The ringleader of last week’s failed coup against Theresa May has accused fellow Tory MPs of hurling a shocking level of “abuse and bile” at him.
Grant Shapps said some of the Conservatives attacking him in online messages were “those who most rail against cyber-bullying”.
And he accused them of hypocrisy, given that all Tories are discussing the Prime Minister’s future – and some of his critics privately agreed with him that she should go now.
The former Conservative chairman’s attempt to topple Ms May was crushed last Friday, after Tory MPs rode to the rescue and turned their fire on the plotters.
Mr Shapps’ anger has been revealed in a leaked email, after he was added to a WhatsApp group so that he could read the criticism against him.
He wrote: “The level of abuse and bile which has rained down since is simply unprecedented in my own experience of politics, and I’ve been a party chairman at election time, so that’s saying something!
“Sadly, it has come from many of our own colleagues, including those who most rail against cyber-bullying. Some of whom are known to have previously held similar views on this issue of timing.”
Mr Shapps also said he was appalled by the way that his name was briefed to the media and “presented in a simplistic villain versus hero fashion”.
It was a “deliberate attempt to vilify those who wanted to speak to the Prime Minister” about their concerns, after he raised them openly with No 10, he protested.
On Friday, Downing Street’s tactic of “outing” Mr Shapps – a controversial figure, with few party allies – appeared to work, with MPs reluctant to follow his banner.
Defending his mutiny, he wrote: “I can’t imagine there’s a single colleague who hasn’t had that conversation at some point.
“A list of concerned colleagues from varying perspectives on issues including Europe (both remain and Brexit) and how long Theresa May might serve therefore, unsurprisingly, exists.”
Yet, he added: “Rather than a list of concerned colleagues who wanted to express their thoughts to the PM, we were presented with talk of ‘plots’ and ‘ringleaders’.”
The former chairman refused to comment on the existence of the message, which was sent to colleagues before being leaked to The Guardian.
His plot fizzled out when loyalist Conservative MPs denounced him – while his backers failed to come out in public support.
Publicly, Mr Shapps was branded “cowardly”, “embittered” and a fantasist, with nowhere near the 30-odd signatures he claimed of MPs wanting the Prime Minister to fall on her sword.
Former minister Tim Loughton said he needed “burying in the sand” while another senior Tory, Nigel Evans said: “There is only one direction that the Shapps bandwagon is going to roll…and that is over him.”