Tory candidate’s express rant at personal social gathering with brutal prediction

A Tory candidate in a key election battleground has branded the government a “sh**show”.

Neil Mahapatra, standing in the traditional Conservative stronghold Tunbridge Wells, took aim at PM Rishi Sunak ’s beleaguered administration. The businessman even admitted the Tories had lost the election – and declared the “ Conservative Party is not working”.

The self-described “moderate and dynamic Conservative” was speaking at a hustings in front of a hospitality sector audience on Monday evening in the 14,000 Tory majority Kent town. It comes after it emerged Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell – standing for the Conservatives in Colchester – had called the party a “shower of sh**”.

Oxford-educated Mr Mahapatra has form for turning on the Tories – having said “the Conservative Party has disappointed” since 2019. But his foul-mouthed criticism in front of dozens of people is a fresh attack as the Tories struggle in the polls ahead of the election.

The party has been beset by recent controversies including Sunak’s D-day gaffe. Meanwhile, last month broadcaster Iain Dale quit the race to be the Tories’ candidate in Tunbridge Wells after it emerged he had said he “never liked” the town.

Tory candidate Neil Mahapatra with former cabinet minister Greg Clark, who previously represented Tunbridge Wells for the Conservatives

Tory candidate Neil Mahapatra with former cabinet minister Greg Clark, who previously represented Tunbridge Wells for the Conservatives

A former councillor live-tweeting the hustings held at a restaurant wrote on Monday evening: “Neil describes the current government as a sh**show.” A second witness has told the Mirror Mr Mahapatra used the term to describe the government.

In a recording from the hustings, Mr Mahapatra can be heard telling the audience he does not believe the Tory party is working. Asked why he is standing for the Tories, he says: “… I firmly believe that people just want things to work and work well.

“And the reason why I’m a Tory and not… a member of the Labour Party is once things work, and work well, then it’s government’s job to stay the hell out of the way… I do think that is… best encapsulated by a Conservative Party that works. I currently think our Conservative Party is not working. That’s why I’m running. I want to change it. I want to represent Tunbridge Wells and change the Conservative Party into a better party than what it is now.”

On privatisation, he said it “works well when there’s genuine competition”. However, he added: “When you privatise the railways and give monopolies you don’t create competition.” He explained: “Giving away massive franchises with no real competition is not privatisation, it’s privatisation for idiots, right.”

He added: “I’d personally renationalise … the railways. There’s an argument for doing it for water utilities. Privatisation is designed to create competition … [benefiting] the consumer but there’s certain industries which are just structurally not right and rail is certainly one, probably utilities are another.”

Mr Mahapatra conceded the Conservatives had lost the election. He told the hustings: “Despite what I have said about my party, when it works, it works really well. “I love the Conservative Party, I’ve been involved… for decades. Right now it is dysfunctional but it can change and it can be better.”

He explained: “We will be in opposition,” adding: “That debate… is already over. The question is, hopefully, it won’t be as big a majority as one hopes because otherwise all of the tax burdens and all of the legislation that really will hamper business, will really occur.”

Tunbridge Wells was won by Conservative Greg Clark in 2019 with a 14,645 majority – a 55.1% share of the vote. The Tories have a 36% chance of winning the seat – compared to 58% for the Liberal Democrats, according to pollster and political consultancy Electoral Calculus.

Mr Mahapatra’s website carries an endorsement from Tory cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt, who he is pictured with. She is quoted saying: “Neil Mahapatra has worked extremely hard for communities for decades. He would be an asset to Tunbridge Wells.” Mr Mahapatra and the Conservatives were contacted for comment.