Tory leadership race

Penny reign: how Mordaunt could be kingmaker

Tory MPs will likely have three candidates to vote for in Monday’s leadership race: Boris Johnson, Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak. If Johnson runs, gets to the final two and it goes to the Tory membership, then he’s probably be back in No. 10 within days. Polls of Tory members put Boris ahead by a three-to-two margin in a multi-candidate scenario. To stop Johnson getting in the final two, Tory MPs would need to cast their votes tactically to engineer a Sunak-Mordaunt playoff amongst members, in which Sunak would likely win. Why would she be Sunak’s lobby fodder? But all this assumes Penny Mordaunt plays ball. Why would she be Sunak’s

James Kirkup

‘Bring Back Boris’ means the Conservatives are unleadable

Boris Johnson was finally thrown out of Downing Street because of his handling of sexual misconduct allegations by a political ally. Dozens of ministers quit his government over his lack of integrity. He remains subject to an investigation that could see him suspended from parliament for dishonesty. Dozens of Conservative MPs believe he is the best person to lead their party and Britain. The Bring Back Boris movement confirms that the Conservative party is now unleadable. Whoever ends up as prime minister next week will be unable to command a reliable majority of the party’s MPs. This puts a major question mark over any Conservative government’s ability to deliver the

Will Boris get the numbers he needs?

The question on everyone’s lips tonight is whether Boris Johnson can get 100 MP nominations by Monday. This is the bar that the 1922 committee have set. Johnson’s supporters have been coming out tonight at pace: he is up to 20-odd supporters already. But the question of whether he can get to 100 is difficult given the circumstances that led to his departure and the coming privileges committee investigation. Johnson’s advocates, though, think that if he can get that 100 and make it to the member’s round, then he will become the favourite. Rishi Sunak – whom I have been friends with for a long time – and Penny Mordaunt both ran

Fraser Nelson

Why Liz Truss had to go

The Liz Truss survival plan was, in the end, unworkable. She not only hired her enemies – Grant Shapps and Jeremy Hunt – but let them govern: tearing up her policies, while she held on in No. 10. She thought the Tory right had no candidate to replace her with and the Tory left would be happy because there had been a Cameroon restoration. So yes, it was a humiliation – but one that was supposed to keep her in post. The wheels feel off yesterday, and Truss had to accept that her game was over Could it last? Earlier this week I spoke to several MPs who could see Truss surviving

Nobody wanted Liz Truss

One of the most important ingredients in the oil used to anoint King Charles during his coronation is becoming a bit of an issue – and it may give us a signal as to what sort of monarchy lies in wait for us. Aside from cinnamon and ambergris, the oil also includes musk from the Ethiopian civet cat, obtained through what protestors suggest is a cruel process. The oversized weasel is constrained in a tight cage made of twigs and its bum is forced out of a hole at the back of a cage, whereupon skilled Ethiopian musk gatherers squeeze the animal’s perineal glands, reaping a rich harvest of noisome

Ten graphs that Liz Truss can’t ignore

The new Prime Minister’s honeymoon starts and ends today. Once Liz Truss formally enters Downing Street tomorrow she will be under pressure to tackle the enormous economic crises facing the country, with very little time to announce her policy plans. Truss herself has pledged to reveal her plan for rising energy bills within the first week of her premiership, and her plans to slash tax within the first month. While at the forefront of political discussion, these are but a few of the emergencies that the government must grapple with in the weeks and months ahead. Below are ten graphs that the Truss administration can’t ignore if she and her government

Who will fill the Boris void?

Boris Johnson’s last set piece speech today was typical him. There were references to Ladybird books, attempts to blame the last Labour government, not much detail but lots of optimism about how things are about to get better. Johnson has so dominated British politics these past few years that it is hard to imagine it without him. (Of course, he won’t disappear – which will cause its own problems for his successor – but he’ll no longer be PM). As I say in the magazine this week, his absence will reshape the political landscape because his presence defined it. Keir Starmer has relished attacking Johnson, but he must now pivot. In normal circumstances

Katy Balls

‘Those Jedi mind tricks don’t work on me’: Dominic Raab on Truss, Sunak and his own future

If Liz Truss is named prime minister next week, her administration will look rather different to the government of the past few years. Rishi Sunak has suggested he won’t accept any job offer. Michael Gove, a Sunak supporter, has pre-emptively ruled himself out. Other prominent backers are expected to join the pair on the backbenches – such as the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab. Truss’s allies say he deserves what’s coming his way for having likened her economic plans of immediate tax cuts to an ‘electoral suicide note’. Yet for a man on political death row, Raab is remarkably cheery when we meet at The Spectator’s offices.

My Ibiza diary

You wait 11 years for a Tory leadership election and then three come along in quick succession. The first in which I had a vote was in 2005. In August of that year my candidate, David Cameron, was being told to fold his tents. The final choice was a foregone conclusion: it would be a battle between the big beasts, David Davis and Ken Clarke. The Cameroon cohort in parliament at that point was more notable for quality – Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Nick Soames – than for quantity. They may have made a fine first eleven but it was a struggle to find a twelfth man (or

Who will Liz Truss forgive?

