Tory party

Boris Johnson was a terrible strongman

The ejection of Boris Johnson from Downing Street today proves that the UK has not gone the way of Donald Trump’s United States, Viktor Orbán’s Hungary or Narendra Modi’s India. For all our faults, the strongman model of leader ends in farce rather than fascism here. Liberal critics ought to be big enough to concede that Conservative MPs – more than any opposition party, movement or institution – saved us from populist authoritarianism. No doubt they did so for impure and self-interested reasons, but this is politics and it is deeds – not motives – that matter most. Johnson’s failure to impose his will on his parliamentary party was his

The problems of mid-term PMs

Any Prime Minister who takes over mid-term has to contend with a certain set of problems. Liz Truss will wish she had been propelled through the front door of No. 10 by the momentum of a general election victory. The first difficulty is that you have no personal mandate. This doesn’t just affect your relationship with the electorate, but your own MPs too. Boris Johnson benefitted from a sense that he was a winner, which made MPs more prepared to trust his judgment. Liz Truss will have to go that much further to persuade MPs of her political calculations. It also means MPs will be more jumpy if the polls are bad.

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

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

Why Liz Truss shouldn’t be PM

Two and a half years ago I joined the Tory party to vote for Boris, then unjoined as soon as I could. I’ve never been a Tory voter but I believed in Boris and never thought of him as a cliquey, old-school Conservative. Now I’d like to rejoin to keep Liz Truss out. She seems to want to be PM just for the sake of being PM – we’ve had enough of that. But I’m hoist on my own petard. The party has wised up to tactical joining and you need to be a member for six months to vote. One of the many reasons we have a chronic staffing

Which country has hosted Eurovision the most?

The longest heatwave How did the recent heatwave compare with that of 1976? That year, the temperature peaked at 35.9˚C at Cheltenham on 3 July. This did not even break the UK temperature record at the time – 36.7˚C recorded in Northamptonshire on 9 August 1911. No recording from 1976 currently features on the list of Britain’s ten hottest recorded days. By contrast, in 2022 temperatures peaked at 40.3˚C in Coningsby, Lincolnshire. – However, the 1976 heatwave was far more prolonged. Temperatures surpassed 90˚F (32.2˚C) somewhere in England on 15 consecutive days – a record which has never even nearly been surpassed. In 2022, temperatures exceeded 90˚F on just three

The Tories abandon fiscal conservatism at their peril

And then there were two. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss now go to the membership. There’s much talk today about how brutal this contest will be. Penny Mordaunt’s supporters were arguing this morning that people should vote for her to avoid pitting these two against each other. But that would be false comfort. The argument between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak is one that the Tory party needs to have. Fiscal responsibility has been the Tories’ anchor for years On one side stands Sunak, who I have known for many years. He cleaves to the old Thatcherite position that the first thing to do is to get inflation under control. He believes

The Conservative party has ceased to be serious

I’m not sure that the Conservative party wants to win elections. Tom Tugendhat was knocked out of the leadership contest on Monday, and Liz Truss is now the bookies’ favourite to be the next Prime Minister. Any party that thinks the latter beats the former cannot say it is serious. There are several reasons for Conservatives to ignore me on this topic. First, I’m not a Conservative. Second, Tugendhat and I are friends. Third, I take a view of party politics that seems to be utterly out of fashion these days. That view is that politics works better when parties try to win the other side’s votes. When Conservatives pursue

The third Tory leadership ballot – as it happened

The results of the third round of MPs voting to be the next Tory leader are in.  8.55 p.m. Has the Penny dropped? James Forsyth writes… Penny Mordaunt had a mixed night this evening. Her lead over Liz Truss is still in double figures, but she actually polled one fewer vote than she had on Thursday. In her statement tonight she heaps praise on Tom Tugendhat, saying they ‘are both committed to a clean start for the party’ and lauding him as ‘one of the strongest assets on the Conservative green benches.’ It also contains an implicit dig at the Truss campaign, with a declaration that she is ‘running a

Sam Leith

The latest Tory leadership debate was a grim spectacle

The eyes had it, in last night’s leadership debate. Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak took turns directing to the camera a puppy-eyed gaze. Tom Tugendhat blinked manfully, as if overcome from time to time with a sense of his humble desire to serve. Kemi Badenoch blinked, too – but more in the way of someone regretting the decision to switch her specs out for contact lenses. And if Liz Truss – an apprentice of Mrs Thatcher’s gimlet-eyed stare – blinked at all, I confess I didn’t notice it. I was distracted by the fact that she seemed to have four eyebrows rather than the usual human ration of two. I

Labour won the Tory leadership debate

That was quite a debate. I’ve never seen senior Tory ministers and MPs lay into each other so publicly.  Rishi Sunak accused Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt of being socialists – not a compliment in the Tory lexicon – for being reckless with the public finances. Truss attacked Sunak for raising taxes to record levels. Kemi Badenoch called for unity while attacking more or less everyone for everything. Mordaunt seethed at what she saw as the cheap personal attacks she’s faced in recent days, especially over the trans debate. Tom Tugendhat attacked everyone else for being current or recent members of Boris Johnson’s government. This debate – and this contest – is a disaster

