Liz Truss supporter Nadine Dorries is facing a backlash from colleagues for sharing a “distasteful” and “dangerous” doctored image on social media showing Rishi Sunak stabbing Boris Johnson in the back.
The culture secretary — a staunch Boris Johnson loyalist — retweeted an image from a film with the outgoing prime minister’s face imposed on Julius Caesar and Mr Sunak’s behind him.
Greg Hands, a business minister who is backing Mr Sunak in the race for No 10, told Sky News on Sunday he was “sure Liz Truss would disown this kind of behaviour”, as he described it as “appalling”.
“Look, it’s not even a year since the stabbing of Sir David Amess at his Southend constituency surgery, so I think this is very, very bad taste, dangerous even,” he added.
The senior Tory MP Simon Hoare also shared a post on Twitter which urged Ms Dorries to delete the retweet, stressing: “This is not how we should conduct our politics or discourse”.
The SNP MP Stewart McDonald added: “Nadine Dorries — currently a secretary of state — is grossly unfit for public office of any sort”.
The row came as Ms Dorries also used a newspaper article to admit she “may have gone slightly over the top” last week when she mocked the former chancellor for wearing £490 Prada shoes and expensive suits.
“I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided sartorial style in order to alert Tory members not to be taken in by appearances in the way that happened to many of us who served with the chancellor in cabinet,” she wrote.
She then used the same article in the Mail on Sunday to criticise Mr Sunak’s decision to quit the government, saying it “made Michael Gove’s betrayal of Boris Johnson during the 2016 leadership campaign appear like a rank amateur rehearsing for the role in a village hall play”.
Welsh secretary Sir Robert Buckland, another supporter of Mr Sunak, also denounced Ms Dorries’ behaviour. “I think that sort of imagery and narrative is not just incendiary, it’s wrong,” he told BBC Radio Wales.
“I think it’s time for those who think that an argument about Prada shoes or earrings is more important, for instance, should wind their neck in and let people talk about the issues rather than the personality”.
Former Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, who has thrown his weight behind Ms Truss in the leadership contest, told Sky News: “It’s certainly not the sort of thing I would tweet.”
He added: “Nadine is well known as having strong views on things. Nadine speaks for herself, she’s very much an individual on that. But that is not a position that Liz would take”.