Ministers have called on Liz Truss to “walk away” from comments made by Nadine Dorries about Rishi Sunak.
The culture secretary, a supporter of Truss’s bid for leadership, mounted a new attack while making a half-hearted apology for earlier comments about her expensive clothes.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he described Sunak as a “murderer” for helping bring down Boris Johnson, and a “dog in the manger” for not supporting the prime minister enough when he was chancellor.
She said she “may have crossed the line” when she criticized Sunak for wearing £450 Prada shoes and a £3,500 bespoke suit.
“I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided style of dress to alert Conservative members not to be fooled by appearances as so many of us serving with the chancellor in the cabinet have been,” he said.
“The killer’s gleaming smile, soft voice, and even his diminutive stature had fooled many of us.”
Business Minister Greg Hands condemned Dorries’ actions as “disgusting” and “dangerous” following the assassination of Southend West Conservative MP Sir David Amess in election surgery in Essex last October.
The MP, who supports Sunak’s campaign, told Sky News: “I’m sure Liz Truss would reject this kind of behaviour.
“I think this is appalling.
“Look, it hasn’t even been a year since Sir David Amess was stabbed to death in his Southend constituency surgery, so I think this is in very, very bad taste, even dangerous.”
The Welsh Secretary, Sir Robert Buckland, another Sunak supporter, also denounced Dorries’ behaviour.
“I think those kinds of images and narratives are not just incendiary, they are wrong,” he told BBC Radio Wales.
“I think it’s time for those who think a discussion about Prada shoes or earrings is more important, for example, to roll up their necks and let people talk about themes rather than personality.”
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who has announced he is supporting Truss, told Sky News: “Certainly not the sort of thing I would tweet.”
He added: “Nadine is well known for having strong views on things. Nadine speaks for herself, she is very individual about it. But that’s not a position Liz would take.”
The Liz Truss campaign has been contacted for comment.