A wacky start to the Tory leadership race
Eleven candidates have now thrown their hat in the ring
After the fall of Boris Johnson, the Conservative leadership election is a chance for the party to move on. However, the contest is off to a chaotic start.
There are eleven campaigns already up-and-running — which, by coincidence, is equal to the number of teams in Wacky Races. Of course, it would be wrong to compare a ludicrous cast of two-dimensional characters to the fondly-remembered cartoon series, but at this point a comical pile-up is a racing certainty.
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With so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick the weirdest moment of the weekend. However, the honour has to go to Jeremy Hunt — who, apropos of nothing, announced that Esther McVey would be his Deputy Prime Minister. What on Earth was he thinking? Presumably, the idea is that a Right-wing running mate would balance the ticket.
But he’s forgotten his own party’s history. In the 1997 leadership contest, Ken Clarke teamed up with John Redwood — an unholy alliance that was not well-received (William Hague was elected instead). Another precedent that seems to have slipped Hunt’s mind is that McVey stood in the 2019 leadership contest and came tenth out of ten candidates.
Of course, it’s not just Hunt making desperate appeals to the Tory Right. Most of them are promising tax cuts — seemingly unable to distinguish between an ordinary recession and the inflationary recession heading our way. But even if their fellow MPs are economically illiterate, the auction of tax cut promises isn’t a winning tactic.
For a start, the tax cutters are drowning each other out. Away from the madding crowd, Rishi Sunak has been able to stand out as the fiscally responsible candidate. Then there’s the need for endorsements. If all that notional money is allocated to cutting taxes, then a candidate can’t promise infrastructure spending for the Red Wall — or a boost to the defence budget. The latter may prove vital to securing the support of Ben Wallace. The Defence Secretary isn’t running, but he’s wildly popular with the party membership — and his endorsement could decide a tight race.
Another big beast not running this time is Michael Gove. On Sunday evening he endorsed Kemi Badenoch — capping off a remarkable weekend for the Saffron Walden MP. Her op-ed for The Times on Saturday was the most coherent and interesting thing I’ve seen from any of the candidates so far — and received praise from across the Conservative ideological spectrum. Her Sunday Telegraph interview was less impressive, featuring some half-baked policy musings that she needs to develop rapidly.
But then that’s the mistake that the candidates keep on making — pandering to the Right in a party that isn’t nearly so Right-wing as they think. Furthermore, the contest that really matters is the next general election. Even if the Parliamentary party can’t see ahead to 2024, I suspect that the Conservative membership will.
“…it’s hard to pick the weirdest moment of the weekend…”
For me, it was Zahawi complaining that he was being smeared and briefed against by the other contestants, for the opacities of his tax affairs. A denizen of the snake pit, complaining that the snake pit in fact, contains snakes.
At this stage, the most interesting thing is that the majority of the eleven candidates come from an ethnic minority, and no one has batted an eyelid. Compare that with the trumpeted ethnic origins of Kamala Harris two years ago and Barack Obama in 2008.
I am not arguing that any of these candidates should become PM because of ethnic origin, nor am I suggesting that ethnicity should rule them out of contention.
I am suggesting that the Conservative Party has changed out of all recognition in my lifetime, and changed for the better. Hot on the heels of Britain’s first ever Roman Catholic prime minister, we might have a Hindu or a Muslim prime minister. That, surely, is worthy of a moment’s reflection.
It’s because if you commit the sin of being conservative then you don’t get any brownie points for being a woman, being from an ethnic minority group or having a religion other than Cof E, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps in life, daring to aspire or anything else.
Boris (himself a pretty interesting mix if you look at his family background) had one of the most diverse cabinets anywhere in the world. And yet the relentless narrative was not “ooo, this is the embodiment of diversity and the best thing is that everybody is just getting on with their jobs and not banging on about skin colour”, but “Racism! Intolerance! Privilege (even if it’s been earned and wasn’t inherited)! Down with it all!”
Compare that to the fawn-fest that happened when Justin Trudeau put his first government together. This, more than almost anything else, embodies the singular lack of logic/intellectual consistency on the left.
Pardon my ignorance, but which one is the RC PM?
It was never a political issue. No one could possibly imagine that Boris was going to start doing the Pope’s bidding when he reached Downing Street. He has never been a particularly observant Christian.
