Totnes Conservative MP’s warning to David Cameron about 'posh inner circle'
A Westcountry Conservative MP has urged David Cameron to rid the party of its "posh, male and white" image within the next two months.
Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, called on the Prime Minister to promote more women and reshuffle his "inner circle" before May's local election – arguing the upper echelons of the party need to be more representative of modern Britain.
The intervention came as reports suggest that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox are positioning themselves to succeed Mr Cameron.
Yet despite a series of poor opinion polls and election results, Dr Wollaston insisted she was a "Cameron loyalist" and the Prime Minister remains the "best person for the job".
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Another Westcountry Tory MP has called for the Government to be "far more radical" and "if necessary ditch the Lib Dems" in the face of the alleged leadership threat.
Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset, writes on his blog that the Lib Dems are wrong to be promoting "more government expenditure and higher taxes" – arguing the "only answer is to drastically cut government expenditure, cut taxes and create an environment which encourages people to work and in which entrepreneurs and businesses can thrive".
"There is a way forward, Prime Minister; for the future of our country, please take it," he went on.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems plan to exploit the threat to the Tories posed by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) by pouring resources into winning South West seats.
Following the success of UKIP at splitting the Tory vote in the Eastleigh by-election, Lib Dem strategists have put Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall at the top of the list.
In a series of tweets, Dr Wollaston, a backbencher elected in 2010, wrote: "Inner circle still look far too posh, male & white & Cameron is running out of time to fix it.
"I consider myself a Cameron loyalist; he is the best person for the job but should listen to critical friends.
"I am a Cameron loyalist but he needs to change his inner circle which just seems to be telling him what he wants to hear."
Writing for the Telegraph. co.uk website, she continued: "If David Cameron wants to occupy the 'common ground' he needs to look at how his inner circle of ministers and advisers look from the outside."
On becoming leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, Mr Cameron set about the task of "de-toxifying" the Conservative image. The modernisation agenda included introducing the A-list of would-be Conservative MPs, which aimed to broaden the number of minority group and women candidates.
In a message warmly greeted by many on the Tory right, senior backbencher Dr Fox issued a call for a public spending freeze of between three and five years, and challenged Mr Cameron's decision to protect the budgets of the NHS, schools and overseas aid. Home Secretary Mrs May fuelled speculation that she harbours future leadership ambitions after giving a detailed speech on Saturday that roved across a number of government briefs.
Mr Cameron is facing pressure to implement more right-leaning policies to ward off the UKIP threat, though others have cautioned it would spell disaster if the party ceded the centre ground.
The Lib Dems are targeting about 25 Tory-held marginal seats in the wake of the UKIP victory, it was reported yesterday. As previously reported in the Western Morning News, Lib Dem president Tim Farron has said three Tory seats in Cornwall are winnable, and Newton Abbot in Devon is high on the list.
The Government is also facing divisions over Business Secretary Vince Cable leading calls for more borrowing to kick-start the economy.
Writing in today's WMN, Mr Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, says abandoning deficit reduction "would make things worse not better".