Tory leadership

Get ready for Liz mania

Here she is, then. Liz Truss is Britain’s third woman Prime Minister and she’s already suffering from the not-so-soft bigotry of low expectations. Almost everyone is looking at this woman the Tory membership has chosen to lead us all and feeling glum. She is someone widely seen in political and media circles as a lightweight and an embarrassment. The overly drawn-out and stale leadership battle between her and Rishi Sunak hasn’t helped either. Can Liz Truss ever hope to win a general election? But most new leaders enjoy a popularity bounce upon entering high office. Remember May mania? She experienced a five per cent surge in the polls in her

Sunak and Truss make final two – as it happened

Britain’s next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. Refresh this page for the latest developments. 4.45 p.m. – Truss vs Sunak will be a philosophical war Kate Andrews writes… The Tory grassroots have got themselves a real economic debate this summer: Rishi Sunak’s ‘Thatcherite’ economic philosophy vs Liz Truss’s ‘Reaganite’ plans to boost growth. Both will have questions to answer. While Sunak’s line that ‘nothing comes for free’ is bound to resonate with Tory members, the tax burden has risen to a 72-year-high under his watch, as well as the introduction of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that is very hard to explain

The verdict: the second Tory leadership debate

‘If you’re still watching this debate, well done,’ said Mordaunt, bizarrely, in her closing statement. ‘I wish tonight had been less about us and more about you.’ She obviously scripted that comment before she had any idea how the evening was going to pan out and her own contributions were certainly forgettable. But the others made for an interesting night. Tom Tugendhat quite rightly said the whole evening’s discussion – tax, defence etc. – was about the country. ‘We need to restore confidence in our government and in ourselves,’ he said. I’m not sure Britain needs its self-confidence restored: it’s the Tories who are having a collective breakdown. Rishi Sunak

Penny drops, Kemi soars in Tory activist poll

While Tom Tugendhat won the public opinion poll after last night’s debate, this is a race that will be decided by Tory members – and they seem to have a new winner (for now at least). A new ConservativeHome poll has seen Penny Mordaunt knocked off the top spot by Kemi Badenoch – who now has a double-digit lead. In a rapidly-moving contest, it’s quite significant. ‘Mordaunt’s ship is becalmed,’ says Paul Goodman in the ConHome analysis. She led Badenoch by 46 per cent to 40 per cent in an either/or poll last Tuesday. But in this different poll (with all five candidates) she’s on just 18 per cent, with Liz

Who will Priti Patel endorse?

Priti Patel is not running for the Tory leadership. The Home Secretary ruled herself out in a statement released minutes ago. Her decision not to stand makes it much more likely that Suella Braverman can get the nominations needed to get on the ballot and the 30 votes required to stay in the contest. Patel does not say who she is going to back herself. But the speculation is that it will be either Nadhim Zahawi or Liz Truss rather than Braverman, her rival for the support of the ERG. Patel’s support would be an adrenalin shot for the Zahawi campaign which is not yet at 20 publicly declared backers.

Why I should become prime minister

This is an edited transcript of Kemi Badenoch’s speech announcing her candidacy for the Conservative party leadership. It’s time to tell the truth. For too long, politicians have been telling us that we can have it all: have your cake and eat it. And I’m here to tell you that is not true. It never has been. There are always tough choices in life and in politics. No free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on government spending, and a stronger defence without a slimmer state. Governing involves trade-offs, and we need to start being honest about that.  Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver

Boris Johnson’s fightback has been cut short

Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence select committee, has this morning announced that he is sending a letter to the 1922 chairman calling for a no confidence vote in Boris Johnson. In a way this is not a surprise: Johnson cut Ellwood from the government when he became Prime Minister and the two are temperamentally very different. But the worry for No. 10 is that there are rather a lot of former ministers on the backbenches these days, and if a lot of them start writing letters then a no confidence vote will become a near certainty. Another concern for No. 10 this morning is whether they can live up to

Do the Tory whips have Boris’s back?

Whips are made for leadership crises. They are a party leader’s early warning system; they can sniff out plots before they get going. So it is, as I report in this week’s magazine, far from ideal for Boris Johnson that relations between him and the whips office remain strained. The problem dates back to the Owen Paterson affair. The whips were furious that their chief, Mark Spencer, received so much of the blame when they felt he was just following orders from No. 10. The result, one Johnson ministerial loyalist complains, is that ‘the whips’ office are on a go-slow’. When Labour went on the attack with an urgent question on Tuesday,

The rise and rise of Rishi Sunak

When Victoria Beckham noticed that her husband David had developed a winning way, not just with her but with almost everyone else too, she came up with a wry nickname for him: Goldenballs. What billionaire’s daughter Akshata Murthy calls her husband Rishi Sunak within the confines of their family homes is anybody’s guess but there is no doubt that he is on a golden run of his own right now. As his rivals to succeed Boris Johnson blow up — both Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel are currently subject to heavy speculation about imminent demotion — nobody seriously believes that Sunak’s position as Chancellor is in jeopardy.