Liz Truss has always been more popular with Tory party members than with Tory politicians. The moment of greatest peril for her in the Conservative leadership race was when MPs were whittling down the final two candidates. After being knocked out in the second round, Suella Braverman urged her Brexiteer backers to get behind the Foreign Secretary. Many refused to do so and instead supported Kemi Badenoch, which meant that Truss’s vote count only went up by seven MPs. The momentum could have moved to Badenoch, then behind by just 13. ‘It was the most stressful point of the contest,’ recalls a supporter of the Foreign Secretary. Eventually Truss made

Why political interviews matter

She’ll never do it. She’d have to be mad. Why take the risk? That’s what everyone said when I announced at the end of my BBC1 interview with Rishi Sunak that we were still hopeful that Liz Truss would also agree to a half-hour in-depth conversation in prime time. Well, guess what? She has agreed and will come into Broadcasting House just a week before most people expect her to move into No. 10. Too late to have any impact on the result, say the cynics. That ignores the fact that 10 to 15 per cent of the Tory selectorate will not, I’m told, vote until the last minute. More

What the Tory leadership rivals haven’t discussed

In just over a week, Britain will have a new prime minister. No one can say that the 160,000 or so Conservative party members who will have made the choice have been deprived of exposure to the two candidates. The leadership race has dragged on for longer than a general election campaign, with endless televised hustings and public appearances. The process is supposed to be a training ground, testing candidates on their answers to all the toughest questions that will confront them in government. But in this respect it has failed. High tax is a symptom of a wider problem: big spending. Unless spending changes, any tax cut will be

The Conservative party is a void

Like the winter of discontent, the summer of 2022 is a season that will burn itself into the national consciousness. Predictions of a dark (in all senses of the word) future are daily occurrences. All but the wealthy wonder how they will cope with the hard times that are almost on us. The sense we’re in a runaway crisis is everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except among the leaders of our self-indulgent government. It has shirked its duty to lead the country and preferred to take a long, lazy holiday instead. For Boris Johnson, a redundant prime minister serving out his notice period, his life consists of Mediterranean jaunts. For Liz

The desperate demonisation of Liz Truss

We’re being asked to credit Liz Truss with a lot of unlikely things now that’s she almost certainly on course for No. 10 – that she’s a snazzy, relaxed media performer; that she can solve the eruption of problems caused by decades of cross-party can-kicking in a few weeks; that she has Churchillian resolve and Thatcherite implacability. But just recently a new claim is surfacing, very much not coming from her ‘people’, which is the hardest to swallow of all – that she is a fascist. Of course, the boggle-eyed have said this about pretty much every Conservative leader – pretty much every Conservative – in living memory, but I’ve noticed

Thatcherism is a cult the Tories should not follow

Friedrich Nietzsche may not be the most fashionable member of the conservative canon, but doubtless he wouldn’t care much. He knew that one of the main symptoms of a civilisation in decline is ‘herd thinking’. Regardless of the victor, this summer’s Conservative leadership contest has been a case in point for Freud’s narcissism of small differences. None of the candidates have dared deviate from the dogma of Thatcherism. Grant Shapps said it loudest: like Thatcher, he would confront union ‘Luddites’ to save an ailing economy. Liz Truss wants to to ‘crack down’ on trade union ‘militants’ by making it harder for them to call strikes. Truss didn’t even need to name Thatcher

Sunak and Truss are wrong about solar

Rishi Sunak has joined Liz Truss in grumbling about solar panels in fields. This is all rather dismaying, and revealing. It suggests that Conservative leadership contenders – and the party faithful they’re appealing to – lack faith in the transformative power of markets and free enterprise. Those solar panels that Sunak and Truss deplore are nothing less than an economic miracle, delivered by private companies seeking profit. Anyone who proclaims themselves supporters of markets should be shouting from the rooftops about this miracle, since it shows how people and organisations freely allocating capital makes our world better, fast. Private enterprise works because the incentive to make a profit by selling

Gove says Truss’s plans are a ‘holiday from reality’

Is the Tory leadership race already over? That’s the narrative among Conservative MPs with two weeks of the leadership contest to go. The Sunak camp dispute this version of events – and tonight they have an endorsement which works in their favour. After several Tory MPs switched their allegiance from Rishi Sunak to Liz Truss, this evening Michael Gove has endorsed the former Chancellor. Writing for the Times, the former Minister for the Cabinet Office has argued Truss’s plans for immediate tax cuts are a ‘holiday from reality’ that would put ‘the stock options of FTSE 100 executives’ before the poorest. He says that Sunak is best placed to prioritise

Truss charms the Scottish audience, while Sunak struggles

Judging by the show of hands in the auditorium of the Perth Concert Hall tonight, both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak had a fair bit of work to do to win over Scottish Tories. Many put their hands up to say they hadn’t yet decided who to back when asked by the host Colin Mackay. Mind you, many of them then went on to boo Mackay for asking questions of both candidates that they found annoying. Normally when an audience boos a journalist in Scotland, it’s blamed on the SNP and that party’s dislike of scrutiny. Tonight, though, it was the Conservative party.  Neither candidate has said that much about

Letters: The Tavistock is a national health scandal

The race isn’t run Sir: Bravo Fiona Unwin (‘Rooting for Rishi’, 6 August) for the best piece I have read on the grassroots take on the Conservative party’s leadership election. Having attended several such hustings both this time and over the years, this one does remind me of 2005: David Davis vs David Cameron. Lots of career-focused senior MPs backing an early front-runner, and then quiet reflection from the life-experienced sensible grassroots membership. Few predicted the 2005 winner until that electric party conference speech. This time, with dozens of events like the one the vice-president of West Suffolk describes, the typical Spectator reader rather than the Westminster hack will select

It’s time for Tory socialism

The Conservative leadership contest has descended into a low-tax auction, which is not a good thing. The implication is that the Conservatives think government should be minuscule at the very moment when private enterprise is letting us down – the energy companies are raking in cash and spending it on stock buybacks – and the state seems to be on its knees. We live in a country where it’s become widely accepted that if you call an ambulance, it won’t show up for several hours; the borders are wide open; social care is under-funded; and the police have ceased investigating certain crimes. If anything, this is a moment to rediscover