Steve Baker has admitted that he wishes he had backed Rishi Sunak during last year’s Conservative Party leadership contest.

The MP for Wycombe expressed regret that he had instead supported Liz Truss in her final runoff with Mr Sunak to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

Mr Baker told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I think we would have saved a lot of trouble if Rishi Sunak had been Prime Minister sooner.”

Liz Truss became the UK’s shortest-serving Prime Minister, resigning just 44 days after taking office, before being replaced by Mr Sunak in October last year.

During the early stages of the Tory leadership race, Mr Baker had supported the current Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has been touted as a potential Conservative leader if the party loses the next General Election.

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However, the MP for Wycombe has since withdrawn his support for Mrs Braverman due to her claiming in April this year that UK child grooming gangs were “almost all British-Pakistani men”.

Mr Baker touched on his political separation from his former ally during a wide-ranging interview with the LDRS.

He said: “I backed Suella Braverman, that was mostly over Brexit. It has emerged now that Suella and I have parted company because of the way she handled grooming gangs.

“She did a necessary thing, but she didn’t leave room for the innocent majority.

“What I would have done is to have said, ‘The law in this country applies equally to all and it is totally unacceptable that a blind eye has been turned to child sexual exploitation and gangs because of the race of the perpetrators’.”

He added: “Everybody would have united around that message, but unfortunately the words she chose poured shame on the heads of the innocent. That is not acceptable.”

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The MP, who is also the Minister for Northern Ireland, claimed that he had declined a request from Mr Sunak to back him in the Tory leadership race.

He said: “Rishi asked for my support fairly early on and for reasons unconnected to his own merits, I decided that I would back Suella.”

Mr Baker then backed Mrs Truss in the final round of the Tory leadership race, saying he knew she would go “harder and faster” than her “more cautious” opponent Mr Sunak.

He added: “But they both agreed the supertanker needed to change course. I just think now, anyone can see we would have been better off I’m afraid – sorry to Liz – with Rishi from the start of this round, because Liz I’m afraid was not a success.”