Brexiteers at war in Tory leader race as huge split emerges – Truss and Kemi both at risk
Kemi Badenoch reacts to Braverman supporting Truss
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The row broke out after Attorney General Suella Braverman was eliminated last night and declared that she would be backing Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary. The more than 60 members of the ERG were told to follow suit to ensure there was a strong Brexiteer in the final two going to members. But Express.co.uk has seen a message from 2019 Red Wall MP Lee Anderson, a backer of Ms Badenoch, denouncing the demand and saying MPs should be free to make up their own minds.
The row has been stoked further today by former Brexit minister Lord Frost urging Ms Badenoch to quit the race and support Ms truss.
After ERG members were notified by chairman Mark Francois on Thursday night that they should support Ms Truss, Mr Anderson hit back with a furious message.
He messaged: “Sorry but I didn’t realise this was a whipping group.
“I thought we were all free thinkers who were able to make our own minds up.
“A fair assessment of each candidates strengths and weaknesses would have had more credibility.
“That said I suspect colleagues will make their own minds up based on what is best for our party.
“Really disappointed in this Mark [Francois] and I feel the TV debates may well tell a different story and show this group to be out of touch with public opinion.
“Personally, I do not agree with releasing a statement like this but if you have to it should have been done after the TV debates otherwise we run the risk of looking out of touch.”
Mr Francois has not responded but a senior member of the ERG said that Mr Anderson and other ERG members backing Ms Badenoch who have also complained have not turned up to meetings to feed into the process.
The source said: “Each candidate was interviewed for up to an hour each, we asked them all the same questions so we could compare apples with apples.
“The interviews were chaired by Sir Iain Duncan Smith as a former party leader and then at the end of it we had a meeting of the whole group to discuss the conclusions.
“About 30 of our members turned up to that meeting and we decided that the two outstanding candidates in the race were Suella Braverman and Liz Truss.
“We agreed not to recommend one of them but when one was eliminated the rest should support the candidate left in the race.”
The source added: “When Suella was eliminated Mark then carried out the agreement to ask colleagues to support Liz.
“The ones complaining now did not bother to attend that meeting and in most cases have not been there for some time.”
The split among the hardcore Brexiteers over who to back in the late rounds of the contest is also reflected in an exclusive poll for Express.co.uk, which shows the country is evenly split between getyting a “rising star” as Prime Minister or a “ministerial veteran”.
The Techne UK poll of 1,624 voters surveyed on Thursday (14 July) revealed that the country is evenly split over the issue with 43 percent backing “rising star” and 42 percent “ministerial veteran”.
However, in a positive development for Ms Truss, core Tory voters are looking for a veteran presence with 60 percent of Conservative voters and 51 percent of Leave supporters.
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Ms Badenoch, a communities minister, has taken on the rising star mantel particularly in her opposition to woke issues like critical race theory.
Meanwhile, Ms Truss, who has held five cabinet position and is currently Foreigbn Secretary, is the “ministerial veteran.”
Some in the ERG fear that the inexperienced Ms Badenoch is “a Gove front” because she is being backed by Michael Gove and have accused him privately of trying to split the right of the party.
The two are now the choice for the rightwing MPs who want to prevent a final run-off between former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and trade minister Penny Mordaunt who are seen as being on the left of the Conservatives.
This is despite the fact that both Mordaunt and Sunak backed Leave in 2016 when Ms Truss was a Remainer.
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