Speculation in three Sunday newspapers suggests Tory MP, Adam Afriyie, is a surprise contender to be the next party leader if David Cameron fails to deliver a majority at the 2015 general election.
MPs are reported to have been approached to endorse the credentials of the self-made IT millionaire – who became the party’s first black MP in 2005.
A number of sources however have questioned the story with Tory MP, Margot James, dismissing the rumours as “ridiculous”.
The alleged campaign was said to be a “well organised” by individuals concerned about the party’s prospects of being returned to office amid poor opinion poll ratings and grim economic news.
But the Prime Minister’s popular promise of an in/out referendum on Europe appeared to have squashed speculation that it could be part of a plot to oust him before the election.
Mark Field, one of those reported to have been pushing Afriyie as a potential leader, said: “I do not think it’s any plot against the Prime Minister”.
That’s some briefing operation – Adam Afriyie leadership bid in three Sunday papers…
When the Mail on Sunday, who refer to Windsor MP Afriyie as the “Tory Barack Obama”, asked about the campaign, he said: “You are being very mischievous.
“I supported David Cameron to become leader. I love him and want him to be leader for the next 20 years.”
He later told the newspaper in an email: “David Cameron is Prime Minister and I am concerned that the media is taking attention away from the promised referendum.
The story of Adam Afriyie ‘coup’ is so ridiculous & insulting but it shows the media’s desperation for a Tory division
“We are all working hard to achieve a Conservative majority so the British people get their say on the EU.”
The newspaper said MPs approached to give their support had been told Afriyie had the backing of 40 MPs although others put the number at half that.
Field told the Mail on Sunday that he had had “a handful of conversations with people” but that there was “no mass campaign” in support of Afriyie.
About 9 out of 10 who replied (and you’re an engaged group!) have not heard of Adam Afriyie, who MoS and ST are touting as a Tory challenger
“Discussing him as a long-term option has nothing to do with destabilising the Coalition or plotting against the current leadership. It would be impossible to do that given how the rules operate and counter-productive.”
The Sunday Times quoted a “friend” of Afriyie, who is 47, as saying: “The team are well organised.
“They are very concerned about the long-term future of the party and believe Adam is the future. He has a fantastic back story and is very impressive.”
Among factors in favour of the relatively-unknown MP – who was shadow science minister before the 2010 election – are said to be his upbringing in a poor part of south London and the fact that he has never claimed travel or second home expenses.