It’s been a brutal and exhausting week in Parliament. Seeing my good friends and Conservative colleagues knocking spots off one another has been an unedifying spectacle. The TV hustings in particular were very poor, and also pointless since the electorate at that stage was 350 MPs. There were particularly unpleasant interventions, and some very nasty press ‘briefing’ from people who are supposed to be on the same side. I hope that Sir Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee will have a good look at the whole process once it’s over and assess what damage it has done to the Tory Government and the body politic in general.
I championed Penny Mordaunt against whom there were some particularly unpleasant smears and was deeply disappointed that she was knocked out in the final Parliamentary round of voting. She would have been a fine ‘pair of fresh hands.’ That’s democracy for you. So now we have a straight choice between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. They will tour the country attending hustings meetings (the closest to here will be Cheltenham on 11 August). The 160,000 Tory Party members can vote from 1 August by post or online (with a right to change their vote if they subsequently suffer from ‘buyer’s regrets.’)
I will happily serve behind either Rishi or Liz (as I have loyally served behind a total of eight previous Leaders), and it will be up to members to make up their own minds. Liz is probably the preferred candidate to the right of the Party who want tax cutting and small government; Rishi has demonstrable competence and ability but (perhaps inevitably as an ex-Chancellor) is fiscally much more cautious. On a personal level Liz has some downsides; Rishi suffers from the overblown fuss about his wife’s tax affairs. Why should being very rich preclude you from being PM? It might actually make you more dispassionate since you yourself have no need of the money!
I personally simply have one vote as an ordinary member of the Party and will be listening very carefully to what they have to say, perhaps especially about topics close to my heart- defence and foreign affairs, the Polar Regions, the environment and countryside. I am a small government, low taxation traditional Conservative; but then both candidates will have their hands tied by the current cost of living crisis and the battle against inflation; so there may in reality be little to choose between them on that front. I am pretty sure that my own personal preference will be for Rishi Sunak.
Boris meanwhile gave a spectacular farewell performance at PMQs on Wednesday “Hasta la vista, baby”, only just stopping short of “I’ll be back’”. He has some remarkable achievements to his name as PM- a record majority, uniting the Party, getting Brexit (more or less) done, the vaccine roll-out; a positively star-like status in Ukraine and so much more. He can be proud of his achievements as PM, although other elements left a few things to be desired. He is a remarkable character in every way, and I suspect that we have not seen the last of him. A political Schwarzenegger. Watch this space.