Grassroots Conservative supporters are saying they want to oust Rishi Sunak and “go to war” with the liberal wing of the party in leaked WhatsApp messages obtained by Sky News.
We have obtained the discussions amongst members of the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), founded in December 2022 by donor and Johnson-backer Lord Peter Cruddas after the ousting of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
The leaked WhatsApps show the vitriol among some of its members aimed at Mr Sunak, little expectation of victory in the general election and a desire to take back control of the Tory party for the right, post-election.
A Tory source said that it was wrong to characterise Mr Sunak as being on the liberal wing of the party, saying he is “significantly more Conservative than Boris Johnson”.
Some of the screenshots suggest a handful of members believe in conspiracies, referring to “globalists” and a WEF government – a reference to the World Economic Forum held in Davos – which some conspiracy theorists believe to be home of a secretive world government which benefits elites.
Sky News has not named any of the activists involved, and not published the screenshots, since the participants in these conversations are not nationally significantly figures.
Several of the messages show the anger felt towards other wings of the Conservative party.
One activist said: “It’s time to go to war … unfortunately it’s with the liberals in our party. Needs to be done we need the party back.”
They go on: “Listening to my local party’s WhatsApp broadcast it’s like the last days of Rome… carrying on with the same old policies that have lost year after year. Ignoring actual conservatives and a conservative message… preferring to appear liberal to appease the middle class liberal climate guilt voters…. Personally I can’t see past the cowardice…. I’m pretty sure that’s all the public see too.”
The WhatsApp messages, almost all this year and some from the last few weeks, show:
• Members of the group mocking Mr Sunak, one saying he has the charisma of a “doorknob”. Another says he is “uninspiring” and saying the “govt can’t get anything right”, and characterise it as a party of “globalists”.
• Members of the CDO believe that Sunak, who voted for Brexit, is governing like a “remainer”. “CDO needs to rethink Rishi and pals, remainers have a firm hold on the party”, says an activist. Another says: “It’s no longer a conservative government I would vote for.”
• Some calling on them to remove Mr Sunak before the election, others hoping for a return of Boris Johnson. Others think an election will help Conservatives “find out who their voters are and rebuild from there”.
• Many have given up winning the next election, with one saying “we’re gunna (sic) be out of power for a lot longer than 4 years and giving (sic) the cultural shift we may never get back in”.
• Others tout alternative leaders. An activist asks: “Is Tom Harwood a Conservative. If he is, he would make an ideal prime minister”. Mr Harwood is a political journalist at GB News.
• The group also criticises Mr Sunak’s cabinet. During the reshuffle earlier this month, one queried Grant Shapps’ appointment to the defence brief. “I just don’t find Shapps credible. Certainly not to take over the mantle from Wallace who was beyond excellent.” Another calls him a “crony appointment; Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Some CDO WhatsApp members see a conspiracy behind the poor performance from the Tories.
One says: “No party can be this incompetent on purpose. It’s got to be by design. And the only conclusion I can come to of why they would do this, is that they are all bought and paid for, same for Labour and the other cretins in parliament.
“Someone is pulling the strings to turn our country into a third world s**thole”.
However, other members rejected the conspiracy theories.
One member of the Yorkshire CDO group said: “Infighting is what they’re best at. Who can stop that? Factions have formed and need breaking up. Who can do that? We can help if we’re not amongst them.
“They all need to see sense – immediately. But we need to know who’s in which faction in order to set targets to break them up.”
The majority of the group appears to have clear boundaries. When one commenter talks about Londistan and makes a link to Sadiq Khan, others jump in to condemn them, saying the CDO does not tolerate racism and that “true Conservatives are inclusive”.
Claire Bullivant, co-founder and chief executive of the CDO, said: “The CDO is a place for everyone who cares about democracy, and we certainly aren’t made up of just Conservative Party members.
“In fact, we have a lot of members who belong to Reform and other parties who all hold different views on various politicians. Some love Rishi, some don’t. Some want Boris back, some don’t.
“It’s normal… it’s by the by. What we care about is democracy and bringing a voice back to the people.
She added: “I personally follow the Ronald Reagan principle as I am a Conservative and I don’t really like bashing fellow Tories.
“But you’re showing me WhatsApp messages that could have been written by anyone who has joined some of our WhatsApp groups.”
She went on to welcome the publication of the leaks by Sky News.
“Of course the media will try and make a story about it. Go for it. Thank you for the publicity,” she said.
“It’s great that more people will hear about us. More and more people are joining CDO everyday.
“Like us they want democracy, and they want a centre right party that believes in free people, free markets, free speech, small governments and low taxes.
“The fact is no-one wants Starmer, no-one wants 20mph limits, no-one wants unions running the show, no-one wants wokery, no-one wants ULEZ expansions and big government breathing down your neck every second. The average man on the street does not want Labour.
“I’m proud of what the CDO has achieved in such a short time and this is just the start. We have a great relationship with CCHQ and are excited to work with the Conservative Party moving forward.”