A small crew of North East Tory MPs have defended the captain of their ship amid an attempted mutiny as Sir Simon Clarke compared himself to a man shouting ‘iceberg’.

The Middlesbrough South MP likened the fate of the Conservative Party to the doomed ocean liner Titanic as he defended his calls for a change in course to avoid disaster at the General Election.

He was heavily criticised by senior party members after floating the idea in a national newspaper but has since defended his position on BBC News.

He said: “No one likes that guy that’s shouting ‘iceberg’ but I suspect that people will be even less happy if we hit the iceberg.

“And we are on course to do that. That is the point that I need to land with colleagues respectfully and calmly.

“We are not at the moment responding to the situation with the seriousness that it warrants.”

Sir Simon, who served as Liz Truss’s levelling-up secretary, repeatedly declined to say who he wants to become Tory leader, but said there are a ‘number of people who could do it’.

“I don’t want to tarnish anyone by saying this. I’ve done this on my own, I’ve been really clear that I’ve done it deliberately on my own so I don’t make anyone else the subject of the sort of criticism that I’ve incurred,” he said.

Sir Simon said he has been on the receiving end of some “pretty hostile comments” and insisted his attack on Mr Sunak, whose represents Richmond in North Yorkshire, was not about his own leadership ambitions.

“This is absolutely not about Simon Clarke,” he said.

The Northern Echo contacted all of the region’s Tory MPs to gauge their opinion but many – including party chairman Richard Holden, who represents North West Durham – remained tight-lipped.

Referring to Mr Clarke’s call for Mr Sunak to go Sedgefield MP Paul Howell said: “It is a ridiculous thing for him to say.

“I firmly stand behind Rishi Sunak as a Prime Minister. He is an incredible individual in terms of his work rate and his intellectual ability.

“We have got things going in the right direction and there is no need for any changes.

“There is no place for any leadership election in this party.”   

His loyalty was echoed by Darlington MP Peter Gibson who pledged his ‘full support to Mr Sunak.

Mr Gibson said: “Rishi Sunak is a great friend to me and a great friend to Darlington.

“He has restored stability, lowered inflation, growing our economy, and stopping the boats.”

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Redcar MP Jacob Young said Mr Sunak has ‘consistently delivered’ for Teesside and he has a plan to ‘deliver a brighter future for the country’.

He said: “This is in stark contrast to Sir Keir Starmer who has no plan and would take us back to square one.

“We must all recognise that what the public want most is for politicians to stop talking about themselves and focus on the people’s priorities. 

“A stronger economy, lower taxes and controlled immigration. Let’s stick to the plan.”

MPs including Dehenna Davison, Matt Vickers, Jill Mortimer, Guy Opperman, Ian Levy and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, have not responded to requests for comment.

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Andrew Hixon, chairman of the South Tees Conservative Association, said the Conservative Party is a ‘broad church’.

He said: “MPs are elected by their constituents, are entitled to hold their own opinions and entitled to express them.

“Some will agree with Simon and some will not.”