Ben Wallace says Putin is

Conservative MPs ‘march towards the guns’

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Behold, another grim week of crisis management for our embattled, under-fire, beleaguered prime minister, Rishi Sunak. (More adjectives on a postcard, i.e. in response to this email).

Reports over the weekend were full of stories of prospective plots, coups and putsches — all with a view to turfing the teetering No 10 incumbent. This week, as I foretold in my Week-in-Review article, was always going to be about how or whether Sunak could nip such speculation in the bud. Let’s takes stock and see how he’s doing:

Wandering into the first wave of media fire this morning was business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, one of the many senior Conservatives touted as a possible successor to the prime minister. Last week, Badenoch was the first cabinet minister to break ranks and label Conservative donor Frank Hester’s alleged comments from 2019 as “racist”. For many, this intervention — which in effect bounced the PM into making the same pronouncement four hours later — was illustrative of Badenoch’s enduring ambition.

This morning, however, tasked with a tricky broadcast round, Badenoch went to battle for her stricken boss. In a typically abrasive display, Badenoch argued that the Conservative Party has “drawn a line” under its own donor racism row. She then turned the fire back on the media, slating journalists for fanning the flames of SW1 psychodrama. More here.

Also racing to the prime minister’s rescue today has been former defence secretary Ben Wallace. The erstwhile Boris Johnson loyalist posited that such leadership “shenanigans” only benefit the Labour Party, declaring it is “time to put our best case forward” to voters. He called on his colleagues to “march towards the sound of the guns” (presumably a euphemism for electoral defeat) and “get on with it” (ibid).

With allies like these, who needs plotters?

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Speaking of plotters, former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke — one of two Conservative MPs to publicly call for the PM’s ouster — responded to Wallace’s comments on X/Twitter with a quote from Blackadder Goes Forth: “I mean who would have noticed another madman around here?”.

For what it’s worth, Sunak’s response today has been typical of his political style (i.e. what got him into this mess). Speaking to broadcasters this morning, he refused to engage with the rumours of plotting: “I’m not interested in all Westminster politics. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the future of our country. And that’s what I am squarely focused on”.

It came as the PM delivered a speech on his pledge to create thousands of new apprenticeships at a “Business Connect” conference in Warwickshire. Unfortunately for Sunak, the only job Westminster is interested in right now is his own.

Lunchtime briefing

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Lunchtime soundbite

There comes a moment in time in the electoral cycle where you effectively put on your best suit, you stand up and you march towards the sound of the guns and you get on with it

— Former defence secretary Ben Wallace tells Conservative Party rebels it is “too late” to replace Rishi Sunak and they must focus on trying to win the next general election. Via Times Radio.

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