Former Tory minister quits party and backs Sir Keir Starmer to lead Britain

Claire Perry O’Neill - Simona Granati/Corbis
Claire Perry O’Neill – Simona Granati/Corbis

A former Conservative minister has quit the party and backed Sir Keir Starmer to lead Britain in a “sober, competent” fashion.

Claire Perry O’Neill, who was in Theresa May’s Cabinet, said she had lost faith in the “cavalier” and “self-obsessed” Tories, revealing that she tore up her membership card this month despite insisting she “likes and admires” Rishi Sunak.

Ms Perry O’Neill was the Tory MP for Devizes, Wiltshire, for nine years and served as energy minister attending Cabinet between 2017 and 2019.

Her exit will come as a setback to the embattled Prime Minister after a poll revealed that his personal ratings have slumped over the last week. She announced her departure after becoming disillusioned with the Tories’ record, including the “hollowing out” of the nuclear sector.

“As much as I like and admire the Prime Minister and Chancellor, they are too beholden to a party dominated now by ideology and self-obsession to deliver the big changes we need in a fact-based, competent way,” she told The Times.

“I spend most of my time now working in the private sector and this is not the way to build back confidence and deliver investment, especially in the crucial energy sector.”

Ms Perry O’Neill, who campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum, suggested strained relations with Europe were also behind her decision to quit.

“My former party’s often cavalier approach to business and academia, coupled with a post-Brexit reluctance to strategically engage with our European neighbours, has damaged our ability to deliver the energy system we need,” she said.

“A full-scale reset of our domestic and international relationships, focused on calm, competent co-operation, is urgently needed.”

Ms Perry-O’Neill praised Sir Keir, the Labour leader, expressing confidence that he would provide “sober, fact-driven, competent political leadership”. Labour’s policies on the transition to green energy “look exciting and can only help the UK benefit from the economic opportunity,” she added.

The remarks will concern Tory strategists, given that Ms Perry O’Neill was once considered one of the party’s rising centrist stars and was at the forefront of a new cohort of “iron ladies” during the David Cameron era.

Her remarks came after a poll on Monday night showed that Labour now leads the Tories by 22 per cent, with Mr Sunak’s personal ratings suffering. The survey, for Redfield and Wilton Strategies, had Sir Keir’s party on 48 per cent, with the Conservatives on 26 per cent.

More worryingly for the Prime Minister, his net approval score has slumped by seven per cent in the space of a week to -11, while the proportion of voters saying the Government is incompetent has hit 49 per cent, its highest level since mid-November.

Published by anthonyhayble

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