Sunday shows round-up: Penny under the spotlight

Penny Mordaunt – I’m being smeared over self-ID claims No Conservative party leadership race is ever without drama. With the first TV debate now under their belt, the five candidates are fending off scrutiny not just from the opposition and the media, but from each other. One of the biggest rifts from Friday’s debate was when Penny Mordaunt denied that she had ever been in favour of self-identification for transgender people while she was equalities minister. Her rivals, Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss, suggested this was not true, and leaked documents reported in the Sunday Times today appear to back this up. Speaking to the BBC’s Sophie Raworth, Mordaunt sought to

Penny Mordaunt is more like Boris than you think

As the Tory leadership candidates prepare for tonight’s debate on Channel 4, I find my mind turning back to the Cleggmania that followed Britain’s first televised election debate. As I say in the Times today, Penny Mordaunt’s current momentum feels a bit like things did in 2010: a previously little known politician is shooting to prominence. Only 16 per cent of Tory voters can recognise Mordaunt but she is now in with a serious shot of becoming PM. Mordaunt’s rise is a product of the unique circumstances in today’s Conservative party. She is managing to have her cake and eat it. She has served in the cabinet, but not Boris Johnson’s cabinet. She made clear for

Why the Tories are more diverse than Labour

‘The candidates fighting to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader and Britain’s prime minister reflect the country’s rich diversity,’ the England-hating New York Times put it earlier this week, through gritted teeth, ‘with six having recent ancestors hailing from outside Europe.’  It might seem initially curious that it’s the Conservatives who are so ethnically diverse. In British politics the realignment over Brexit caused identity to replace economics as the crunch issue, so that the gap between Labour and Tory voters on the issues of immigration and diversity has significantly grown, even if immigration’s salience has declined and remains low. Yet despite this, the British right has become in some ways more diverse

The Uber scandal highlights big tech’s big failure

A few years ago the Conservatives were excited about the march of the tech giants. Uber was offering an alternative to black cabs at a far lower cost, and Airbnb enabled homeowners to rent out a spare room to tourists at a fraction of the rate charged by hotels. Politicians were no longer dependent on traditional media but could reach the public via social networks, and there seemed to be an explosion of entrepreneurs, empowered by the new tech, taking on vested interests. The Tories intended to be part of this revolution. Their enthusiasm for people power was not to last. The government now plans to give regional mayors the

What the Tory candidates’ logos say about them

There’s a particularly amusing picture from the 1997 Tory leadership contest of Ken Clarke and John Redwood awkwardly paired up under a blue sign with the words ‘Uniting to Win’ on it. Though their campaign for power was forgettable, uniting to lose against William Hague of all people, they can take solace in being an unlikely pair of trend-setters. Theirs was the first use of a logo and slogan in an internal party contest, the start of a succession of design shockers on the British public ever since. The standard of this year’s leaders’ logos shows a slow decline. Back to basics would be a fine thing. Most slogans have

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

Gove backs Kemi Badenoch for prime minister

Michael Gove has endorsed Kemi Badenoch for Tory leader. Badenoch, who was one of his junior ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, is described by Gove as ‘Keir Starmer’s worst nightmare’ and she has a ‘focus intellect and no-bulls**t drive’. Gove’s support is a coup for Badenoch. It is not every day that someone throws their weight behind someone who was their junior minister until a few days ago. Gove makes a typically eloquent case. But the jump for Badenoch from being a minister of state to being prime minister would be immense. The challenge for her is persuading 120 MPs – the final-two threshold – that she can make that

The truth about life as a gay Tory MP

Male Tory MPs molesting young men? Buttock-squeezing and groin-fumbling at a private members’ club? A middle-aged politician slipping into a dressing-gown ‘like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein, with his chest and belly hanging out’ to massage the neck of an Olympic rower? Such are the allegations. ‘What,’ you may think, ‘is the world coming to? It was never like this in my day!’ How wrong you’d be. It was very much like this in the 20th century. There is in fact something tragically old-fashioned about the whole story. This is how it used to be for many when I was an MP, and there were dozens of other gay Tories

Boris skewered – for one last time?

A brutal encounter at the Liaison Committee this afternoon. Boris was grilled for two hours by a gang of aggressive MPs, (many of them Tories), who were drooling and panting for him to quit. But it wasn’t until the final moments that the session caught fire. Darren Jones took the first chunk out of the PM.  ‘How’s your week going?’ asked the Labour MP mildly. ‘Terrific, like many other weeks.’ ‘Did Michael Gove come in and tell you to resign today?’ ‘I’m here to talk about what the government is doing.’ Boris brushed off a similar attack from the SNP’s Angus MacNeil. ‘The game’s up. Will you still be prime