Liz Truss to win? I’m not so sure
There are another six weeks of blue-on-blue action to come
As expected, Liz Truss overtook Penny Mordaunt to win a place in the leadership final against Rishi Sunak. It was close though — Truss finished on 113 in the final MPs’ ballot, a mere eight votes ahead of Mordaunt.
Meanwhile, Sunak finished on 137 — a clear, if not exactly commanding, first place. The margins are such that we can’t rule out the possibility that tactical voting decided the second and third positions.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
With that possibility hanging in the air, the complaints have already started. Shortly before the result Sebastian Payne tweeted that ‘Senior allies of Penny Mordaunt claim Liz Truss has “pushed us out”’. This is an odd turn of phrase — suggesting that the second place that Mordaunt has held up until today was hers by right.
There’s also some bellyaching about the ‘attacks’ on their candidate. But while it’s true that Mordaunt has come in for criticism, Sunak and Truss have also been on the receiving end. For instance, Sunak has been accused of causing the next recession and Truss of being a socialist — neither of which is true. My advice to Team Penny is to stop moaning and start planning for next time.
Of course, let’s not forget that the current leadership race is still far from over. We’re not even half-way through. The result of the party members’ vote isn’t due until early September. So that’s another six weeks of blue-on-blue action.
Current polling of party members has Truss beating Sunak. But I wouldn’t be sure this will be the final outcome. The other kind of polling we’re going to see lots of soon will be of the wider public. Only party members get to vote, but with the general election coming into view, we’ll see the focus turn from ideology (a criterion which favours Truss) to electability (one that favours Sunak).
The Tory membership have only been asked to choose their leader three times. In 2019 and 2005 they chose the most electable candidate — i.e. Boris Johnson over Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron over David Davis. But what about 2001 — when they chose Iain Duncan Smith over Ken Clarke?
That, however, was an exceptional situation. Clearly, Clarke was more electable — but he was also a fanatical pro-European who wanted Britain to scrap the pound. These days, no one sane wants to join the single currency. Indeed, the Labour leader doesn’t even want to rejoin the EU. Thus, far from being backwardly ideological, the Tory membership in 2001 was way ahead of the curve.
Drawing upon these precedents I can see only two paths to a Truss victory. The first is that the electability gap between her and Sunak turns out to be much smaller than I’ve assumed. The second, is that she bases her campaign on a defining issue of historical importance. I’m not sure that reversing a modest rise in corporation tax is going to cut it.
Indeed, the Labour leader doesn’t even want to rejoin the EU.
I think he does. Starmer is just smart enough to put out another line as the overriding goal is to wrest power back to his party. Whether the voters he needs to convince to achieve that goal will buy his new line is another matter. I don’t think so.
Personally, I doubt there is that much enthusiasm out there for Keir Starmer’s unique brand of sanctimony and self-righteousness. Suspect most people would prefer someone more obviously human and flawed – and crucially aware and accepting of human flaws. This is where this “Boris was unfit to be PM” nonsense falls down – he was elected by people who knew exactly what he was like.
Starmer is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. He’s adrift in Dunning-Krugerland.
Also, Rishi Sunak needs to get on the front foot about the non-dom timebomb right now and own it before it becomes toxic. He should consider something like “my wife paid £x million in tax last year … most of which was earned abroad”. No one should be made to feel ashamed of being successful and paying large amounts of tax (assuming they now are – game over if they still have their heads in the sand on this). Top taxpayers should be celebrated. Professional off shore tax dodgers like Branson are the ones who should be despised.
I read in passing the other day that Rishi had countered the whole non-dom issue by saying that his wife made her own decisions and she wasn’t his property. I thought that was a genius way to counter the issue. It won’t wipe the slate clean or reverse the bad optics but it certainly got him back into my good books…he showed he was a modern husband & family man.
You mention the bad optics regarding Sunak. These seem to consist principally of his being a rich man with a richer wife. But how many PMs have not been comparatively rich, particularly conservative one’s? If you are inclined to vote Tory why would you be put off by the wealth of the party leader. Of course, if you were an envious socialist who resented the wealth of others it might be another reason not to vote Tory but are these types likely to vote Tory even if the leader was not particularly rich? I suspect a lot of this sort of commentary comes from rich socialists MSM journalists who think the rest of the country shares their envy of a richer man. As long as he makes it clear he understands the impact taxes have on people why should his own position affect anyone inclined to vote conservative?
Quite right. It’s a mistake to think that MPs are elected to promote the interests of people like themselves. It is essential to be able to represent the interests of people whose experiences and aspirations are very different from their own. In both covid and the present inflationary situation, Sunak has shown that he attaches importance to protecting the interests of the poorest.
William Hague, in The Times on Tuesday, says how well Sunak relates to ordinary people in his rural Yorkshire constituency – people of very different backgrounds to his own. He is a man who listens.
rich also equals ” Don’t need the money”… which is a copper bottomed defence against both being corrupt and job- clinging
We used to have poorly paid politicians in Ireland and they made the case you now make regarding corruption: so now they’re twice as well paid. Turns out they’re twice as corrupt as well! Our PM is paid more than the UK PM though we’re a 1/10th of the size! The corrupt are greedy not needy!
