Tory rebels plan 100-day ‘policy blitz’ if local elections are disaster for party

Estimated read time 4 min read

Rishi Sunak is braced for a bruising week as Tory rebels flaunted plans for a 100-day “policy blitz” to secure quick wins if the local election results prove disastrous for the party.

The prime minister said on Sunday that he was not “distracted” by his personal ratings lingering at record lows. He refused to rule out calling a July general election amid mounting rumours that unruly MPs will attempt to oust him if the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, and the Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, are defeated on Thursday.

The defection of the former Conservative health minister Dr Dan Poulter to Labour on Saturday and the potential loss of half the party’s councillors later this week could ignite rebellious Tories to defy Sunak’s authority and go over the line with letters of no confidence.

On Saturday night Poulter dramatically quit the Conservative party because the party is “failing” the NHS and the party has become a “nationalist party of the right”.

The part-time mental health doctor in an NHS hospital told the Observer he could no longer “look my NHS colleagues in the eye” as a Conservative, noting “the only cure [for the struggling NHS] is a Labour government”.

Conservative rebels say it’s time to put an end to “broken pledges, distant plans for change and bans they never asked for” and instead use 100 days to prove the government is “taking action and cares about what matters to the British people”.

Their five-point plan to end the reign of “tinkering, dithering and managerialism” includes:

  • An attempt to end the junior doctors pay dispute with a 10-12% offer.

  • Further cuts to legal migration numbers, with a curb on the number of foreign students staying in the UK.

  • Vow to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2027.

  • Introduce measures to jail prolific offenders and build rapid detention cells to increase prison capacity.

  • Cut the benefits bill, with a target to reduce payments for depression and anxiety.

A Tory source said: “These are policies that can be introduced in a few months and then go to the country for people to make a decision. We’ve got to be clear and bold in our plan, and with the right messenger, to have any chance of winning otherwise it could be two or three terms of Labour.”

An Ipsos poll on Thursday revealed Sunak’s personal satisfaction rating had fallen to -59, matching a record low for a prime minister set by Sir John Major in 1994. Only 16% of people said they were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance and 75% said they were dissatisfied.

Penny Mordaunt, who has been perceived as preparing for a leadership contest, also trailed behind Starmer on personal ratings by 17 points – the Labour leader’s own ratings have fallen from 29% to 25% since February. Mordaunt’s allies have denied she is vying for Sunak’s position and said she is getting on with the job.

Sunak appeared irritable in an interview broadcast on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, insisting he would not “say anything more than I’ve already said” about the time of an election and his “working assumption” remained it will be in the second half of the year.

Starmer will welcome Poulter, the Conservative defector, to the fold on Monday and vow to “inject resource and reform” into mental health services.

Starmer last night said “it’s fantastic” Poulter had joined Labour to help get the NHS back on its feet, and promised his government would overhaul the way mental health is approached.

Labour will use the moment to recommit to improving the Mental Health Act and providing 8,500 specially trained mental health staff, support in every school and open access early intervention hub in every community, paid for by closing tax loopholes.

Starmer said: “I will not sit on my hands while tens of thousands of people have their lives on hold and ambition curtailed while they languish on mental health waiting lists.

“We are mission focused on rebuilding public services and it’s fantastic that Dr Dan Poulter MP has joined us. It’s time to end the chaos, turn the page, and get Britain’s future back.”

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: “Keir Starmer’s own shadow mental health minister resigned over Labour’s failing to take mental health seriously.

“What’s more, where Labour are in power in Wales, they are failing patients with more people left waiting longer for the care they need. Labour would take us back to square one.”


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