Red Wall Tories in threat to form breakaway party
- Tory MPs in ‘Red Wall’ seats fear becoming ‘one termers’ as Labour leads polls
- Rising Tory star Dehenna Davison announced she is standing down next election
- New breakaway party would be tougher than Sunak on immigration and Brexit
Panicking Tory MPs in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats of the North and Midlands have held discussions about forming a breakaway party, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
With Labour now consistently more than 20 points ahead in the polls – and an increasing number of Tory MPs announcing plans to quit before the next general election – the ‘wallers’ have discussed forming a new party that would be tougher than Rishi Sunak‘s Government on issues such as immigration, crime and Brexit.
The MPs fear that unless they act they will become ‘one-termers’ after being elected in former Labour strongholds in 2019.
Rising Tory star Dehenna Davison became one of the latest to stand down next election, with a majority of just 7,962 in her Bishop Auckland constituency
They have also discussed devising a ‘backbench immigration policy’ which they can present to Downing Street in an attempt to force the Government to act: small-boat migration across the Channel is an issue mentioned frequently on their constituencies’ doorsteps, they say.
Last night, one Red Wall source said: ‘There have been discussions about forming a separate Northern group along the lines of the Scottish Tories. A couple of senior figures from the Northern Research Group [set up by Red Wall MPs in 2019 to campaign for greater investment] were told off for mooting the idea, but it hasn’t really gone away. They had a meeting with Rishi and there’s a conference next year.’
Another Red Wall MP added: ‘Small boats is an existential issue for many of us and it’s about making sure Government pays attention. We like what the Prime Minister has said but we need to see things done.’
It comes as former Brexit Secretary David Davis invited fellow Tory MPs to sign a letter to the PM setting out his plan to solve the Channel migrant issue. John Hayes – chairman of the Common Sense Group – has also written to Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling for action on the issue.
The news emerged as poster girl for the Red Wall Dehenna Davison announced she was stepping down from her Bishop Auckland seat at the next election. Others are expected to follow, with senior figures such as former Chancellor Sajid Javid at the centre of the speculation. Party bosses fear that as many as 100 MPs could quit.
To add to Mr Sunak’s problems, Tory election strategists have voiced their alarm about the prospect of donors turning off the taps following his tax-raising budget.
Senior Conservative MP William Wragg is also one of many names standing down next election
Labour analysis has also revealed that some of the Tories’ most vulnerable Red Wall seats are receiving far less of the party’s donations compared to those in the South with bigger majorities. It showed those in more secure seats getting as much as four times the amount.
Labour said that the decision suggested a Tory retreat from the North in an attempt to save traditional heartland seats, branding it the ‘Southern Comfort’ strategy.
It claimed that some of Mr Sunak’s closest allies, and senior cabinet members, have been particular beneficiaries, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan receiving around £180,000 between them – almost as much as the entire Red Wall contingent.
Northern seats appear to have been all but written off, Labour said. In total, ten of the 20 most vulnerable MPs record no donations being given to their local Conservative Association since January 2020.
Asked about suggestions that Northern MPs were receiving less funding than their Southern counterparts, one Red Wall source said: ‘They are making themselves known at the moment. They will be banging the drum for funding ahead of the next general election.’
Meanwhile, last month the chairman of Northern Research Group Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen, was replaced as party chairman by Nadhim Zahawi, the Stratford-on-Avon MP.
The role includes the overseeing of Conservative Campaign Headquarters which is responsible for distributing the funds to seats ahead of elections.
A spokesman for the Tories said: ‘While donors are free to fund any MP or association they choose, the funding tends to be directed by the party’s headquarters.’