Ben Houchen says responsibility for Conservative Party’s position ‘lies with’ Rishi Sunak

Ben Houchen has suggested “chaos” in the Conservative Party is the responsibility of Rishi Sunak as he urged his party’s MPs in Westminster to cease infighting. 

Lord Houchen, who was re-elected as the Conservative mayor for Tees Valley at the local elections last week, said responsibility for his party’s current predicament “ultimately lies with Rishi”.

Asked if the prime minister is to blame for the Conservative Party’s position, Houchen said: “Ultimately it always rests on the shoulders of the leader. All responsibility goes back to the top, it is the same in my job as well. Ultimately you are the one responsible for it”.

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He told BBC Radio Tees: “But there are lots of people who are involved in the problems with the Conservative Party.

“It is a bit of chaos at the minute, 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 are fighting with each other like rats in a sack instead of saying to the public ‘this is what we are going to do for you’, that doesn’t win elections.

“Obviously, it ultimately lies with Rishi but there are lots of people who 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.”

At the local elections last week, Lord Houchen was re-elected for a third term in a rare success for the party which suffered a series of defeats elsewhere in the country.

After the final votes cast at the local elections were counted on Sunday, the Conservatives had lost control of 10 councils and more than 470 council seats.

The party also lost 10 Police and Crime Commissioners to Labour and 10 mayoral races — including for the West Midlands mayoralty, a post previously held by Andy Street

Houchen’s comments also come after former Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour on Wednesday, citing the government’s “broken promises”.

The challenge facing the prime minister was underlined on Thursday morning by a new YouGov poll for The Times which showed Labour on 48 per cent and the Tories on 18 per cent — the largest polling gap between the parties since Liz Truss was in office in October 2022. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our free daily newsletter here.