Simon Clarke’s detonation last night didn’t come as a huge surprise. The Tory whips had already pre-briefed a group of MPs that the Daily Telegraph piece calling for Sunak to go was incoming, and asked them to get out and fight Clarke’s comments.
It also didn’t come as a huge surprise to the Tory MPs who are deeply unhappy with the way the party is being led. Many of them have been privately complaining for a long time that there is no clear plan from the Prime Minister. They have been left trying to work out what the connection between the policies he announces actually is, other than that they are mildly possible. A prime example is the crackdown on smoking. They are also confused by his belief that voters will be at all interested in his AI policy, even though it does make sense for public services.
They find his repeated insistence that Keir Starmer doesn’t have a plan baffling, given they aren’t sure what Sunak’s plan is either. This refrain about having no plan is one you will hear from other MPs in the coming days.
For all the whips’ efforts, there are other Conservative MPs who are planning to join Clarke, hence his line in his piece about ‘every Conservative MP will need to live with the decision they make in the coming days for the rest of their lives’. It’s not clear how many MPs this will be, though a handful have told colleagues that they are preparing to do so.
As Katy Balls says, the intervention has so far served to solidify Sunak’s position within the party, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t continue to be storm damage from unhappy MPs.