Kemi Patenoch dismisses speculation about Rishi Sunak's ouster

  • By Becky Morton
  • BBC Political Correspondent

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Kemi Patenok says MPs involved in leadership speculation “need to stop it”.

Conservative MPs must “stop” speculating about Rishi Sunak's removal as Prime Minister, Business Secretary Kemi Patenock has said.

In recent days there have been reports that some Conservative MPs want him to be replaced by Commons leader Benny Mordant.

But Ms Badenoch told BBC Breakfast that it was only a “small minority of MPs”.

Asked about reports that support was gathering around Ms Mordaunt as a replacement for the Prime Minister, Ms Badenoch said: “I'm sure Benny would stay away from those comments if he was here.

I have been saying for a long time that the minority of MPs who want to talk about this should stop it.

He added: “I don't think there's much to these rumours… when over 350 MPs have different views, we need to make sure that one or two MPs can't dominate the news narrative.”

Currently only two Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Sunak to resign – Sir Simon Clarke and Dame Andrea Jenkins.

Asked about calls by some Tories for him to step down, the prime minister insisted his party was “united in wanting to deliver a brighter future for our country”.

“I'm not interested in Westminster politics, it doesn't matter. What matters is the future of our country,” he added.

Popular with the party's grassroots, Ms Mordaunt previously stood as party leader in two contests in 2022.

As Speaker of the House of Commons, his public profile was raised when he played a key role in the King's coronation, holding a ceremonial sword for over an hour.

In an attempt to focus on the economy, Downing Street released a statement from Mr Sunack on Sunday night saying 2024 “will be the year Britain recovers”.

The prime minister said he hoped to see “substantial improvement” in inflation when the latest official figures are released on Wednesday.

“There is now a real sense that the economy is turning a corner as all economic indicators are pointing in the right direction,” he added.

However, some Tories were unable to boost the party's poll ratings after the budget cut National Insurance.

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Benny Mordant played a key role in last year's King's Coronation

From 1 April, the Government will pay the full cost of apprenticeships for people aged 21 or under in small firms, backed by £60m of new investment next year.

The Prime Minister came under pressure last week over her response to Tory donor Frank Hester's alleged comments about Diane Abbott.

Mr Hester, who has donated at least £10million to the party, is reported to have said the MP wanted to “hate all black women”.

The businesswoman apologized for making the “rude” comments, but said her words had “nothing to do with her gender or the color of her skin”.

Downing Street initially refused to describe the comments as racist, but later did so.

It came after Ms Badenoch, who also serves as equalities minister, said the comments had already been made racist and “appalling”.

The Prime Minister rejected opposition calls for Mr Hester to return the money he donated to the Tories, arguing that he had apologized and his “regret should be accepted”.

Asked if she was comfortable with her party keeping donations, Ms Badenoch said: “Yes… I thought the comments were racist, but he apologised. When people apologise, I think we have to accept that and move on.”

He said the row was “a distraction” and “nowhere near the priorities of any of my constituents”.

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