YouGov finds that Truss has a commanding lead of 62% over Sunak’s 38% amongst Conservative Party members.
New Delhi: The Conservative leadership final is between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Paid-up Conservative party members will receive their ballot in the week of 1 August. The ballot will close on 2 September, the winner will be announced on 5 September. The two remaining candidates are competing on values (loyalty vs lack of it, trust vs lack of it), fiscal and monetary policy (and who is the most Thatcherish), finishing of Brexit, climate change and energy policy, GDPR/NHS and social policy reforms. Sunak, who was in the pole position, has fallen back. YouGov finds that Truss has a commanding lead of 62% over Sunak’s 38% amongst Conservative Party members. Member numbers are kept oddly secret, but it is thought about 160,000 Tory members pay £25 a year for the privilege of voting in any leadership contest. It was revealed this week that 9,000 members would prefer to add another ballot to the mix to keep Boris Johnson as Leader and PM. These members are signing up to a petition organised by Lord Cruddas, Tory donor, and David Campbell Bannerman, former MEP. The situation is curious because many of these members belong to Conservative Associations that elected some of the MPs that backstabbed Johnson, arguably not a glowing reflection of democracy in action. The petition has been sent to Andrew Stephenson, Conservative Party co-Chairman, but is unlikely to be realised.
Just to recap, in 2019, 14 million British people voted for Johnson, in 2022, 50 MPs brought him down and 160,000 party members will replace him. There is something disproportionate about these numbers. There is also the question of where were the sentries who are supposed to guard the Prime Minister’s Office against danger, errors of judgement, bad behaviour, bad practice.
This week the two finalists begin their official campaigns. Twelve hustings plus individual events will take place over the next month, north to south and east to west of UK. The reputational damage done to the party by the government over Partygate and other sleazes, and the vituperative damage candidates inflicted on each other during the TV debates and the smear campaigns will have to be overcome; the two candidates will have to gain the respect of members and define the Tory Party of tomorrow.
A wide spectrum of people were complicit in removing Johnson—the media, self-interested MPs, the Labour Party and a large percentage of bureaucrats in Whitehall; following the “assassination” of Johnson, both candidates have less charismatic and less colourful personalities, each in their own way more conventional, but to be sure, political forces are at work digging up dirt and scandal to throw at them.
Rishi Sunak will forever be victimised for his in-laws’ wealth and his privilege, he will always have to be transparent and justify fair play, his slickness and closeness to the City will be scrutinised and be a hard to sell to the fragile moderate-conservatives in the Red Wall constituencies. Team Rishi has some uber experienced team players running his campaign and some heavyweight influential Tory MPs are backing him. They are attracting the “anti-Boris” characters. If Rishi can secure the support of the apparent right winger Kemi Badenoch that will give him an extra advantage with members.
Liz Truss admits she is not a great presenter but her message is pure Thatcher. She has preferred to keep her campaign team to her inner circle and special advisers, who are no less professional and no less competitive than Sunak’s. Truss is campaigning on lowering taxes and more borrowing, with the worsening cost of living members will looking out how her all round policies will affect directly them. Truss’s Westminster supporters are working overtime to convince members she is an evangelist Brexiteer and conservative. This is her Achilles heel, having been a remainer and a Lib-Dem. But Team Truss hopes that Truss’ life story of aspiration and achievement resonates with the important Red Wall areas. Truss’ Tory rival Penny Mordaunt has not yet declared support for Sunak, but derailing fireworks are expected when this happens.
During hustings expect a deeper dive into individual policy spheres, a lot of emphasis on trust and competence, arguments for and against the European Convention of Human Rights. No foreign policy or geopolitics has entered either campaign except for Truss believing China is guilty of genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Members are likely to question candidates during hustings about their policies for Chinese investment and Russian sanctions. As Chancellor Sunak restarted the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, it is reported he has a “soft stance” on Beijing, whereas Liz Truss is more hawkish against the CCP, having made such an international stand on this that she will be obliged to deliver.
It is noteworthy that the European Research Group machine has re-emerged and is backing Truss. It can only be assumed they would only endorse a former Remainer if they did not trust the right-wing candidate, Kemi Badenoch, who is backed by Michael Gove.
The membership is spread nationwide. The membership is likely to be swayed by mainstream media, social media, Labour propaganda and Tory deception. The two candidates are basically there by default, not by democracy. Until the general election in 2024, the Conservative Party will get the leadership their system dictates.
Boris Johnson’s parting quip to the House of Commons at the end of his last Prime Minister’s questions was “Hasta la vista, baby” (translation “see you later”). No doubt there is truth in jest.