Priti Patel woos Tory Brexiteers as allies say Right must back ‘the bigger beast’
Greg Smith, the MP for Buckingham and one of her backers, said: “It is my hope that candidates fishing in the same pool will unite around her as the bigger beast.”
Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury and another backer, said: “I think Priti has got longer and broader experience and that is very important.”
In an attempt to shore up support, Ms Patel addressed around 20 members of the ERG in Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader’s Commons office for around 45 minutes, saying that only she could be trusted to deliver on Brexit.
One ERG source said that Ms Patel “got a good reception” as one of the 28 Spartan Tory MPs who voted against all three iterations of Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Another told The Telegraph: “She is on the same page. They all agreed with her. She got a good reception.”
Breaking with ‘Treasury orthodoxy’
She told the ERG that the country was “quite frankly in one hell of a hole” of rocketing inflation. “Everyone will remember what the 1970s was like,” she said. “No one in the party has gripped this and it must be the priority for our party.”
She said the next Prime Minister must break with “Treasury orthodoxy,” deregulate and cut taxes as she took a dig at other candidates for adopting “fashionable” tax cuts.
“We must make sure tax cuts have touched the pockets of people by the next election,” she told the ERG. “When it comes to the fashionable line of cutting tax, we are all conservatives and believe in cutting taxes.”
The Home Secretary pledged to “unpack” green levies on energy bills, insisting that the party must be “bold” when it comes to future energy sources, saying: “We have absolutely failed on fracking and shale gas.”
Patel claimed she was the only member of the Cabinet to pledge to rip up the Northern Ireland bill months before it became government policy. She said that the party must “have the courage of its convictions” and not “cave in” to the EU.
She told the ERG that she was the best candidate to win the “hearts and minds of the party” and help win back activists who had refused to turn out to campaign at by-elections. She said she could mobilise the base and make the changes necessary to ensure the party was successful.
Sunak in a huff
Mr Sunak reportedly had a rougher ride with the ERG. One source said the former Chancellor “got huffy” when the Brexiteer hardliners started asking him about other issues. He said: “I thought this was about Brexit” and left quite quickly.
On Monday an ally of Ms Patel admitted sharing a “dirty dossier” sent around Tory WhatsApp groups branding Rishi Sunak as a liar who cannot be trusted on tax.
Patrick Robertson is thought to be helping put together Patel’s campaign to become Tory leader.