‘They’re scheming against Rishi — and will replace him with Kemi when the time’s right’
SUCCESSION is no accident in the Tory Party. No leader is left to chance; it’s all planned well in advance.
That, anyway, is the how the shadowy group who manipulate the party for their own purposes would like things to run. It doesn’t always go to plan. They were furious when the party’s members voted in Liz Truss as Boris Johnson’s successor, as a hush-hush informant, an MP, told me.
‘When Liz won the members’ vote and was elected as Prime Minister rather than Rishi Sunak, they simply did not accept the result. They think the party members are barking mad. They were absolutely determined to win and they were prepared to do whatever it took.’
Truss was forced to resign after sterling slumped to its lowest rate ever against the dollar, following her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget. ‘But,’ the MP explained to me, ‘the economic shock wasn’t what it seemed. Liz didn’t do anything she hadn’t said she was going to do during her campaign to be elected.
While Truss was still Prime Minister, I spoke to a source who predicted: ‘They won’t be happy with Liz. They will panic her, she will make wrong moves, they will get her out and Rishi in.’
She was spot on. Truss resigned and, in the election for a new leader that followed, all the other candidates withdrew, leaving Sunak as the new Prime Minister.
Sunak was always the one that Dominic Cummings, Dougie Smith, ‘Dr No’ and all the others in the cabal had wanted in Downing Street. Numerous contacts told me they were right at the heart of his operation long before he became PM.
The informant I codenamed Moneypenny reminded me that he is the MP in William Hague’s old seat. ‘How do you think Rishi, who had never been active on the political scene and had been living in America, got selected for a plum seat like that?’
Another contact told me: ‘I think Rishi was turned by these people playing with his mind and the temptations they put in his path. I think very early on they would have said to him: “You’re a perfect fit. But what needs to happen is you get rid of this guy [Boris].” And so I think he decided at some point that was his path.’
An elder statesman I consulted, fully aware ( and fearful) of the unhealthy influence the likes of Dougie Smith and ‘Dr No’ have in the party, had a perceptive insight into Sunak. ‘Rishi ticks all the boxes. He’s not your white middle-class, middle-aged male. He’s not Bullingdon Club. He’s reasonably good-looking and photogenic and has enough about him to set him apart. And he can be wound up and pointed in the right direction.
‘And Dougie saw this, because that is what he does, he grooms MPs into seats, and he knew he could groom Rishi into No 10. Rishi and Dougie have been close friends for many years. There are two components to power: money and politics. Liz Truss was taken down by the mobilisation of big money. Boris was taken down by politics. Rishi is the first British Prime Minister ever who is the axis of both.’
But already, I was told by numerous political insiders, his days are numbered. One very senior figure told me: ‘Rishi will be useful for now but he’s just another Michael Howard to them; he’s a stopgap and his time will be short. First, though, they will use him, they will benefit from him. Then, when they have done so, they will remove him.’
The source I codenamed Moneypenny told me that it was someone at the heart of No 10 who leaked the financial details about his wife Akshata’s non-dom status (meaning she could have paid less tax despite being exceedingly wealthy). The reason, she said, was to keep control of him. ‘I’m guessing that they leaked the stuff about his wife at the point when they thought they were losing their grip on him, as his star was rising.’
This was confirmed by another source: ‘I remember when everything came out about his wife’s non-dom status and her financial affairs; he thinks he’s survived it. What he doesn’t realise is that they don’t give everything away at once. They will have more and when it is time to remove him, it will all blow up again, and when it does they will milk it. They keep the best for last.’
His forecast: ‘They will replace him with Kemi Badenoch, the person they have been preparing for many years. The MPs who are allies of Dougie Smith are already out whispering in the corridors of power, telling MPs what an excellent leader Kemi would make. She is very, very close to Smith.’
In the old smoking room in the House of Commons, an MP who has been active in the party for 20 years told me: ‘They always have someone in reserve. If there is no boost in the polls for the party, they will start to dish the dirt on Rishi and manoeuvre Kemi into place.’
Another MP told me: ‘The same people who ensured Rishi’s succession are now plotting against him.’ A senior civil servant observed wryly: ‘It’s a bit like they’ve written an operating manual: The A–Z Of How To Control A Political Leader And, When That Fails, How To Remove Him.’
‘Sunak was turned by people playing with his mind’