A significant number of Tom Tugendhat's voters ended up backing Truss
Just what do the supporters of Tom Tugendhat think they’re playing at? He was eliminated yesterday, thus the natural assumption is that his former voters are mostly responsible for the shifting totals in today’s ballot. In particular, there’s the mysterious matter of Liz Truss’s tally, which went up by fifteen today — where did they come from if not from the Tom brigade?
Except this explanation doesn’t make sense. Tugendhat is a one nation Tory, so why would half his troops flock to Liz Truss’s neo-Thatcherite banner? Are the Remainers who backed the pro-European MP for Tonbridge and Malling having a little joke by transferring to Truss, who also voted Remain in the referendum? One or two of them might, but fifteen? It seems unlikely.
But whatever the explanation, the numbers are what they are. Rishi Sunak still came first with 118 votes (up just three on yesterday) and Penny Mordaunt still came second with 92 (up ten). However, Truss — with 86 votes — is now just seven votes away from a spot in the final.
And that brings us to Kemi Badenoch, who bowed out today with a creditable 59 votes. As keen students of mathematics may have noticed, 59 is much bigger number than 7. In fact, it’s so big that if it were divided equally between Mordaunt and Truss, Sunak could be knocked out of the race.
That’s unlikely to happen. I don’t expect many supporters of the un-wokest candidate (Badenoch) to swing behind the wokest (Mordaunt). That said, there will be a contingent who care more about electability than ideology — and thus may choose to transfer from one likeable woman to another.
But, if in most cases, ideology trumps other considerations, then Truss should get enough Badenoch votes to finally overtake Mordaunt. Unless, that is, there’s some tactical voting going on. This is pure speculation, of course, but there would be a rationale for it.
Sunak is all but assured of a place in the final two, but if Badenoch had made it through today, Kemimania would have ensued — perhaps propelling her to victory. Polling from both ConHome and YouGov shows Badenoch beating everyone among the party membership. Theoretically, a group of Sunak supporters could have loaned enough votes to Truss to ensure that the deadlier threat was eliminated before the members could have their say.
A lot of what happens now depends on what Kemi does next. If I were Rishi Sunak I’d offer her a deal. Whether he faces Truss in the final or Mordaunt, having Badenoch on side could make the difference between victory and defeat. Against Truss — a Rishi-Kemi ticket would have more in the way of Tory soundness than Rishi alone. And against Mordaunt, Sunak could do with an extra helping of star quality.
On the other hand, Badenoch could just bide her time. Responsibility for what happens over the next two years belongs to someone else now. Perhaps she should let them take it.