Conservative diversity is irrelevant in the eyes of the left as they immediately lose their ethnic credentials by being conservative or “Uncle Tom’s” as the left like to call them which isn’t racist because the left are on the right side of history and anti-racist and successfully signaled their virtue when they took the knee.
Is it possible that Kemi will do it? If you squint, you can almost see how it is – Mourdant imploding over her past Wokeness, Boris, Gove, JRM opting for Kemi, then Rishi or Kemi to the party vote.
I’m starting to think it might happen.
I think very many people hope so too. Can the party be persuaded to be radical and try someone not mainstream but who has clarity of vision and an impressive array of credentials on her side?
So, let’s pursue the Wacky Races analogy. Surely Hunt and McVey would be Dastardly and Muttley? Is Rishi Peter Perfect or Professor Pat Pending?
Think I’d go for the Saj as Professor Pat Pending and Hunt and McVey as the Arkansas Chug-a-bug (with Hunt as Blubber the bear)… plus Zahawi as the Ant Hill Mob and Suella as the Creepy Coupe for sure
Rishi yes but Peter Perfect always somehow helps Penelope Pitstop to win
I look forward to Hunt and McVey releasing the song ‘Stop the big dog, stop the big dog…’ as a single, I imagine it would chart instantly from the sheer number of downloads by the Labour party membership.
Hope it’s Kemi. To really rub the left’s noses in diversity.
Interesting point.. and where is Kwase Kwarteng in all this? He is one of the most able, clever and well educated politicians whom we have?
He has apparently endorsed Liz Truss. Before I heard that I would have agreed with you
You have to say that’s a pretty impressive multi cultural line up which Labour and the Lib Dems couldn’t come near to matching.
Not much from any candidate on re-establishing freedom of speech and de- criminalising freedom of expression, I note? From my ” vox pop” this is the single biggest issue, but , a la 1984, the populus are too frightened to say so!
Kemi has said that freedom of speech is precious and must be protected – she is seriously anti-woke.
Kemi gave a short speech on the subject of freedom of speech yesterday. You can find it on Guido and YouTube.
Patel hasn’t said she is running yet, so as of now, it is the wacky 10.
It is 11 – some backbencher who I’ve never heard of has declared today, can’t even recall his name.
A bit disturbed by the endorsements for Kemi Badenoch from Michael Gove and Neil O’Brien. Lockdown fanatics both, despite the grotesque damage done by lockdowns to the Levelling Up agenda, and to education and training. Presumably they believe they will be rewarded with cabinet posts if Badenoch is successful.
Kemi Badenoch as a black woman with her heart in the right place has a unique selling point. But it does smack of the US Presidential races where appearance is the most important thing.
But there’s a General Election in a year or two that might hinge on that appeal.
Kamala ‘Kamakazi’ Harris was picked for Vice “Not worth a bucket of warm spit” President. Kemi wouldn’t be a token deputy, she would be our PM.
Fishy Sunak ‘fiscally responsible’?? – you mean the millionaire grifter with the non-dom for tax purposes wife? He has adequately demonstrated his fiscal responsibilities start and end at his own doorstep. His greed and hypocrisy illustrate a man – nay, a whole family – not with the interests of this country’s economic rules and regulations at heart.
If he is the favourite to govern, God help us.
The big problem is, the “wrong” two might be all the Members get to choose from. Why not change the system with the 1992 changing the rules?
1. Candidate should get through a simple threshold of 7.5% of parliamentary support on one simple, one MP, one vote contest. After which:
2. All names with more than 7.5% support be put to vote by membership using STV. Then we will have the people’s choice down to last two names, after which:
3. Last two standing after STV vote, be put back to PMs for their final choice.
Simple, easy to administer and understand, and gives proper partnership between MPs and Members, who after all, are the ones who put in the hours, the money and the effort to get MPs elected in the first place.
That is an interesting idea – it would then be incumbent on the wider party membership to make sure the right two candidates go through for the MPs to make the final selection. I am pretty sure we would make better choices than the self-serving MPs in the early stages.
For those of us not in the UK (but who would like to understand anyway) can someone explain what “the Tory Right” means? I American; I thought the Tories were the Right.
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