The bad optics for me weren’t about any kind of envy – it was about patriotism and commitment to the country you purport to represent and wish to lead. Both the non-dom issue and Sunak’s own green card rather served to undermine that commitment, or at least the appearance of it. And this stuff counts with people! However, as far as the non-dom status of his wife was concerned – it was right of Sunak to counter that that was his wife’s issue and that – even they are a married couple – they are still two independent individuals.
I appreciate your point but I suspect it will not be something Starmer will push as it comes a tad too close to accusing Sunak of being a rootless cosmopolitan and that is not something Starmer will want to risk in the light of Labour’s anti-semitism problem.
I think we can be pretty confident Starmer will not be rebranding Labour as the British National Socialist Workers Party and start raving about the increasing threat from the Indian diaspora and their connections to that international conspiracy to undermine the British way of life known as the World Economic Forum!
No poor, resentful conservative voters then? mmmm.. not so sure?
Are we to assume from your comment about Rishi Sunak’s wife that a woman has no right over her own assets. I thought that time had long past.
Rishi Sunak was a pharmacist’s son who has a brilliant mind and also the charisma needed for a leader to appeal and succeed with the electorate.
The MSM don’t give him a fair assessment..
Iris, no I am not saying that. She as an individual is free to do as she chooses. However, you simply cannot expect fair and impartial treatment from the media or opposition politicians on this at any time – and certainly not in difficult economic times. It’s an open goal for the opposition. Just because Starmer’s got a 100% record at missing goals so far doesn’t mean he won’t accidentally hit the target eventually.
That is why I say Sunak needs to turn it into a positive and get it out there just how much tax they are paying. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Someone has to pay for the NHS.
There is much about Sunak to be admired – but he hasn’t got that across to the public. My main concern about him is that he doesn’t seem to be a particularly skilful politician and is quite unproven in election fighting. The last thing needed as another Theresa May who lost votes wherever she turned up to campaign.
Yes: can’t whack a flawed PM really: last thing you want is some talented, competent and effective leader! Perish the thought! Another bumbling chinless wonder will do nicely thank you.
The Non Dom issue ought to be explained thusly: the wife’s dosh is earned in India and so taxes are paid there: it’s bad enough taking the profit from poor old India without taking the bloody taxes as well! Those taxes belong in India: maybe she does too? Maybe they both do? India needs the money!
Perhaps it should. But that’s too detailed for most people to grasp – and certainly for most journalists. They won’t get past the “it looks unfair” step.
“I pay £5m a year in UK taxes – and that’s £5m than Richard Branson (or probably Tony Blair)” could kill it stone dead. He needs to kill this story ASAP.
..oops: it now looks like the wife owed £¾m to HMRC on English based businesses not to mention the millions owed to the poor creditors she left high and dry when those businesses went bust. No wonder Rishi felt the less said on the whole thing the better? The report I read may be fallacious so note that caveat.
Yes, yes, but we are not talking about him. In general we should take people and politicians at face value and not believe in hidden conspiracies. And not be naïve about politics. If the economic AND electoral conditions were to favour it, let’s be clear, ANY major party could reverse it’s position on Brexit, or face electoral oblivion. (To be clear, that is exceedingly unlikely to happen any time soon).
In a democracy that is how things change and how it came to be that Conservatives, at one time viscerally antipathetic to one man one vote, women’s suffrage and Irish independence came to accept, even embrace, all these things. Ideology isn’t everything or even central to conservatives – the bitter Brexit arguments among the Tories have been to some extent been historical outliers, along perhaps with those about the 19th century Corn Laws.
Well, if Mordaunt has”allies” everyone can see where te problem lies.
In any case, I must have been distracted because I really don’t know where this vitriolic contest was. Was she expecting to be asked for tea? Besides, she had ample opportunities to clarify what she meant on that fateful day, but she never did so and now it is a bit late. Was she not expecting to be challenged on that? Had she not read the several writeups that came out at the time? If she hadn’t, that would disqualify her from the job, and likewise if she had.
I’m not at all sure the author has the ‘electabilty’ issue right. If winning an election hinges on retaining marginsl seats in different areas of the UK, Sunak is far from being the most ‘electable’ of the two candidates. His appeal in red wall seats, for instance, will be close to zero, and in traditional blue seats his stance on taxation will be a vote-deciding turn-off. I’d expect a seasoned political commentator to understand this, but it appears not.
Indeed. And not to mention, Sunak will be toxic to the party faithful who will decide this issue now – it’s down to a tax-rising backstabber versus a Halloween dressup version of Margaret Thatcher who as Foreign Secretary did not know the difference between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. I don’t envy the ordinary members of the Conservative Party their choices.
I am not sure how much it matters whether a politician is much of a geography buff. The details can be gleaned from the professional’s in the area. I don’t think Donald Trump would have performed particularly well on an international place name quiz but he had a rather firmer grasp of geopolitics than some of his more well regarded contemporaries as it turned out.
