Will 'Tory Obama' Adam Afriyie challenge David Cameron?
Backbench MP said to be considering leadership challenge as Tories trail Labour in polls
DUBBED the 'Tory Obama', Windsor MP Adam Afriyie could be a surprise candidate to challenge David Cameron for the leadership of his party, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Two un-named Tory MPs told the paper they have been asked to sign a letter endorsing Afriyie as a challenger. One claimed he had been told by a supporter of Afriyie that 40 MPs had already signed - but Afriyie's allies deny the letter even exists.
Mark Field, MP, an outspoken critic of Cameron, said yesterday that he had discussed Afriyie with other Tory MPs as a "long term" option for leader, saying he might stand if the Tories lose the 2015 elction.
He denied that there was any plan to challenge the PM before then and praised Mr Afriyie’s "compelling" leadership credentials. But he added that it was "difficult" to see how the Tories could win in 2015.
A relatively-unknown backbencher who has only been an MP since 2005, Afriyie makes an unlikely challenger, leading one MP to decry him as a "stalking horse" to the newspaper.
But, raised on one of south London's toughest council estates by a single mother, the IT multimillionaire is the epitome of a self-made, post-Thatcher, school-of-hard-knocks Conservative.
While he has been dubbed the 'Tory Obama', the son of a Ghanaian father and white British mother has described himself as "post-racial", saying he does not see himself as a black man.
Afriyie emerged from the expenses scandal completely untainted, having never claimed travel expenses or second home allowance - thanks, of course, to his £100m personal fortune.
At one point he seemed destined for the front benches, picked by Cameron to serve as his science spokesman in opposition. But Afriyie was overlooked when the new PM picked his cabinet in 2010.
The Mail claims that 55 rebel Tory MPs are ready to demand a leadership contest if the PM fails to break Ed Miliband's commanding poll lead - just 46 are needed to trigger a no confidence vote.
As for Afriyie himself, phoned on Thursday by the paper, he said: "This is a very naughty conversation. You are being very mischevious."
In an email statement the following day, he said: "David Cameron is Prime Minister and I am concerned that the media is taking attention away from the promised referendum.
"We are all working hard to achieve a Conservative majority so the British people get their say on the EU."
Hardly a ringing endorsement, says the newspaper.