Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

New Conservative chairman calls for unity as he stresses ‘I’m on the party right’

The new Conservative Party chairman has issued a call for unity this morning as yesterday’s reshuffle continues to face criticism from MPs from the party right. 

Richard Holden, who replaced Greg Hands as chairman at Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle yesterday, was questioned this morning about the PM’s apparent pivot to the centre ground and the consequent consternation that has caused. 

Yesterday evening, backbench Conservative MP Dame Andrea Jenkyns submitted a no confidence letter in the prime minister. “Enough is enough… It is time for Rishi Sunak to go…”, she wrote on X (formerly Twitter) as she shared her no-confidence letter.

Holden told BBC Breakfast this morning: “I’m somebody from the right of the Conservative Party as well — I want to see us being that broad church.

“There will always be people who are disappointed they’ve not been promoted or recognised in some way, but I think we need to concentrate as a party, and as a government, on the issues that really affect the people of the country. 

“That’s what I’m out there campaigning for every single day”, he added.

Holden also claimed that the return of David Cameron to the political front line demonstrated how “strong and united” his party is.

He said the move was a “shock to everybody”, but described it as a “really welcome surprise”.

Holden told Times Radio: “A bit like everybody else I was sat watching the telly and then I saw David Cameron emerge and I was watching, I think it was Sky or something… and there was that sort of 10 second gap when nobody quite believed it really.

“I think it was quite a shock to everybody. Traditionally in politics things are difficult to keep quiet but this one was a real shock to everybody and a really welcome surprise as well to have somebody with that much experience returning to the front line of British politics, showing just what a strong and united party we are across the country.”

George Osborne, who was Lord Cameron’s chancellor when he was prime minister, said his former boss could not resist the “sound of the trumpet” calling him back to Westminster.

He also said he believed a bit of the former PM “died inside” when he quit the commons in 2016.

Osborne told his Political Currency podcast that there is a “strong element of public service in David”.

He added: “That has always been part of his DNA. And I always thought when he left the House of Commons, which was not his original plan, he wanted to stay as an MP, I think he wanted to sort of serve out his time on this planet as the MP for Witney. And then he decided he shouldn’t do that, and he couldn’t do that.

Conversely, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has said the appointment of David Cameron contributes to a “profound sense” of the UK “moving backwards”.

He told Sky News: “I think it contributes to a quite profound sense that the country is moving backwards at this moment in time. I think the reshuffle just adds to that sense.”

Burnham also pointed to comments made by Mr Cameron just a few weeks ago, which said the decision to scrap HS2 was the wrong one.

“You just have a sense that there’s no clarity in government about what they’re trying to do. I wish him well, I worked with him a few years ago and I don’t harbour anyone any ill will. I do feel that it’s a backwards looking move from the prime minister”, he said.

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