Speaking at the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) conference in Bournemouth this lunchtime, Mr Rees-Mogg – a keen supporter of Boris Johnson’s – unexpectedly waved the white flag.
The CDO is meeting on the south coast this morning in an attempt to rally party members around an agenda to democratise the Conservative party and give activists more of a say over leadership and candidates.
Many of those in attendance are still upset about Boris Johnson being forced out as PM by Tory MPs, however, Mr Rees-Mogg warned the assembled crowd that changing leader again would “Make us look absurd”.
He said the Conservative party could not go into the next general election with a different leader after having already changed PM twice last year.
While he still regrets Boris Johnson being removed from office – as do many other speakers in attendance today – Mr Rees-Mogg pronounced: “We must support Rishi Sunak into the next general election”.
He added: “In the interest of conservative democracy we really do have to support our current leader”.
Despite his warning that Tory Members must support Rishi Sunak at the next election, it didn’t stop the prominent Brexiteer from criticising many of the PM’s policy positions, including scrapping plans to abolish retained EU law.
Mr Rees-Mogg told members that “politics grows from the bottom up,” and warned the party against any attempt to cut the membership out of the leadership process.
He even went so far as to demand members call for Votes of No Confidence in any association chairmen who support taking away their right to decide the party leader.
Other speakers at today’s Bournemouth rally also criticised the PM’s policies, while making reassurances that the CDO group is not “anti-Rishi”.
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Lord Cruddas, a Boris backer and president of the CDO, said that MPs had been “complicit in shameful behaviour” when getting rid of Boris Johnson last year.
He added that the CDO had been created to “help the party rediscover its purpose”, and warned the Tories are “on a path that will lead to the destruction of the Conservative Party”.
“What happened to Boris Johnson and Liz Truss should never happen again.”
The Conference is being attended by around 150 delegates, despite rail strikes affecting access to the seaside resort, and will be followed by a black-tie dinner this evening.
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