(Bloomberg) -- Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries savaged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in an excoriating resignation letter, as she finally quit her parliamentary seat weeks after first saying she would do so.
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Dorries, an ally of ex-premier Boris Johnson who blames Sunak for his ouster last year, lashed out at the prime minister in a letter published online by the Daily Mail late Saturday, saying he had “no mandate” to lead the country and “no plan” to run it. She also said Sunak lacks the “winning X-factor qualities” of Johnson, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair — a line that preys on Conservative Party fears ahead of a general election expected in 2024.
“Since you took office a year ago, the country is run by a zombie Parliament where nothing meaningful has happened,” Dorries wrote. “Your actions have left some 200 or more of my MP colleagues to face an electoral tsunami and the loss of their livelihoods, because in your impatience to become prime minister you put your personal ambition above the stability of the country and our economy.”
Sunak’s office declined to comment.
While Dorries’s antipathy toward Sunak was well known, her tone will do little to help the prime minister as he seeks to restore Tory fortunes and catch Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party, who lead by about 20 points in recent polls. Her letter is also a stark reminder that the governing Conservatives are far from united, and while Johnson’s power has significantly waned, there are factions who have no qualms about making trouble for the administration.
On the flip side, Dorries’s departure will likely come as a relief. She had said as far back as June that she was resigning with immediate effect — an announcement that came after it emerged she’d be denied a peerage recommended by Johnson, a decision she also blamed on Sunak.
But whereas Johnson and another ally Nigel Adams quit Parliament at the same time, Dorries stayed on. Her ongoing status as an MP riled even Conservatives who feared she had come to represent a broader dysfunction. Councils in her district complained she was not representing her constituents, and the press pointed out she hadn’t spoken in the House of Commons for months.
“At the moment people aren’t being properly represented” in Mid Bedfordshire, Sunak said Aug. 2 in response to a question from a listener in a radio call-in.
Dorries hit out at that intervention in her letter, accusing him of “demeaning his office by opening the gates to whip up a public frenzy against one of his own MPs.” She said she would submit her official resignation to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt on Saturday, triggering the process to replace her when Parliament returns from its summer recess on Sept. 4.
It will leave Sunak facing a tricky special election that’s likely to take place close to the time of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in October. While Dorries had a margin of over 24,000 in her district, the Liberal Democrats have overturned several huge Tory majorities in recent by-elections and have been preparing the ground. Meanwhile Labour were second there in 2019, and recently overturned Adams’s sizable majority to take his constituency.
It wasn’t just Sunak that Dorries took aim at. The former minister — who represented her seat since 2005 — wrote in conspiratorial tones about the ouster of Johnson and Liz Truss last year, as well as their predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron.
She said it was “the result of the machinations of a small group of individuals embedded deep at the center of the party and Downing Street,” and that she was working on a book “which exposes how the democratic process at the heart of our party has been corrupted.”
But her most damaging remarks concerned Sunak’s policy agenda. She criticized him for raising the UK tax burden to the highest level since World War II, for failing to cut immigration and for abandoning Johnson’s “leveling up” agenda that aimed to equalize opportunities across the country.
“What exactly is it you do stand for?” Dorries wrote. “Bewildered, we look in vain for the grand political vision for the people of this great country to hold on to, that would make all this disruption and subsequent inertia worthwhile, and we find absolutely nothing.”
She also lashed out at Sunak’s displays of wealth as she accused him of failing to deliver the regulatory reforms sought by technology companies to enable them to list on the London Stock Exchange rather than in New York.
“You flashed your gleaming smile in your Prada shoes and Savile Row suit from behind a camera, but you just weren’t listening,” she wrote. “All they received in return were platitudes and a speech illustrating how wonderful life was in California. London is now losing its appeal as more UK-based companies seek better listing opportunities in the US. That, Prime Minister, is entirely down to you.”
In her wide-ranging missive, she accused Sunak of failing to deliver the “benefits of Brexit” and abandoning plans to reform social care. “You simply do not care about the environment or the natural world,” she also wrote.
But her lines on how Sunak came to power will be especially sensitive for the prime minister, given it’s also a view shared by opposition parties. After Truss’s disastrous seven-week tenure, Sunak’s entered 10 Downing Street without even grassroots members of the governing Tory party having a say.
“You hold the office of prime minister unelected, without a single vote, not even from your own MPs,” Dorries said. “You have no mandate from the people and the government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation.”
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