Could Priti be DEMOTED? Boris ‘considers shuffling Home Secretary sideways to replace Oliver Dowden as Tory party chairman’ amid Rwanda migrant row
- The Home Secretary could be moved after Johnson’s by-election pummelling
- She is being touted again to become party chairman – replacing Oliver Dowden
- Dowden quit after the losses in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton on Thursday
- Patel allies are said the calls for her to move are ‘backhanded compliments’
Priti Patel is being touted to replace Oliver Dowden as Tory party chairman amid the fallout from Thursday’s double by-election catastrophe.
Allies of Boris Johnson say the Prime Minister is considering moving the Home Secretary to the party chairman post, in what is likely to be regarded as a sideways move or even demotion.
Ms Patel is one of the Cabinet’s least popular ministers among Tory grassroots supporters, and her flagship Rwanda migrant policy has so far failed to get off the ground.
However, her friends insisted that the move is unlikely to happen and has been wrongly mooted before reshuffles in the past.
The move would remove her from one of the so-called ‘Great Offices of States’ and into an altogether less public role.
Some even described the calls as a ‘backhanded compliment’.
It comes after the controversy over the Rwanda migration plan – which saw its first planned flight grounded after legal interventions which embarrassed Ms Patel’s flagship plan.
A Cabinet source told the Telegraph that a reshuffle was risky for Boris Johnson because senior figures might refuse to move and quit the Government.
The Home Secretary is being lined up by officials in the Government whips’ office – but friends of Ms Patel say the move is unlikely to happen
The Cabinet source said: ‘How the hell can he do anything resembling a meaningful reshuffle without it being really difficult because there will be bodies everywhere?’
Ms Patel is being touted for the role again after being linked with it ahead of previous reshuffles.
The insider added: ‘People regularly say she is going to be made party chairman at every reshuffle and that is never going to happen.’
In the by-election double header, the Conservatives gave up the previously ultra-safe, Brexit-backing seat of Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats
Victorious candidate Richard Foord won by more than 6,000 votes in a seat where the party came third in 2019. It is believed to be the largest majority ever overturned in a by-election.
Oliver Dowden dramatically quit in the wake of the party’s double by-election pummelling
Some 270 miles to the north east, Mr Johnson’s party had moments earlier ceded Wakefield to Labour after holding the Red Wall seat for just three years, with Simon Lightwood winning a near-5,000 majority in a vote called after the previous Tory MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, was jailed for child sex offences.
Oliver Dowden dramatically quit in the wake of the party’s double by-election pummelling.
Mr Dowden delivered what appeared to be a coded attack on the PM, saying the party cannot continue with ‘business as usual’.
Rather than stating his continuing loyalty to the premier in his resignation letter, Mr Dowden said he ‘remains loyal to the Conservative Party’. Aides did not respond to questions about whether he still supports Mr Johnson as leader.
Tory former leader Lord Howard has also joined calls for the premier to fall on his sword, telling the BBC ‘the party and more importantly the country would be better off under new leadership’.
No10 made clear Mr Johnson will not be cutting short his nine-day foreign tour, which is also slated to include G7 meetings in Germany and a Nato gathering in Spain, to deal with the crisis
Senior figures mobilised to limit the damage this morning, with deputy PM Dominic Raab insisting the party must ‘relentlessly focus’ on policy and Priti Patel saying the government is ‘cracking on with the task’. Rishi Sunak tweeted saying he was ‘sad’ about the Cabinet departure, but ‘determined to continue working’.
No10 made clear Mr Johnson will not be cutting short his nine-day foreign tour, which is also slated to include G7 meetings in Germany and a Nato gathering in Spain, to deal with the crisis.
But Mr Dowden’s exit – which came just minutes before he was due to start broadcast interviews and at the least paves the way for a reshuffle – ratchets up pressure following the bombshell results in West Yorkshire and Devon.
The contests were lost by large margins after months of sleaze and economic woe that have bedevilled Mr Johnson’s premiership.