by Peter Franklin
Monday, 18
July 2022
Analysis
09:30

The real weaknesses of the Tory candidates

Three leadership debates have been revealing in all the wrong ways
by Peter Franklin
An exhibition in vacuity. Credit: Getty

Who won last night’s ITV debate between the Conservative leadership candidates? The answer, of course, is that they all lost. The quality of the cut-and-thrust — or rather the ineffectual push-and-shove — was abysmal. 

On the economy, the other candidates piled on to Rishi Sunak, suggesting that his tax rises (many of which haven’t been implemented yet) are the cause of the impending recession. With Liz Truss leading the charge, the big idea of the evening was to cancel the planned hike in corporation tax, as if boosting the profits of the richest companies was the best use of billions of pounds right now.

At another juncture we were told by Kemi Badenoch that the real cause of the cost of living crisis was inflation. Well, yes. Rising prices do tend to make things more expensive. But aside from stating the obvious, did anyone have an explanation for why prices were rising so fast?

Not really. Badenoch made a valid point about holding the Bank of England to account. But no amount of monetary discipline in Threadneedle Street is going stop the war in Ukraine or China’s historic shift from coal to natural gas. 

Meanwhile, as Britain braces itself for record temperatures, the candidates were determined not to do anything about global warming that might bankrupt the country. Which again, was a statement of the obvious that completely missed the point. The thing driving households to the wall right now is not the falling cost of renewables, but our reliance on fossil fuels. 

But perhaps I’m the one missing the point. The real purpose of these debates is not to say anything of substance, but to see who can speak vacuously without letting it show. 

On Friday, in the ConservativeHome debate, each of the candidates were asked to name their greatest weakness. Predictably, they all did that humblebrag thing of mentioning something that was actually a strength. Thus Badenoch was too humorous, Sunak too much of perfectionist, Truss over-enthusiastic, Mordaunt had too many cats and Tugendhat prone to mentioning his heroic record of military service. 

But after watching the Channel 4 and ITV debates, a very different set of weaknesses has become clear: Truss just doesn’t connect with the audience. Tugendhat does connect, but only on the rare occasions he deviates from his script. Badenoch comes across well most of the time, but is a stranger to the public. Mordaunt increasingly looks like she doesn’t want to be there. And Sunak is pleased to be there, but more so with himself.

Robert Peston exaggerates in calling last night’s debate “little short of a disaster” for the Conservatives. It won’t be, because it’ll soon be forgotten. What will be a disaster, however, is if the eventual winner of this race doesn’t raise his, or her, game.  

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polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

“The thing driving households to the wall right now is not the falling cost of renewables, but our reliance on fossil fuels.”
I’m sorry, but this is so counter-intuitive that it is entering the territory of the barking mad.
We are sitting on a mountain of fuel, but we prefer to import it at great cost so that we can pretend to be saving the planet. The UK’s contribution to global warming is minimal, and we have no influence whatsoever over those countries that are responsible for it. So we cannot save the planet. Can we? We then tax electricity bills to subsidise renewable sources of energy that cannot provide for even our most limited needs.
I am very much blaming you, and those who think like you, for driving households to the wall with the consequences of your delusion. Time for you to smell the coffee.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The thing driving households to the wall right now is not the falling cost of renewables, but our reliance on fossil fuels.”
So not just barking mad, but deliberately lying through his back teeth.
Falling cost of renewables? In your dreams.
If renewables were even remotely cheaper, we wouldn’t be forced to hose subsidies at them and insist they have precedence in access to the grid and pay them extra money in constraint payments when the wind is occasionally too high. These additional costs already run in the Billions.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

I gave him the benefit and call him delusional.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Quite. The cost of renewables is not falling as far as consumers are concerned. The strike price for the Contracts for Difference being agreed by new wind farm operators is falling but this is not remotely the same thing.
BEIS should be negotiating new contracts with renewables operators on the basis that they guarantee to supply energy at or below the strike price 24/7, whether the wind is blowing or not. Then we’ll find out what the cost of renewables really is.

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Indeed the luxury beliefs of the green bourgeoisie are about to hit the buffers of reality

Paul K
Paul K
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Lever

Does downplaying or denying the reality of runaway climate change so that you can fuel your car cheaply count as a ‘luxury belief’? Or just a ‘delusion’?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul K

Believing that the UK can influence the policies of other countries is utterly delusional. The drivers of climate change, China and India et al, will not embrace net zero in order to please you. They will look on as we destroy our economy and our social order and scratch their heads at our foolishness.
Address reality.

Last edited 1 month ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I am being downvoted. I suggest that those who do so refute my argument instead – I’m listening.

Chris Bredge
Chris Bredge
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

It’s not just China and India either. Consider Germany’s abandonment of nuclear in favour of coal!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
30 days ago
Reply to  Paul K

The elephant in the room is the inadequacy and devastating cost of the chosen renewables, wind and solar. (presumably because, as bad as they are, they are the best on offer in countries that don’t have significant hydro potential).
Diverting to arguments about the climate doesn’t change that. The hypocrisy of so many anti-hydrocarbon zealots also being anti-dam and anti-nuclear is visible for all to see.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
30 days ago
Reply to  Paul K

No one is saying there is not a global issue with climate but I’m afraid these activists need to go and demonstrate in Russia, Korea, India, China etc then come back and we will listen to you!

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
16 days ago
Reply to  Paul K

A delusion because if Europeans really believed it they wouldn’t be firing up the coal fired power stations would they?
Pretty hypocritical to do this whilst denying energy starved sub saharan Africa of investment in real reliable energy that would help them develop. But as soon as the windmills and sun farms can’t take the place of gas seems Europe can’t do without its energy at any cost.

Margaret TC
Margaret TC
1 month ago

‘Badenoch comes across well most of the time, but is a stranger to the public.’ Why is this? Might it have something to do with the avoidance of her by certain outlets – such as the BBC or The Guardian? Kemi B as PM would be a major headache to both – they would tie themselves in (comic) knots having to deal with a highly intelligent black woman — way more intelligent than the two dumb blondes Truss and Mordaunt — who has convictions and vision that would expose their vacuity.

Chris Bredge
Chris Bredge
1 month ago
Reply to  Margaret TC

Upticked but disagree that Truss is dumb. Wooden yes, but not dumb.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
30 days ago
Reply to  Chris Bredge

Well maybe not, but she sure acts like it.

Geoffrey Hicking
Geoffrey Hicking
1 month ago

Badenoch and Truss were most impressive. Neither of them were afraid of telling the truth we might not want to hear.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 month ago

“Meanwhile, as Britain braces itself for record temperatures, the candidates were determined not to do anything about global warming that might bankrupt the country.”

Was it you who suggested at one point in 2020 that maybe the odd climate lockdown now and again wouldn’t be such a bad idea? Someone on this site definitely did.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 month ago

It is surely impossible to take seriously any political commentary from a person who believes CT rates should be increased to “ tax the rich” and that the U.K. can “save the planet”.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

How I wish that Clarkson had been a candidate in the debate… He would have won by a distance!

David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

The art of winning things in politics is not to alienate or scare people. (The people in question right now are their fellow Conservative MPs.) So the candidates have to tread a very narrow line between saying something that might upset people, and looking as though they are all part of an amorphous, undifferentiated mass.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Without raising the Laffer Curve argument, may I just point out that CT has not been raised yet and, even when it has, the tax will not be paid over to HMRC until 21 months afterwards. So the £Bs involved are certainly not available to use “right now”.