Forget Brexit: Boris’s toughest task will be energising his exhausted party

Boris Johnson will now be receiving plenty of unsolicited advice about how to be Prime Minister. As his victory speech a few minutes ago showed, though, he’s not planning to ditch one of the qualities that got him into this job in the first place. Brand Boris isn’t about the typical prime ministerial behaviour, stood squarely behind a lectern and trying to offer gravitas. To try to squeeze Johnson into this mould would be about as successful as Gordon Brown’s attempts to look cheerful. That’s why his speech was based around the acronym ‘DUDE’ – Deliver Brexit, Unite our Country, Defeat Jeremy Corbyn and Energise. He told the hall: ‘I

Johnson and Hunt try to unite the Tory party in final leadership debate

Tonight’s Sun debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt was far more relaxed than last week’s head-to-head clash. But it was also stuffed with news lines, as both men prepared for the final few days of voting in the Tory leadership contest. Both declared the Northern Irish backstop dead, Johnson ruled out an election before Brexit happens, and they both attacked Donald Trump for telling black and minority ethnic congresswomen to ‘go back’. On Brexit, the answer that Johnson gave about the backstop showed how likely it is that he might pursue a no-deal Brexit: he rejected a time limit or unilateral exit clause. This makes a confrontation with Conservative

Optimistic Boris looks ahead to turbulent term as PM in TV debate

Jeremy Hunt managed to sum up the Tory leadership contest very aptly this evening when he accused Boris Johnson of ‘peddling optimism’. The line, delivered in ITV’s leaders’ debate, did the Foreign Secretary no favours, though. He was pitching himself as the truthful realist, who wouldn’t make promises he couldn’t deliver on. Johnson ridiculed this as ‘defeatist’, telling the audience in his summation that Britain needed to get off ‘the hamster wheel of doom’. Had Hunt suggested Johnson was ‘peddling myths’ or ‘peddling nonsense’, then his line would have had better force for his cause. Instead, it underlined why the former Mayor of London is doing so well in the

Isabel Hardman

Could Boris Johnson make Jeremy Hunt his deputy?

Who will Boris Johnson appoint as his deputy? Now that voting in the Tory leadership is well underway – with 60 per cent of party members expected to have sent back their ballots by Thursday – most MPs are starting to think more about what the next prime minister’s cabinet will look like, and less about who that prime minister will be. There are more than enough candidates to fill the cabinet twice over, given the number of MPs who have backed Johnson. Some of their colleagues mock them for supporting someone merely because they hope he will give them a government job, but it’s quite understandable that someone might

A whole new Boris

‘I’m going to stick ruthlessly to script,’ says Boris Johnson. ‘This is not the stage of the campaign when you innovate.’ He’s right to worry about the timing. The new Tory leader won’t be chosen for just over two weeks but the ballot papers go out this weekend. Boris is the odds-on favourite. This is the most important week of the campaign and he’s determined to come across as a serious, game-changing leader, not the loveable yet unreliable joker. The old Boris would mess up his hair before going on television. Today, when we meet in his House of Commons office, he quickly puts on a jacket — as if

Full list: Tory leadership contenders and MPs backing them

The race for the Tory leadership race is on. More than a dozen candidates put themselves forward but to make it to the final two those seeking to replace Theresa May must persuade fellow Tory MPs to back them. Here are the latest tallies of who is left in the contest – and who is supporting each candidate: Through to the final two: Boris Johnson, 146 MPs publicly backing, 160 votes in the last round The clear favourite with party members and the bookies’ favourite to take the Tory crown, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is seen by many in his party as the candidate most able to take on Nigel

It would be weird if Gove hadn’t taken drugs

Cocaine is an abominable drug, by far the most hateful of all the various uppers and downers and psychoactives because it turns you into such a complete moron. The problem with coke, as my friend, the drug historian Mike Jay, once explained to me, is that nature never intended us to use it the way we do. In its raw, coca leaf form, it’s a handy and pleasant stimulant, just what you need to keep you going on a long trek over the Andes. But in its refined form it’s just nasty, not least because it plays a cruel, built-in trick on you. You take cocaine to get high —

Boris Johnson’s opponents have been too easy on him

Boris Johnson is currently the quiet man of the Tory leadership contest, lurking in the shadows rather than courting media attention as he usually does. His campaign team has deliberately held him back from touring the studios to avoid gaffes or rows. They’re even nervous about the limited exposure he has, joking that he is ‘always one Monday column away from disaster’. Of course, it’s easier to do this when your candidate has as high a profile as Johnson: he doesn’t really need any more attention than he’s already got. It is, though, not the greatest of compliments from those members of his campaign team that they seem to feel

Isabel Hardman

Michael Gove tries to come out fighting after cocaine row

Michael Gove is one of those people who enjoys finding themselves with their back against the wall, fighting. His leadership launch this afternoon was mired in questions about his past drug use, but the Environment Secretary looked totally unruffled by the rows of the past few days and the questions from journalists after his speech. His was a typical Gove offering, in that it was a beautifully-written and well-structured speech. He started with his back story of being adopted and never knowing his birth mother. He set out all he has achieved so far in government, running from his passion for improving all children’s life chances through education reform, his

How the Parliamentary stage of the Tory leadership contest works

This week, the Conservative leadership content enters the Parliamentary stage. The various contenders – at the time of writing there are eleven – will be whittled down to two. The remaining pair will then tour the country for membership hustings ahead of a members’ ballot. So, how exactly will it play out? All candidates must receive at least eight MPs’ backing in order to enter the contest formally. Only the principal and seconder need be named – the remaining six MPs are able to stay anonymous. The deadline for this is 5pm on Monday.  The threshold was raised from two MPs to eight in a bid to reduce the number

Letters | 6 June 2019

Trump and Brexit Sir: Your leading article (‘The Trump card’, 1 June) states that ‘May’s successor should seek to capitalise on Team Trump’s enthusiasm for Brexit’. President Trump — the leader of by far our most important political, economic and military ally — has always respected what most British MPs have chosen to ignore: that the British people voted to leave the European Union. Assuming that the Conservative party wants to survive, it must choose a proven vote-winning leader who is determined to leave the European Union on WTO terms by 31 October this year, unless the EU has agreed by that date to a convincing, substantial improvement to its