Conservatives will be “hammered” in the next election if the party fails to regain public confidence, a MP and cabinet minister adviser Boris Johnson has warned.
In an extraordinary reprimand, Bim Afolami describes the handling of the lobby scandal surrounding Owen Paterson as a “debacle” and “decisive moment in this Parliament”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said even committed Tories questioned the prime minister’s competence, saying, “If we can’t deal with this type of political issue, how are we supposed to deal with the hard things that really matter.”
And he warned: “The danger of this political moment is that the Conservative government is on the verge of losing something very precious – if in doubt.
“I don’t know how long this will be, but I don’t think our mid-30s drop in survey support will be temporary, nor is it just about this ‘sleaze’ problem.”
Mr Afolami said Mr Johnson was – after 13 or 14 years of Tory rule at the election – vulnerable to Labor’s message of “strong time for change”.
It would also be fought against the backdrop of “higher debt than 2019, still high NHS arrears and still tight household incomes”.
“If we add to these factors the public feeling that we are not in politics for the right reasons or that we are not focusing on practically improving people’s lives, we will be rightly hammered in the next election,” said Afolami written in an article for the Conservative home Website.
“We need to prove that we are worthy of the trust placed in us in 2019 and show that we are focused on delivering to the public. If we do not do that, we will follow the path of previous longstanding governments. “
The Paterson affair sparked a slump in the polls of Mr Johnson and his party – and anger among his own MPs over the costly own goal.
There is little sign of the government regaining momentum as it faces a difficult Labor-inspired vote Wednesday that will challenge Tory MPs to ban second jobs.
Pointing to the public perception that the government is “not doing its job effectively enough”, Mr Afolami, who describes himself as the One Nation Tory, added, “Dare I say it, I think you are right.”
And he said, “Our poor handling of the issue has led even our strongest supporters to question our ability to govern the country: If we can’t deal with this type of political issue, how are we supposed to deal with them deal with difficult things that are really important? ”
There is a “nagging public feeling that we should be governed better,” the MP wrote, adding: “As the prime minister is at the head of the system, he will carry most of the can.”