A major Conservative Party donor has called for the Tory leadership election to be suspended and Boris Johnson to remain as Prime Minister after concerns about cyber security.
Lord Cruddas, who is worth more than £1 billion and has donated millions to the party, warned that the result of the contest could be invalidated by a cyber hack and called for the campaign to be paused while its IT security is reviewed.
In a letter to the Conservative Party board, the peer said it should reject Mr Johnson’s resignation and allow him to remain in Downing Street.
In the meantime, he said party members should be allowed to vote in a referendum on Mr Johnson’s leadership that would cancel the campaign if members wanted him to remain in Number 10.
If members voted for him to leave office, Lord Cruddas offered to pay for cyber protection for a new leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
His intervention comes after The Telegraph revealed that the party has delayed sending ballot papers to members after a warning from GCHQ that it was vulnerable to a hack.
The National Cyber Security Centre said the party’s new online system, which allows members to change their vote after casting it, could be exploited by nefarious actors. The system has now been scrapped and the voting process delayed, with some ballot papers not arriving with members until Aug 11.
Members can still vote by post, but have been urged to vote online to save the party money.
“The Board of the Conservative Party has a massive responsibility to ensure that any campaign is free from interference, is valid and has integrity,” Lord Cruddas said.
“This is a big responsibility for the board, because if there is only one invalid vote due to a cyber attack the whole vote and campaign is destroyed, the result will lack integrity, credibility, and nobody will have confidence in the board and the result.
“What you need is time to make sure that there is no cyber or foreign interference in our voting systems. There are very powerful people out there that have the resources and money to completely disrupt our political system, and you cannot afford one mistake.”
The peer suggested that the party should “immediately suspend the leadership campaign” and “reject the resignation of the Prime Minister and ask him to stay on whilst the Board fixes any cyber issues”.
He proposed a “Boris ballot” of Tory members, adding: “If the members vote to keep Boris, then there is no need for a leadership campaign and no more cyber security threats.”
Lord Cruddas and David Campbell-Bannerman, a former Tory MEP, had previously campaigned for a “Boris ballot” to be part of the leadership race. The pair say they have more than 12,000 signatures from party members who want to hold a referendum on Mr Johnson’s resignation before continuing with the leadership race.
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )