Rishi Sunak WILL lead the Tories into the next election ‘at the end of the year’ insists Mark Harper as MPs plot to parachute in Penny Mordaunt to avoid wipeout – with

The Tories are heading for the worst defeat in the party's history, according to private polling © Provided by Daily Mail

Rishi Sunak will lead the Tories into an election ‘at the end of the year’, a senior Cabinet minister insisted today amid plots to oust him as PM to avoid a wipeout at the polls.

Mark Harper said Mr Sunak was focused on ‘making the right decisions’ for the country after a bombshell poll suggested the Conservative Party is heading for the largest defeat in its history.

As revealed by the Daily Mail, Backbenchers are plotting to replace Mr Sunak with former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt in a swift ‘bloodless coup’ in a desperate bid to cling on to power with the party facing a hammering from voters.

Seat-by-seat research conducted on behalf of corporate businesses and seen by The Mail on Sunday suggests that Sir Keir Starmer could be on course to win a majority of nearly 250 seats.

But asked if Mr Sunak will still be the leader of the Tory Party at the general election, Mr Harper, the Transport Secretary, told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: ‘Yes he will. And he will take us into that election and he will set out very clearly that we’re a Government with a plan.

‘I’m going to be supporting him all the way through and I’m confident that my colleagues will.’

Mark Harper said Mr Sunak was focused on ‘making the right decisions’ for the country after a bombshell poll suggested the Conservative Party is heading for the largest defeat in its history.© Provided by Daily Mail
Seat-by-seat research, conducted on behalf of corporate businesses, suggests that Sir Keir Starmer could be on course to win a majority of nearly 250 seats© Provided by Daily Mail

Asked for his message to mutinous Tory MPs, Mr Harper said: ‘What I would say to all of my colleagues is this: I spend my time as Transport Secretary focusing on doing what I think is the right thing for the country, making decisions that I think are sensible.

‘That is the approach that the Prime Minister takes as well. He focuses on making the right decisions.’

The febrile mood within the party comes as Mr Sunak ruled out holding a general election on May 2, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who had talked up the prospect of a May vote, have accused the Prime Minister of ‘bottling’ it and ‘squatting’ in No 10.

But Mr Harper rejected the ‘froth’ about a May election.

‘The Prime Minister made it quite clear at the beginning of the year that his working assumption was the election was going to be at the end of the year,’ the minister said.

‘All this sort of froth we’ve had about an election being in May was always nonsense, frankly, and he made that clear at the beginning of the year.’

The research suggests that the Tories could be reduced to under 150 seats – even fewer than the 165 the party won in 1997 and the 156 in 1906’s Liberal landslide.

The best-case scenario for the Conservatives, under which support for both Sir Keir and Nigel Farage’s Reform Party melts away in the heat of an election campaign, currently stands at a 50-seat Labour majority.

Only a ‘black swan event’ – pollsters’ shorthand for an unforeseen set of rare and consequential circumstances – would deny Labour victory. An example might be a surprise electoral pact between Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, combined with a catastrophically damaging revelation about Sir Keir. But as one of the researchers put it: ‘Even that probably wouldn’t be enough now.’

A 220-plus Labour majority would dwarf the 179 Blair landslide in 1997, when the Tories won only 165 seats. Even Tory MPs in supposedly safe ‘middle England’ constituencies, with majorities of up to 20,000, could lose if Rishi Sunak cannot turn his party’s fortunes around.

Tory strategists at No 10 and the party’s headquarters insist that the polls will ‘tighten’ closer to election day, and even on the day itself, with the ‘protest vote’ for Reform melting away as electors face up to the reality of a Starmer premiership.

Mr Sunak has ruled out a May election – but not one in June. A senior Tory said last night: ‘The mood in the party means that anything could happen in coming weeks.’

Source: Daily Mail