‘Stalinist’ Sunak threatened with legal action for blocking pro-Boris candidates

Rishi Sunak has allegedly barred a group of senior Conservatives from standing as MP
Rishi Sunak has allegedly barred a group of senior Conservatives from standing as MP - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP

The Tory party has been threatened with legal action amid claims that “Stalinist” Rishi Sunak is blocking pro-Boris candidates from standing as MPs.

A group of “senior and unfairly treated figures” on the Right of the party are consulting barristers on whether to apply for a legal injunction to pause the candidate selection process.

They say they will seek an injunction “for as long as it takes” to resolve the issues around selection after a series of key figures involved in the “Bring Back Boris” campaign were barred from standing as a Tory MP.

David Campbell-Bannerman, the chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), which campaigns for a greater voice for Tory members, has written to the Tory party chair.

In the letter, seen by The Telegraph, he claims that he has been barred from standing as a Conservative MP “on the basis I wasn’t nice enough about Rishi Sunak in social media”.

Mr Campbell-Bannerman, who is the president of two local Tory party associations and a former member of the European Parliament, is asking for this decision to be overturned.

He writes: “I regret though that in the interim, I am consulting with barristers on a legal injunction to pause the selection process for as long as it takes to resolve such selection issues, not just on my behalf, but on behalf of a number of other senior and unfairly treated figures.

“The lawyers say it may need a week if so. I have no desire or enthusiasm to do so, but I feel I have been left by the candidates committee with no other option.”

Mr Campbell-Bannerman defected to Ukip in 2004 – running twice, unsuccessfully, to become leader of the party – before returning to the Conservative party in 2011.

He said he believes he was blocked from selection by Downing Street, explaining: “There is a Number Ten representative on the candidates committee and they look after the interests of Number Ten.

“The members have every right to decide if I’m appropriate as a candidate. But to be stopped on some vague basis is Stalinist. I don’t think it is a fair criteria, it is a bit mysterious.”

He is one of a series of would-be Tory candidates around the country who have been barred from standing by the candidate committee, which is run by the Conservative Party’s headquarters (CCHQ).

Another chair of a local Tory party association told The Telegraph that they had also been blocked from running as an MP after being told that he “wasn’t Conservative enough”.

“I ran quite a large Bring Back Boris group – I didn’t make any secret of that at the time,” he said. “There seem to be a number of us in the camp. I was told by the candidates’ team that we are not welcome, effectively.”

Last year, the CDO was set up by allies of Mr Johnson with the mission of overhauling the workings of the party to put power into the hands of the membership.

Led by Lord Cruddas and Mr Campbell-Bannerman, it also counts Dame Priti Patel, the former home secretary, among its high-profile backers.

The number of Tory MPs standing down at the general election has surpassed the Conservative party record set in 1997 when Labour won a landslide under Sir Tony Blair, and polls suggest Mr Sunak could endure a similar defeat.

All the Tory MPs standing down at the next general election

Andrea Leadsom

South Northamptonshire
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Michael Gove

Surrey Heath
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Sir David Evennett

Bexleyheath and Crayford

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet
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Sir John Redwood

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Bob Stewart

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Matt Hancock

West Suffolk
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Sir Michael Ellis

Northampton North
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Huw Merriman

Bexhill and Battle
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James Grundy

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Dame Eleanor Laing

Epping Forest
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Jo Churchill

Bury St Edmunds
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Tim Loughton

East Worthing and Shoreham

Robert Halfon


Tracey Crouch

Chatham and Aylesford
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Nickie Aiken

Cities of London and Westminster
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Kwasi Kwarteng

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Sir Bob Neill

Bromley and Chislehurst

Oliver Heald

North East Hertfordshire

Nick Gibb

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

Mike Freer

Finchley and Golders Green

Jamie Wallis


Sir James Duddridge

Rochford and Southend East

Dr Lisa Cameron

East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

John Baron

Basildon and Billericay

Chris Grayling

Epsom and Ewell
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Alok Sharma

Reading West
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David Jones

Clwyd West

Stephen Hammond


Stuart Andrew


Trudy Harrison


Ben Wallace

Wyre and Preston North
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Chris Clarkson

Heywood and Middleton

Greg Knight

East Yorkshire

Steve Brine

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Lucy Allan

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Sir Bill Cash

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Royston Smith

Southampton, Itchen

Will Quince


Andy Carter

Warrington South

Philip Dunne


Dominic Raab

Esher and Walton
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Richard Bacon

South Norfolk

Sir Robert Goodwill

Scarborough and Whitby
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Alister Jack

Dumfries and Galloway
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Matthew Offord


Jonathan Djanogly


John Howell


Henry Smith


Craig Whittaker

Calder Valley

Gordon Henderson

Sittingbourne and Sheppey

Nicola Richards

West Bromwich East

Pauline Latham

Mid Derbyshire

Sir Graham Brady

Altrincham and Sale West
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Robin Walker

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Stephen McPartland


Paul Beresford

Mole Valley

Jo Gideon

Stoke-on-Trent Central

Edward Timpson


George Eustice

Camborne and Redruth
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Mark Pawsey


Douglas Ross

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Andrew Percy

Brigg and Goole

Chloe Smith

Norwich North
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Adam Afriyie


Sir Gary Streeter

South West Devon
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Dehenna Davison

Bishop Auckland
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Sir Charles Walker

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Sajid Javid

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James Heappey


Sir Brandon Lewis

Great Yarmouth

Theresa May


Paul Scully

Sutton and Cheam

Mike Penning

Hemel Hempstead

Kieran Mullan

Crewe and Nantwich

Nadhim Zahawi

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Chris Heaton-Harris

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One former Cabinet minister said that CCHQ is “desperately scrambling” to fill seats, with local campaign directors asked to draw up a list of potential candidates for vacant seats.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was forced to deny that Lord Frost had been barred from standing as a candidate.

Mr Sunak denied claims that the former Brexit negotiator, who has been a fierce critic, had been told he could not apply for any of the 93 vacant constituencies.

Lord Frost, who is a popular figure on the Right of the Conservatives, has said he is willing to resign from the House of Lords to fight the election.

He welcomed Mr Sunak’s announcement, which will be seen as the Prime Minister effectively ordering CCHQ to overturn the ban.

The Conservative party declined to comment.