Priti Patel hits out at Tory leadership after heavy local election losses

Attendance was low at the event - suggesting momentum for any Downing Street comeback for Boris Johnson is not as high as those attending would hope, Harry Horton reports

The former home secretary Priti Patel used a speech to a new Conservative grass-roots movement to blame the party's leadership for last week's big losses in local elections.

She was speaking at the launch of the new Conservative Democratic Organisation, a pro-Boris Johnson group that wants to give more power to grassroots party members.

The Tory party has not covered itself in “glory” and has seen the ousting of Boris Johnson, the “most electorally successful prime minister” since Margaret Thatcher, she said. “We haven’t covered ourselves in glory, and in fact some parts of Westminster and colleagues have done a better job at damaging our party than the opposition," she said.

"Even the left-wing campaign groups, the civil service that you know, we all struggle with day in, day out. “And even I’m afraid some of those in the media that want to distort and make life difficult for us. “We have seen, as discussed today, the ousting of a democratically elected, in fact our most electorally successful prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.” She paid tribute to Mr Johnson, describing him as the “man that got Brexit done” and as the person who delivered on the “people’s priority”.

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Mr Johnson, meanwhile, thanked the CDO in a video message for “continuing to campaign for freedom and democracy”.

The former prime minister said: “Boris Johnson here to say a massive thank you to you for everything that you’ve done and continue to do for our great party, the Conservative Party.

“Thank you for everything you did to help us to get Brexit done and to win the biggest majority our party has won for years.”

He added: “Thank you for continuing to campaign for freedom and democracy, campaigning against unnecessarily high taxation, against unnecessary regulation and of course, on the world stage, above all, campaigning for the democratic freedom of the people of Ukraine.

“Thank you for everything you do.”

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