Nadine Dorries has been told to “wind her neck in” by fellow Conservative ministers after making “distasteful” and “dangerous” interventions on behalf of Liz Truss in the Tory leadership contest.
The Culture Secretary has faced a backlash after penning a “divisive, disingenuous” column on why she had mocked Rishi Sunak over his expensive taste in clothing, and for retweeting a doctored image showing Mr Sunak stabbing Boris Johnson in the back.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Ms Dorries said she “may have gone slightly over the top” last week by comparing the millionaire former chancellor’s £3,500 suit to Ms Truss’s £4.50 earrings from high street chain Claire’s.
“I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided sartorial style in order to alert Tory members not to be taken in by appearances in the way that happened to many of us who served with the chancellor in Cabinet,” she wrote.
“The assassin’s gleaming smile, his gentle voice and even his diminutive stature had many of us well and truly fooled”.
Ms Dorries accused Mr Sunak of travelling “along a path of treachery” and planning a “Tudoresque” coup against the Prime Minister.
The Culture Secretary, a staunch loyalist of Mr Johnson, also retweeted an image depicting him as Julius Caesar about to be stabbed by a knife-wielding Mr Sunak, suggesting Mr Sunak had betrayed the Prime Minister when he resigned as chancellor.
Business minister Greg Hands condemned Ms Dorries’ actions as “distasteful” and “dangerous” in the wake of the killing of Southend West Tory MP Sir David Amess at a constituency surgery in Essex last October.
He told Sky News: “I’m sure Liz Truss would disown this kind of behaviour.
“I think this is appalling.
“Look, it’s not even a year since the stabbing of Sir David Amess at his Southend constituency surgery, so I think this is very, very bad taste, dangerous even”.
Mr Hands, who is backing Mr Sunak in the race for No 10, added: “I do find it distasteful”.
Welsh Secretary Sir Robert Buckland, another supporter of Mr Sunak, also denounced Ms Dorries’ behaviour.
“I think that sort of imagery and narrative is not just incendiary, it’s wrong,” he told BBC Radio Wales.
“I think it’s time for those who think that an argument about Prada shoes or earrings is more important, for instance, should wind their neck in and let people talk about the issues rather than the personality”.
Senior Conservative MP Simon Hoare took to Twitter to criticise Ms Dorries.
“Your comments are divisive, disingenuous & disturbing. @trussliz needs to stop this. It’s harmful to our Party,” he said.
“Remembering, with respect, our fallen colleagues David Amess and Jo Cox. The injured Stephen Timms. I will just leave it there”.
Former Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, who has thrown his weight behind Ms Truss in the leadership contest, told Sky News: “It’s certainly not the sort of thing I would tweet.”
He added: “Nadine is well known as having strong views on things. Nadine speaks for herself, she’s very much an individual on that. But that is not a position that Liz would take”.