Conservative MPs must “unite” behind Rishi Sunak as the ex-Chancellor takes on the pressing economic issues facing Britain, a Tory MP has claimed. Mr Sunak, who was defeated in the members’ ballot against outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss just last month, saw off the challenge from Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson to become Tory Party leader and Prime Minister.
The Brexit-backing Richmond MP claimed the Tory Party faces an existential threat as he addressed Conservative colleagues for his maiden 1922 Committee appearance as Britain’s next Prime Minister.
A Tory MP who attended the 1922 Committee meeting told Express.co.uk: “Rishi actually said we ‘either unite or die’.”
Mr Sunak was praised by his Conservative colleagues after his appearance at the backbench Tory meeting.
Andrew Bridgen, who supported Mr Sunak in the last two Tory leadership contests, voiced confidence in the former Chancellor following his appearance before backbench MPs.
The North West Leicestershire MP told Express.co.uk: “I am confident that Rishi Sunak has the skills to address the economic challenges we face.
“The whole Conservative Party needs to unite behind him.”
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Worcester MP Robin Walker also said: “Rishi was very sensible at the 1922 meeting not to be at all triumphalist and to be clear we face some big challenges and we need to act fast to honour our 2019 manifesto.”
“I was pleased to hear him talk about working with all parts of the party as after all we’ve been through we need an end to factionalism and we need people from all the different parts of the party and all of the different interest groups, whether it comes to Brexit or the environment, to work together constructively to show that we can deliver.”
When asked whether the incoming Prime Minister could lead the Tory Party to a bounceback in the opinion polls, the former Education Minister added: “I think so and what I saw at the weekend was interesting as our core vote was divided over who was the best leader to take the party forward but the people who were the swing voters, who perhaps had left us over the past year or so, were almost unanimous in that they wanted to see Rishi and he would be the person who would reassure them.”
Ex-Northern Ireland Secretary and Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers also told Express.co.uk: “Rishi got an incredibly warm and enthusiastic reaction from Conservative MPs.
“There is a strong determination to move on from the turmoil of the past two months.
“To do that we must unite behind our new leader.
“That is essential if we are to deliver our manifesto, get the country through the economic crisis and win the next election.”
Mr Sunak, who is the first British Asian Prime Minister and the youngest UK leader since Lord Liverpool, also delivered an 86-second public speech following his leadership victory at Conservative Party Headquarters in Westminster.
The new Conservative leader said he was “humbled and honoured” to win over almost 200 Tory MPs.
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Mr Sunak added: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love and give back to the country I owe so much to.
“The United Kingdom is a great country but there is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge.
“We now need stability and unity and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our country and our party together.”
Ex-Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Theresa May have congratulated Mr Sunak and said he has their “full support”.
Ms Mordaunt, who was “cheered and applauded” when she arrived at the 1922 Committee meeting, also gave the former Chancellor her support.
But some supporters of Mr Johnson have suggested an early election is now looming.
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Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Boris would have won [the] members’ vote – already had a mandate from the people.
“Rishi and Penny, despite requests from Boris, refused to unite which would have made governing utterly impossible.
“Penny actually asked him to step aside for her.
“It will now be impossible to avoid a general election.”
Express.co.uk has also been told that some Johnson-supporting MPs did not attend the 1922 Committee meeting.
Leading opposition politicians have echoed calls for an early general election.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, who dubbed Mr Sunak’s victory a “coronation”, said: “The Tories have crowned Rishi Sunak without him saying a word about what he would do as Prime Minister.”
She added: “The public deserves their say on Britain’s future through a general election.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also took aim at Mr Sunak.
The Kingston MP said: “Now Conservative MPs have installed another out-of-touch Prime Minister with no plan to repair the damage and without giving the British people a say.”
Sir Ed added: “The only way to end the chaos is a general election now.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “congratulated” Mr Sunak on replacing Ms Truss but said an early election should be called and continued to put forward her plan for independence.