Rishi Sunak risks turning the Conservatives into the “nasty party” again, a senior Tory has warned.
David Lidington, who served as Theresa May’s de facto deputy prime minister, said the party was at risk alienating voters in the south of England.
The prime minister is under pressure from some of his MPs – including members of his cabinet – to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has refused to rule out the move, saying the government will do “whatever is necessary”.
It comes after the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been stalled because of legal challenges.
A pledge to leave the ECHR could be included in the Conservative manifesto for the next election.
But In an interview with The Observer, Lidington said leaving treaty would be a mistake.
“In raw political terms, I think they are ignoring the risk that a lot of people who traditionally have voted Conservative would find such a move very offensive,” he said.
“They will want to see a Conservative party that sticks by treaties and which is seen as on the side of human rights at a time when human rights are under attack from our genuine ideological foes around the world.
“There will be a subsection of the electorate who will like this and want a hard line, however rational or irrational that policy is.
“But I think that they will be at least matched and probably exceeded by the number of people in seats, particularly suburban seats and home counties seats, who will be at best unimpressed and at worse seriously repelled by this kind of rhetoric and such a policy.
“The risk of us being tarnished then as the nasty party again, I think, becomes very real.”
The term “nasty party” was first attached to the Conservatives by Theresa May in 2002, when she warned her colleagues they needed to modernise to win elections again.
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