewhere,” the two MPs said.
The statement comes after Dame Andrea Jenkyns submitted a furious letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak to the Tory backbench 1922 Committee as a result of the decision.
Deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson was also among hardline MPs at a Commons meeting of the New Conservatives on Monday night.
Conservative former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said the reshuffle would not help the Tories win the next election, suggesting it will benefit the Reform party founded by Nigel Farage.
Mr Sunak held his first post-reshuffle Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, hailing his “strong and united team”.
In what appeared to be a conciliatory move to the Tory right, GB News presenter and former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey was at the Cabinet table as a minister without portfolio.
The ministerial shake-up also saw James Cleverly made Home Secretary as he was moved from the Foreign Office to make way for Lord Cameron, while promotions included Victoria Atkins to Health Secretary and Laura Trott to Treasury Chief Secretary.
Mr Sunak offered a “warm welcome to those for whom it’s their first Cabinet and also a welcome to those for whom it may not be their first time”.
He said: “Our purpose is nothing less than to make the long-term decisions that are going to change our country for the better.
“I know that this strong and united team is going to deliver that change for everybody.”
New polling suggests from Ipsos UK suggests that 70% of people backed Mr Sunak’s decision to sack Mrs Braverman, as the Prime Minister hopes a pivot away from her more polarising rhetoric can help restore his electoral fortunes.
He faces a crunch week ahead, with new inflation figures and the Supreme Court’s Rwanda ruling expected on Wednesday.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will also deliver his autumn statement next week.
The ruling by top judges on the landmark policy to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel will be a key moment in Mr Sunak’s premiership.
Mrs Braverman could yet add to pressure by championing leaving the European Court of Human Rights if the Government loses the appeal.
Ms Cates and Mr Kruger both want the UK to leave the Strasbourg court “whatever the outcome” on Wednesday.
New party chairman Richard Holden sought to play down tensions on Tuesday, stressing the need to focus on the Labour opposition and pitching his party as a “broad church”.
Mr Holden, elected in 2019 for the so-called red wall seat of North West Durham, replaced Greg Hands following a string of by-election losses and a mauling in council contests during his nine months in charge.
“What we don’t do is have small splinter parties ahead of a general election and then a deal cooked up behind the scenes,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What you see is a broad church, Conservative Party with a common goal, united together in what it is deciding to put forward to the country.”
Martin Vickers, member of the 1922 committee executive, also stressed that Mr Sunak’s leadership was not in danger.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that while he did not know if other MPs had submitted no confidence letters, he believed that angry parliamentarians had “nowhere near” enough to challenge the Prime Minister.
Lord Frost, who negotiated Britain’s exit from the European Union during Boris Johnson’s premiership, spoke to reporters as he was leaving an event in Westminster hosted by the Liz Truss-backed Growth Commission.
Asked what he made of the reshuffle, the Conservative peer said: “It wouldn’t have been the Cabinet I would have chosen.”
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