Sunak ultimately to blame for Tory ‘chaos’, says Tees Valley mayor Houchen

Rishi Sunak bears ultimate responsibility for a Tory Party mired in chaos, a senior Conservative said as a poll indicated a 30-point lead for Labour.

Tees Valley Mayor Lord Ben Houchen said the Conservatives are “fighting each other like rats in a sack” and the blame for the party’s difficulties “ultimately lies with Rishi”.

Lord Houchen held on in Tees Valley in a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal set of local election results for the Conservatives a week ago.

“There is still a way through but that way through is getting narrower by the day.”

He said there is general disaffection with politics among voters rather than a desire to back Labour, so there is still the chance for the Conservatives to turn things around.

“If the Government actually got on and delivered some real things and showed themselves to be competent, and did the things that people wanted them to, then there is a way through to be able to get some of that respect back, some of that confidence back from the public and to help reduce what is a very large gap at the minute,” he said.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Teesside to celebrate with Lord Ben Houchen following his re-election last week (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Mr Sunak’s woes deepened with the defection of MP Natalie Elphicke to Labour in protest against his record on housing and stopping small boat crossings of the English Channel.

The scale of the difficulties facing Mr Sunak was underlined by a YouGov poll for The Times which showed Labour on 48% and the Tories on 18% – just five points ahead of Reform UK among people who said they would vote and expressed a preference.

The poll, which surveyed 2,072 people between May 7 and 8, gave Labour its biggest lead since Liz Truss was in office in October 2022.

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Lord Houchen was scathing about the current state of the Conservative Party (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“But there are lots of people who are involved in the problems with the Conservative Party. It’s a bit of chaos at the minute, right, isn’t it?

“There’s lots of people fighting with each other in the Conservative Party, there are defections going on, and ultimately the public do not vote for parties who are not united and are not presenting a united front and also aren’t talking to the public.

“If they’re fighting with each other like rats in a sack instead of saying to the public ‘this is what we’re going to do for you’, that doesn’t win elections.

“Obviously, it ultimately lies with Rishi but there are lots of people that need to get their act together, stop messing about and start talking to the public about what they can offer them, rather than just fighting with each other.”

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