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Tory insiders fear ‘stench of death’ hangs over party as yet another MP quits

Paul Scully says the Conservatives have become too focused on a shrinking core voter base
Paul Scully says the Conservatives have become too focused on a shrinking core voter base - Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg

A former minister has announced that he will quit as an MP at the next election, saying the Tory party has “lost its way” and must win back younger voters.

Paul Scully, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, said the Chancellor must use Wednesday’s Budget to try to reunite the divided party with “a vision beyond crisis management”.

He warned that the Conservatives were heading down “an ideological cul-de-sac” by focusing solely on a core vote that will “eventually shrink to nothing”.

In a withering assessment of his party’s record, he warned that many voters were coming to the conclusion that the Government were “b---ends”.

Mr Scully announced that he was stepping down days after he was forced to apologise for claiming that there were “no-go areas” in London and Birmingham.

He admitted to a “poor choice of words” but said the furore showed “people will take the easy option to report division [rather] than to understand”.

The former minister said he had already told people he had decided to step down before the row, but the backlash “confirmed I’d made the right choice”.

He is the 59th Tory MP to announce plans to quit at the next election, with Conservative strategists fearing a “stench of death” around the party.

The record for the number of Tory MPs standing down in a single Parliament is 75, reached in the run-up to Labour’s 1997 landslide victory.

But it is Mr Scully’s verdict on the state of the Tories, posted in a resignation statement on social media, that will prove most worrying for Downing Street.

“Fuelled by division, the party has lost its way and needs to get a clear focus, which I hope the Budget can start to provide,” he wrote.

“It needs a vision beyond crisis management which can appeal to a wider section of the electorate, including younger people. If we just focus on core vote, eventually that core shrinks to nothing.”

He added that the party must “talk more about housing” and offer bolder reform for renters “because home ownership has drifted too far from so many”.

His remarks will be seen as veiled criticism of the Government over repeated delays to the Renters Reform Bill and the banning of no-fault evictions.

He said the Tories must “show a real connection and empathy with other generations, otherwise we risk pushing ourselves into an ideological cul-de-sac”.

Posting a photo of the famous “bell curve” politics graph – a theory that most voters’ views are broadly centrist – he added: “Most people are in the middle… We can work with the bell curve or become the b---ends. We need to make that decision. I fear the electorate already [has]!

“My words above are speaking truth to power, not a sign that I believe we should have anything else but a Conservative government.”

Mr Scully held various junior ministerial posts during a nine-year career, including at the science, business and levelling up departments. He also served as the minister for London, and last year unsuccessfully campaigned to become the Tories’ candidate for mayor of the capital.

The MP said during that time he had “lost my marriage and seen two colleagues murdered”, adding that it was “time to pass the baton”.