Tories believe Sunak ‘has given up’ after surprise auction admission at fundraiser

Tories believe Sunak ‘has given up’ after surprise auction admission at fundraiser

Rishi Sunak appeared to run up the white flag of surrender at the Conservatives’ summer garden party fundraiser, with what guests saw as an acceptance that he will not be prime minister after 4 July.

The event at the Hurlingham Club, one of London’s most exclusive venues, on Thursday, was meant to be one of the party’s major fundraisers during the year, and came in the middle of an election campaign where the Tories have, according to insiders, run out of money.

Mr Sunak was due to attend but, because of his date with the audience on the BBC’s Question Time, only appeared by video message instead, while other cabinet ministers showed up in person.

Rishi Sunak speaking on the campaign trail (PA)

But the highlight was supposed to be an auction of different lots, where wealthy supporters such as Lord Ashcroft would bid to help raise party funds.

One lot included classic election campaign posters from the past, which Mr Sunak promised to sign personally.

However, crucially, when the lot was being offered to guests they were assured that Mr Sunak “will sign it before 4 July so it will be guaranteed to be signed by a sitting prime minister.”

Guests have told The Independent that it was taken as a sign that Mr Sunak and his top team have “given up” and “raised the white flag” on winning and are resigned to defeat on 4 July.

The same claim was made when defence secretary Grant Shapps first warned against a Labour “super majority”. Mr Sunak has denied this and told the Question Time audience on Thursday that he “will fight to the end and not give up”.

Another lot offered an evening with LBC radio host Iain Dale, cabinet minister Michael Gove and Mr Sunak’s political secretary James Forsyth.

It reportedly went for £30,000 but according to those present someone shouted out: “I will pay money not to have an evening with them!”

A picture of the Foreign Office signed by nine foreign secretaries went for £20,000.

The event was hosted by home secretary James Cleverly and his wife Susie in the absence of the prime minister.

However, a number of former donors have told The Independent that they refused to go.

In a sign of desperation, the party even started asking angry people who were on the candidates list but blocked from getting a seat if they could help fill tables.

Nevertheless, Tory sources said the evening raised £700,000.

However, it comes as insiders have told The Independent that the party “ran out of money on day two of the campaign”.

The latest donations saw the Conservatives in third place behind both Labour and Reform UK.

The Tories raised £292,500 while Reform got £335,000 and Labour raised £4,383,400.

The Independent has asked the Conservatives for a comment.