Sir Simon Clarke mocked by fellow Tories over earlier 'unity plea' for Rishi Sunak - who he now wants to quit

Sir Simon Clarke mocked by fellow Tories over earlier 'unity plea' for Rishi Sunak - who he now wants to quit

Ex-Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke is being mocked by Tory colleagues after calling for Rishi Sunak to quit as Prime Minister.

Conservative MPs highlighted a past plea by the former Levelling-up Secretary for unity in the party and for it to rally behind Mr Sunak.

After Mr Sunak had been chosen as the next Tory leader and PM after Liz Truss’ shortlived premiership, Sir Simon tweeted in October 2022: “@Conservatives need to unite. Really extremely serious events are unfolding and our country needs leadership.

“@RishiSunak is the right person to assume the immense responsibility of being Prime Minister and he will have my full support.”

After he had called for Mr Sunak to go, Julian Smith, who was Theresa May’s Chief Whip, on Tuesday night retweeted Sir Simon’s previous plea for unity, adding: “Couldn’t agree more ...”

Eastleigh Conservative MP Paul Holmes retweeted the same message from Sir Simon, quipping: “Aged well huh @SimonClarkeMP”

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker put on X/Twitter a gif of a skeleton being blown away by a fierce blaze, adding: “@SimonClarkeMP opens the Tory MPs’ WhatsApp group.”

Tobias Ellwood MP, former chairman of the Commons defence committee, told Sky News: “He’s throwing his teddies in the corner.... it’s dangerous, reckless, selfish & defeatist... he should keep quiet along with his colleagues..”

Other senior MPs were more restrained but still critical of Sir Simon who launched his attack on the PM warning that if he is not replaced the Tories could be heading to a general election "massacre".

Former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “My colleague Sir Simon Clarke MP is wrong. The way to win the next election is to tackle inflation and grow the economy. Rishi is doing just that. Division and another PM would lead to the certain loss of power. We need to focus on delivering for the public not divisive rowing.”

Former Brexit Secretary Sir David Davis said: “The party and the country are sick and tired of MPs putting their own leadership ambitions ahead of the UK’s best interests.”

Former Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel said: “At this critical time for our country, with challenges at home and abroad, our party must focus on the people we serve and deliver for the country.

“Engaging in facile and divisive self indulgence only serves our opponents, it’s time to unite and get on with the job.”

Damian Green, leader of the large One Nation group of Tory MPs, tweeted: “Simon Clarke is wrong and unwise to try to start another internal fight. Let’s start attacking our opponents, not each other.”

Former Defence and Trade Secretary Sir Liam Fox said those attempting to “destabilise the Government in an election year should understand the consequences”.

Bury North MP James Daly tweeted: “ This is absolute nonsense. The Conservative Party must unite behind the Prime Minister to stop the boats, continue levelling up our country and ensure equal opportunity for all.

“Everything else is self indulgence of the highest order.”

Lord Barwell, a former Croydon MP who was Theresa May’s chief of staff, said: “The unvarnished truth is that Simon Clarke is increasing the chances of him and his colleagues losing their seats.

“The Chief Whip should remove the whip and send a clear message to other Conservative MPs: unite behind the PM or go find some other party to stand for.”