As Tory MPs ponder whether to stand down at the next election in the face of grim polling, the Prime Minister is facing an uphill task to show he has a grip on his party. Ahead of a difficult winter with the NHS and public sector strikes, Rishi Sunak is facing a two pronged rebellion on the levelling up bill. Theresa Villiers is leading blue wall rebels against mandatory housing targets and Simon Clarke is railing against the ban on new onshore wind farms. Meanwhile, there are concerns in government that more MPs could announce this week that they plan not to seek-re-election, with the deadline to tell CCHQ 5th December.

The public and MPs are still forming their view of the new prime minister

When it comes to the rebellions, it’s Clarke’s that currently has the most momentum behind it. The former levelling up secretary is thought not just to be supported by former prime ministers in the form of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – but also many MPs who served under Truss. Former party chairman Jake Berry is the latest to signal his support. It is adding to concerns in government that there is a rebel alliance forming of former ministers with scores to settle.

On this morning’s media round, business secretary Grant Shapps appeared to hint that a climbdown could be coming – telling Times Radio of the rebellion: ‘It’s not really a row, we are basically saying the same thing, you need local consent’. Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove is set to meet with rebels on both sides as the government attempts to quell the rebellions.

Is this all such a problem for Sunak? Compared to the high drama of the past few months which saw the party oust not one but two leaders, a Commons rebellion on planning looks rather tame. However, the public and MPs are still forming their view of the new prime minister. It means that Sunak is under pressure to show that he can command authority of his divided party.

It’s no coincidence that Labour want to depict Sunak as a weak leader. Sunak is leading Starmer in polling on the question of who would make the best prime minister. The opposition hope to show that the parliamentary party is so divided that who ever leads it will face problems – thereby painting Labour as the stable alternative. Sunak still has time to set out his stall – tonight he will speak at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on foreign policy. But he is currently at risk of looking as though he is led by events as opposed to being a leader with an agenda of his own.

QOSHE - Can Sunak get a grip on his party? - Katy Balls
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Can Sunak get a grip on his party?

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28.11.2022

As Tory MPs ponder whether to stand down at the next election in the face of grim polling, the Prime Minister is facing an uphill task to show he has a grip on his party. Ahead of a difficult winter with the NHS and public sector strikes, Rishi Sunak is facing a two pronged rebellion on the levelling up bill. Theresa Villiers is leading blue wall rebels against mandatory housing targets and Simon Clarke is railing against the ban on new onshore wind farms. Meanwhile, there are concerns in government that more MPs could announce this week that they plan not to seek-re-election, with the deadline to tell CCHQ 5th........

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