"Rishi would do this for the good of the country."
It is reported that Conservative former ministers are plotting to remove Liz Truss as Prime Minister to install a caretaker leader, with Rishi Sunak emerging as the frontrunner.
The MPs are considering putting Mr Sunak in charge in an unopposed “coronation”, believing he will improve the economy and give the Tories a better chance of holding onto seats at the next election.
They believe the ex-chancellor would step forward “for the good of the country” even if the Tories were on course to lose the next election, which appears likely with Labour way ahead by around 30 points in several opinion polls.
Even though several MPs expect Ms Truss to be given until the local elections in May 2023 to show some improvement after a poor start, some want to act quickly to crown a new leader who would not need the endorsement of party members.
However, an ally of Mr Sunak said he had nothing to do with the plotting and had spent the past week in his constituency in Richmond, North Yorkshire.
The ally said: “He’s not involved. He has been in his constituency spending time with family.”
In the summer’s Conservative leadership election, Mr Sunak was defeated convincingly by Ms Truss in the final-round vote by party members.
But many believe Rishi Sunak’s intense criticism of Ms Truss’ economic plans was justified after her and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget caused the pound to plunge to an all-time low before recovering after emergency intervention by the Bank of England.
An ex-Cabinet minister told i: “Liz just hasn’t got what it takes. Rishi would do this for the good of the country.
“The markets would respond immediately – they would see someone in the cockpit who knew how to fly a plane.”
One option would be similar to Michael Howard’s stewardship of the Tory party between 2003 and 2005.
Lord Howard took over from Iain Duncan Smith without a leadership election with the intent to lessen the party’s losses at the 2005 election to Tony Blair’s Labour.
In the end, the party gained 33 seats, more than what was predicted under Sir Iain.
But the plan could be complicated. By the time of the Howard coronation, Sir Iain had been leader for two years and lost a confidence vote of Tory MPs.
For the first year of her leadership, Ms Truss cannot face a confidence vote.
Yet the former Cabinet minister said it was still a possibility that Ms Truss could be persuaded to stand down by Sir Graham Brady if he receives enough letters to show that she no longer had the confidence of MPs.
Others called for a “gang of four” or five senior figures to “go in and tell her (Ms Truss) the game is up”.
A Tory ex-minister said: “Wallace, Rishi, Penny, Cleverly, can say ‘look, this way you can go with dignity’.”
Another former minister said:
“I think some in the party are picking fights with her as they want a Rishi coronation.”
Penny Mordaunt would need to be convinced not to stand and allow Rishi Sunak to win unopposed.
The ex-Cabinet minister said Tory MPs need “someone in the genial Machiavelli mould like Oliver” to persuade colleagues to back the idea of a coronation.
While Michael Gove fits the role of “genial Machiavelli”, he is seen as “too divisive”.
It came as Theresa May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy said MPs were “certainly” talking about “saving” the party from Ms Truss’ ideological reforms.
He said: “Only MPs can do it, but somebody needs to save the Conservative Party from the libertarians.”