The Conservatives are facing “obliteration” at the general election for leaving the country “sadder” and more divided, one of the party’s prominent MPs has said.

Danny Kruger, founder of the right-wing New Conservatives faction, said the party was set to pay the price for failing to cut migration and “economic short-termism”.

He also claimed Brexit would be “the great standing achievement of our time in office”.

The comments, revealed by the Guardian, were made at a private event last year, but reaffirmed in response to an inquiry by the newspaper.

Rishi Sunak last week kicked off the election campaign by saying his working assumption was for a poll in the second half of 2024, with November now seen as the most likely date.

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The Prime Minister yesterday urged his party and the country to stick with his plans, and hinted at more tax cuts in the spring budget due on March 6.

 Although Mr Sunak tried to project optimism, Mr Kruger’s remarks exposed the loom felt by many of the party’s MPs.

Speaking at a private event of Tory members organised by the thinktank ResPublica last October, he said: “The narrative that the public has now firmly adopted - that over 13 years things have got worse - is one we just have to acknowledge and admit.”

The MP for Devizes in Wiltshire went on: “Some things have been done right and well. 

“The free school movement that Michael Gove oversaw, and universal credit - and Brexit, even though it was in the teeth of the Tory party hierarchy itself, and mismanaged - nevertheless Brexit will be the great standing achievement of our time in office.

“These things are significant, but, overall I’m afraid, if we leave office next year, we would have left the country sadder, less united and less conservative than when we found it.”

Asked by a reporter about the comments, Mr Kruger did not resile from them, but said: “This was a conversation among party members in which I made the case for realism and for honesty with the public.”

He also said the rise of the far-right in Europe contained a warning for the Tories, which is facing a loss of support to the anti-migration Reform party at the election.

He said: “For decades, across the western world, centre-right parties have controlled the institutes of the state - yet nevertheless have presided over a drift away from their stated values and the interests of their voters.

“Conservatives worldwide have presided over models of mass migration, political correctness and economic short-termism. 

“The British government is making some of the right moves to correct this. 

“But the reaction under way in Europe at the moment is a warning to my party - either we remember the people we work for, or we face obliteration.”

Speaking at the Rishi Sunak visited the Veka factory in Burnley in Lancashire this morning, Mr Sunak defended his record and his Rwanda plans for asylum seekers. 

He said: “The choice now is whether we stick with the plan that is starting to deliver the long-term change that our country needs, or go back to square one - with no plan, no progress, with borrowing, debt, taxes increasing and the country heading in the wrong direction.”

He insisted progress was being made on the five priorities he had set out a year ago.

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Admitting not enough had been done to fulfil his promise to cut NHS waiting lists, he said: “In a nutshell, on all five priorities, we have made progress. But I know there is more to do in the years ahead. We have to be frank. 

“Although we’ve virtually eliminated the people waiting the longest, we haven’t yet made a significant enough dent in the waiting lists.”

He said industrial action was partly to blame.

Mr Sunak said that “while we’re waiting to resolve that, we’re getting on doing the things that will strengthen our NHS for the long term”, including training “considerably” more doctors and nurses, and raising “our first smoke-free generation to ease those pressures”.

Tory MP Damian Green, the chair of the One Nation group, disagreed with Mr Kruger’s diagnosis of the problems facing the party.

He said: “The old saying that it’s the economy, stupid, still applies for general elections.

“That’s where the Conservatives should fight. We need to convince would-be Conservative voters of all kinds if we want to win.”