Last weekend, says Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail, a few hundred souls made their way to Bournemouth for the inaugural meeting of the Conservative Democratic Organisation. “I could think of better ways of spending a sunny Saturday.” The group’s aim is to campaign for party members to have more influence – specifically, says self-made City billionaire and CDO founder Peter Cruddas, to prevent the likes of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss being ousted from office for “losing the confidence of their MPs”. Very much in the air in Bournemouth was the idea that Rishi Sunak is an “interloper” and – unlike Johnson – “not a true Conservative”. This is bizarre. As top Tory-watcher Tim Shipman points out, on everything from spending and immigration to crime and cultural issues, Sunak is “miles more right-wing than Boris”.
The PM is, as one former cabinet minister puts it, a “true fiscal Conservative, in the Thatcher mould”. He has an old-school Conservative respect for family values, and a “quiet but insistent” religious faith. Above all, he represents the “Conservative devotion to efficient administration”. Besides, Cruddas should remember that when Truss was binned by the party, she was polling 30 points behind Keir Starmer on the question of who would make the best PM. Before his defenestration, Johnson was 17 points behind. Sunak, meanwhile, is neck-and-neck. It just goes to show what an “odd idea” of Conservatism Tory members really have. As Thatcher’s longest-serving chancellor, my father Nigel Lawson, put it shortly before his death: only Sunak “understands Thatcherite economics”.