A very minimal knowledge of Geography would be desirable in a Foreign Secretary. For instance, it would be useful for the Foreign Secretary to know the difference between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, especially when the said minister is involved in sending military hardware to one of them.
..yes: imagine putting the wrong address on a shipment of arms! They might have ended up in Kaliningrad the Russian enclave! Think of the embarrassment then!
Those are merely the issues: look at the calibre of the candidates..
It’s summed up in Somewheres and Anywheres. Rishi’s Green Card and his wife’s previous non dom status are far more important than the fact of their laudable wealth. If they are seen to be part of an international elite who would fit in anywhere, this goes against the zeitgeist I believe and the electorate will feel they have no connection with Rishi and no faith that he understands them.
Until recently, Liz Truss did not know the difference between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, and did not know that Rostov was in Russia. Forgivable ignorance maybe in a Home Secretary but not in a Foreign Secretary dealing with the biggest confrontation with Russia since the Berlin Blockade. To put such a lightweight into the highest office in the UK (a G7 country and a member of the Permanent 5 on the Security Council) would not be good, to say the least.
100% agreement. The Rostov thing was cringeworthy. I think she tried to pass it off as having misheard Lavrov, and that came off even worse than the geographical ignorance.
It gets worse. As Foreign Secretary, she put out this tweet:
I’m not sure where the bridge in the picture is – the twitterverse says it’s the Golden Gate, but the cars on the bridge really are driving on the right, so definitely not the UK.
As an “airbnb-ing, deliveroo-eating, uber-riding” millennial, I say, facepalm!
On the international stage Truss would be nothing short of a disaster for GB. Thatcher was not always liked by foregn leaders but she was always respected. The same cannot be said of Truss to put it mildly.
All Mordaunt ever said was “now is not the time for me to provide detail (of my plans). She claimed to be in the Navy but never trained properly. She Claimed to be a minister but didnt attend to the job. She claimed to have done a trade deal with Carolina – how does that work ? US deals are nationwide- She has a long record of not sticking to whatever job she had.
I trust Penny does not add “sore looser” to her other defects as a potential PM.
Just as Maggie Thatcher took extensive advice on modifying her presentation notably by lowering the register of her voice and altering her wardrobe, so Liz Truss needs to seek professional help in her presentational skills which were revealed as dire in the debates and advice on her wardrobe would not go amiss.
Rishi Sunak came into criticism over the gap between trouser bottoms and shoes but having seen the latest Moss Bros sales website it is clear Rishi is rather more in tune with the latest men’s fashion trends than most of us.
No need to comment on the more trivial subject of their proposed policies that most of us are not qualified to assess. Just stick to the more obvious presentational elements that most of the electors can have a valid opinion on.
The “ankle display” seems to be fashionable among the younger, more well to do generation. I find it really awful… But I am not the key demographic, am I. However, I would find that more of a turn off than a Thatcher impersonation when it came to vote.
I think Sunak dresses exceptionally well. It’s also not a bad thing that he’s physically in shape and isn’t a drinker – it adds to the serious, professional impression.
Truss looks good in simple block colour shift dresses: royal blue becomes her – both aesthetically and politically. What she should drop: the Thatcher blouses. The furry Russian hats. Military hardware as accessories. The metallic chain-y belt thing also didn’t look good.
That rather chimes with my impression but as a man I would have been reluctant to venture into such detail.
I never used to be interested in talking about fashion, clothes and image. But I think as I got older I have realised that clothes really do maketh the man (and, of course, the woman too). The diplomatic dressing of the Royal women never ceases to fascinate. How to communicate when you aren’t really permitted to communicate.
makes a change from standard intra M25 Tory ” Kenta gent” in polyester, draylon, acetate, and corfam plus giveaway ” leounge toylitte” windsor knot!!
Sunak, like Macron, can make very expensive clothes look rather dull. It’s the lack of accessories. A patterned or knitted tie, tie clip and pocket square can lift a man’s outfit no end. A discrete pattern in a suit fabric is another way to stand out.
Her attacks on her past aren’t doing her any favours, as I argue here …
Peter Franklin wrote, “Current polling of party members has [Liz] Truss beating [Rishi] Sunak.”
As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak opposed the policy of sending illegal aliens to Rwanda. (He now claims to support the policy in order to win the race for the prime ministership). He favors multicultural diversity.
By contrast, Truss supports the policy of deporting aliens to Rwanda and wants to expand the scope of the policy. She favors Western culture. (Get more info from the reference.)
The multicultural diversity that Sunak supports is the same diversity that will transform the United States into a Hispanic nation by 2040. By that year, the United States will cease being a Western country, and most Americans will reject identification with Western culture. In California, the majority of residents already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.
Truss is not the optimal candidate. She has her flaws, but if you want Western culture to remain the dominant culture in the United Kingdom, then support Truss’ becoming the prime minister.
Get more info about this issue.
Sir Leounge Settee-Toylitte QC….? amazed he isnt a masturbaTory?
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe