A proportion of Conservative members feel “disconnected” from the party as they were “denied a vote” when Rishi Sunak became prime minister, a former Tory chairman said.
Sir Jake Berry, who was chair under Liz Truss, said Mr Sunak should have held an “endorsement vote” to show he had the support of the membership.
Instead, Mr Sunak automatically became PM after Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt dropped out of the contest to replace Liz Truss and Mr Sunak passed the 100-nomination threshold, leaving him as the only remaining candidate.
As a result, there is a “perception”, Sir Jake said, that Tory MPs are “disconnected from our membership”.
Mr Sunak entered Downing Street just weeks after coming second to Ms Truss in the summer leadership contest after Tory members voted for her over him – despite MPs being in favour of him.
“I actually think it’s a great pity for Rishi Sunak that we didn’t have a vote of members,” Sir Jake told GB News.
“Because in the summer, fine Conservative that he is, he struggled actually to get the support of Conservative Party members – as, funnily enough, did Jeremy Hunt in the previous leadership election.
“And I think even though he absolutely got the majority of the Conservative members of parliament – and I support him as prime minister in everything he does – the challenge he has is, even if it’s not true, there’s a perception of the Conservative Parliamentary Party now being disconnected from our membership.”
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Sir Jake added that he thinks Mr Sunak “would have won it well” if a vote had gone to the membership.
But, he said a narrative has been allowed to develop about members being “denied that vote”.
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‘War room’ in the dying days of Truss leadership
The former Northern Powerhouse minister revealed what the last days of the Truss premiership were like.
He was part of a “war room” in Number 10, with Ms Truss, ex-chief whip Wendy Morton and former deputy PM Therese Coffey who were all trying to stabilise her leadership after the now-infamous mini-budget.
Just before Ms Truss resigned, Sir Jake said “two of the most senior civil servants in the Treasury” tried to press him on “why there could be no long, protracted leadership election in the Conservative Party”.
“They asked me at the end of it, ‘Do you agree?’,” he said.
“And I said, ‘Well, I hope you don’t mind me saying, I don’t really think it’s any of your business, as civil servants, about how political parties choose their leader’.”