A former Conservative minister has said the party should never have removed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and says his involvement at the last minute is something which Rishi Sunak’s team never imagined they would have to do.

James Heappey also said he did not believe that the Conservative Party was responsible for placing ‘sleeper cells’ in Reform, adding that at the beginning of the campaign they ‘couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery’.

Speaking to GB News, James Heappey said:

“The guy’s got a star appeal, he cuts through with voters in a way that almost nobody else in UK politics does. And who better to come out, even at the 11th hour, and just land the message that the party campaign has struggled to land.

“He will cut through with voters in a way that a thousand interviews with current members of the Cabinet on the morning media round won’t.

“I think Boris has been on a few holidays. He’s not the party leader anymore. And moreover, I suspect that at the start of the campaign, Number 10 probably thought they weren’t going to need to call on Boris at all.

“I’m a biased actor. I was his parliamentary private secretary before the 2019 general election, and I was saying to colleagues all the way up until the moment that they kicked him out, don’t think that what happens tomorrow is that everything gets better.

“The Conservative Party will take years to recover from kicking out a Prime Minister that won an 85 majority.

“Thursday night after the polls have closed, and I think that’s the moment for recrimination and analysis.

“Where we’re at the moment is that the Prime Minister needed to land a message. The public haven’t been listening too enthusiastically to the Conservative Party over recent weeks. You wheel out Boris, it leads the news. Everybody’s talking about it, and the message will land.

“The party that chose to call a general election on a date and time of its choosing without checking the weather forecast, that put its leader in front of a Morrison’s sign, that allowed a photographer to delete a couple of letters so it said, ‘moron’, put him in front of an exit sign and then sent him to the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.”

On claims the Tories were behind a plot to place candidates in Reform he said: “By all accounts in the media, five weeks ago, the political operation in Number 10 couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

“But somehow they were able to place sleeper cells into Reform months ago that were going to self destruct at a moment of Rishi Sunak saying? Come on. What nonsense.

“I don’t think that it pays to be rude about any other party’s voters, because what you would prefer is they were voting for you. And as a rule of thumb, people tend not to vote for you if you’ve just insulted them.

“I do, however, think that what we’ve seen of various elements within Reform over the last few weeks has caused plenty of people who wanted to give the Conservative Party a bloody nose and considered Reform to be an alternative to the Conservative Party in all but name, will now reconsider on the back of what they’ve seen.

“And it’s not the Conservative party that has said this about Reform, it’s somebody who’s defected from Reform having been on the inside of their ranks.

“I think what there is is the scrutiny that comes to any party that thinks that it is a serious contributor to our nation’s politics. And more than that, I mean, Nigel Farage has done the full Jo Swinson and said that he’s a future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

“Now, if you say that, you invite the level of scrutiny that all of the other candidates to be Prime Minister get and you shouldn’t complain when you get it.

It is, in fact, the compliment that the media pays to people that are being taken seriously, that you and your party are properly held to account.

“[A hung parliament] was exactly the sort of message that we were delivering
back in 2015. We were delivering leaflets in Lib Dem/Conservative marginals saying there’s one of about 39 seats that will make the difference between David Cameron [with a] long term economic plan and a coalition of chaos with Miliband, Clegg and Salmond.

“And it does in these last few hours, breaking down an electorate of 60 million and, 650 seats into 100 seats, where 10,000 people either way makes the difference and can motivate people, at that 11th hour.

“So I do think it’s a good strategy even if I think the die is probably cast by now.”