Tory civil war erupts as MP accuses Downing Street of briefing ‘fake news’ about him | Politics | News

The Tory civil war which erupted again over the weekend has become more intense today as a former party chairman has accused Rishi Sunak‘s inner circle of briefing lies about him to the media.

Sir Jake Berry, who was party chairman in Liz Truss‘ government, has claimed that Downing Street briefed journalists over the weekend that he was behind a plot to install Penny Mordaunt as leader.

The senior MP has vehemently denied the claims he is “whipping up support” for Mordaunt and accused Mr Sunak’s operation of trying to turn Tory MPs against one another to save his skin.

It comes as MPs have been claiming that the Prime Minister could be out in two weeks with polls still putting the party 22 points behind Labour and confidence in his leadership evaporating.

Supporters of Ms Mordaunt, Leader of the House, and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps have been putting their names forward as alternative unity options in a coronation to replace Sunak.

Speaking to Times Radio, Sir Jake said: “It’s categorically incorrect. I understand that Number Ten is briefing it out, purposely. It speaks to how incompetent the advisers around Rishi Sunak are.

“If you’ve got a problem with Conservative MPs being unhappy, briefing names to newspapers, creating a blue-on-blue media furore, just gives the story more legs.”

Sir Jake went further to say that the briefing showed that Sunak was not the problem but people around him were. Others have criticised Sunak’s chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith and chief strategist Isaac Levido, whose PR company has been hiring Labour members in readiness for a Keir Starmer government.

Sir Jake said: “That’s one of the problems the Prime Minister has. I don’t think he’s a bad Prime Minister. But I do think the people he has around him are inept.

“It is deeply incompetent for advisors to the Prime Minister to start thinking that, if you’ve got trouble with morale amongst bench colleagues, start trying to throw them to the wolves, in my case incorrectly.”

Sir Jake is not the only senior MP to be unhappy.

Another briefing named European Research Group (ERG) chairman Mark Francois as one of the plotters working for a Mordaunt leadership.

The briefing made it seem like Mordaunt, a candidate of the party left has support from the right as a unity figure.

Mr Francois was away when the news broke yesterday but friends have said he has “not made up his mond” and is not backing anybody.

Responding to the comments from Sir Jake, a Downing Street source said: “Conservatives are united in wanting to take the fight to Labour who have no plan for how they would run the country.”

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