ON the list of do’s and don’ts during the heatwave, embarking on a final sprint for the Tory leadership should be in the same column as rabid dogs and Englishmen venturing out in the midday sun.
It is still necessary for the five remaining candidates, of whom only two will present themselves on Wednesday to a vote of the members of the party.
A long weekend started with the Channel 4 debate on Friday and continued on political programs yesterday. Saturday was a quieter day, unless your name was Penny Mordaunt.
Tom Tugendhat was widely considered to have ‘won’ the debate on Channel 4, in the same way Nick Clegg shone against David Cameron and Gordon Brown in 2010.
The candidate to beat, however, remains Ms Mordaunt, and has done so since she took second place ahead of Liz Truss in the first round of MPs.
In the weekend newspapers, commentators did not fail to warn against the promotion of the trade minister to the post of prime minister.
Matthew Parris, a supporter of Rishi Sunak, wrote: “I’ve had wee-hour dreams whose narrative hooked better than Mordaunt’s prospectus. Is she left, is she right, is she center, is she something?
References from past bosses were hardly complementary, with one taking Lord Frost’s line and questioning his competence. “To think that she could become our Prime Minister fills me with horror,” said Amanda Platell, who employed Ms Mordaunt as a Conservative Party press secretary at the time in The Hague.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Dominic Lawson said he sat next to the MP at a dinner party and found her “unfathomable”.
“It was like throwing a pebble into a pond and watching it disappear without a ripple,” he wrote, adding that the impression of skill and authority some people gave was “entirely misleading.”
No wonder Keir Starmer and his team, with the exception of Shadow Education Minister Bridget Phillipson, who showed up at Sky News’s Ridge on Sunday, appeared to have taken the day off.
They weren’t the only ones missing Sunday shows. Favorite Rishi Sunak sent Dominic Raab to speak for him on Ridge, with Iain Duncan Smith doing the same for Liz Truss. Only Mr Tugendhat and Mrs Mordaunt were keen to share a croissant with the BBC1 Sunday morning crew.
It was not a loss for Raworth as she had the talking point candidate to herself and made the most of it. Yesterday was the presenter’s final program, and the last show in the series until the arrival of Laura Kuenssberg in September. The Six O’Clock News presenter has had a busy time since taking over after the departure of Andrew Marr. Those who feared she was a lightweight were proven wrong with a series of hard-hitting, headline-generating interviews.
Before we get to his meeting with Ms. Mordaunt, an update on what, for continuity reasons, we should probably call “Wink-gate.” You remember the occasion: at the end of June, Dominic Raab and Labor MP Angela Rayner faced off in PMQs, and the Deputy Prime Minister appeared to wink at his opponent.
When Ridge questioned Mr Raab about it yesterday, he said his target was Ian Murray, the shadow secretary of state for Scotland. Yet the Edinburgh South MP previously called it a ‘hilarious diversion’ by Mr Raab. He doubled down yesterday, challenging the Deputy Prime Minister’s version of what was said. To be continued, this one.
Raworth began her interview with Ms Mordaunt by asking her what she would do to help people deal with the cost of living crisis. On this and other aspects of the economic policy, the details did not come there any. It was not the moment, said the Minister; all would be revealed at an “appropriate tax event”.
She cited the £30billion ‘wiggle room’ the government had from higher taxes to explain how she would fund her tax cut plans. But as Raworth pointed out, that margin figure was purely a prediction. Eventually it emerged that she, unlike Mr Sunak, would borrow to fund day-to-day expenses, adding: ‘We’ll have to do this for a while.’
She has denied reports that she pushed through a policy to end the requirement for trans people to get a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before they can legally change their sex.
“This has been repeatedly denied. We all know what’s going on. This is the kind of toxic politics people want to get away from,” she said, calling the attacks “libel”.
A flawless leadership race. Now that, like 30C temperatures in Scotland, would be history.