James Forsyth James Forsyth

So will it be Boris?

The next Conservative leader will define British politics for a generation

The Tory party is in a deeply emotional state. Remain-supporting MPs cry tears of rage when they discuss the referendum. Bitter emails and text messages have been exchanged. Leave-supporting MPs have been accused of unleashing dark forces that they cannot control, of putting immigrants in Britain at risk. Yet the leadership candidates who have so far emerged seem strangely united in their vision for post-Brexit Britain. All want to heal the divide between rich and poor that the referendum has exposed.

It is tempting to concentrate only on the division in the party, the fear that David Cameron’s resignation has injected even more poison into the Tory system than either the downfall of Margaret Thatcher or the Maastricht debate. Post-referendum, Remain and Leave Tory MPs still meet in separate groups. Some think this indicates that the leadership fight could become the most divisive in recent history.

Yet it is remarkable how much agreement there is between the candidates who have declared so far. All accept that the referendum result shows that the economic system is not working well enough for those at the bottom, and talk about social mobility. Stephen Crabb and Sajid Javid have launched a ‘blue collar’ bid. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove seek to make the Tories the party of the ‘aspirational underdog’. Theresa May promotes a broad Conservatism. Uniquely, none are from the party’s right wing.


James Forsyth, Fraser Nelson and Isabel Hardman discuss the Tory leadership contest:


This is a new type of Toryism, the next stage of David Cameron’s revival of the party’s ‘one nation’ tradition. ‘There’s not a mainstream candidate who won’t adopt the Cameron agenda,’ claims one Remain supporting minister. An intellectual unity exists below the surface bitterness. This broad agreement on domestic policy makes the personality of the leader vitally important.

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