A NEW grassroots Conservative campaign backed by a billionaire donor has been launched in a bid to “empower party members” and “restore democracy” following the coronation of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister.

Sunak became PM automatically without the need for members to be balloted in October after his only rival in the leadership contest Penny Mordaunt dropped out of the race.

Now a campaign entitled the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) – spearheaded by ex-home secretary Priti Patel and donor Lord Cruddas – has been launched in an attempt to ensure members can “take back control” and steer the party’s direction back to the centre-right.

Cruddas – who has claimed members are now being treated like “mindless drones” – has donated more than £3.5 million to the Tories.

Prior to Sunak becoming party leader, MPs ousted Boris Johnson before overthrowing his successor Liz Truss who had been voted in by Tory members.

The CDO is the brainchild of former MEP and Brexiteer David Campbell Bannerman and the campaign is being orchestrated by the Conservative Post.

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It is said to already have garnered the support of “prominent” grassroots figures and senior politicians, including those who are annoyed by the perceived left-of-centre position of Sunak.

Supporters also have “serious concerns” about the political views of Tory MPs elected under David Cameron’s leadership which have party headquarters powers to overrule local associations in candidate selections.

A CDO strategy document says the "coronation" of Sunak just a month after he was rejected by members “has finally ended members’ faith in any party democracy”.

Cruddas, president and treasurer of the CDO, said: “Internal democracy in the Conservative Party is dying on its feet.

“The leadership pays scant attention to the views of the membership – regarding them as little more than mindless drones who only matter at election time.

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“The result is a widening gulf between the parliamentary party and the grassroots. But as the Conservative government pushes taxes to a 70-year high and rising, there is also an electorally fatal gulf opening up between the leadership and voters. No wonder our poll ratings are dire.

“It is time to restore the democratic rights of Tory members, not least the right who choose parliamentary candidates without being hectored and bullied by party headquarters.”

Johnson-loyalist Patel added: “Our grassroots are the heart and soul of our party. They work tirelessly to campaign for Conservative votes. They should never be taken for granted.

“Party members are committed to our values of freedom, enterprise and opportunity and we need to empower them to have more say over our policies and candidates.”

The strategy document goes on to say membership has fallen from 500,000 when the new 1998 constitution was introduced to 172,000 members who voted in the 2022 leadership election.