"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
“For the third time in six years, a small circle of people decides who leads the country.”
Well, he's gone. Not strictly true because, pending his actual departure, Boris remains in the job until the Tory party decides who will be the next Prime Minister. Yep, that's right — the British people don't elect the PM. That task falls to Tory MPs, who elect a shortlist that party members then vote on.
The Tory party membership is around 150,000, less than 0.3 per cent of the UK's eligible voters. So, for the third time in six years, a small circle election decides who leads the country. Is that the best the mother of parliaments can offer? Of course, I’m being disingenuous because PMs must eventually face a general election.
It's worth remembering that the last PM to be voted in and booted out by the electorate was Ted Heath in 1974. Also, political geeks love to point out that the transition from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown didn't even involve an internal party election.
Since 1945 there have been 21 general elections with the Tories winning 12 times.
So what about the prospective PMs? Well, for starters, you can't knock the Tories for lacking diversity. The candidates are three women, including a black lady and two men, one of whom is of Indian heritage.
Rishi Sunak is the current favourite. The former chancellor is the best-known candidate, although being the favourite can be a kiss of death based on past elections.
Sunak is standing on a platform of ''be honest''. That has some resonance given that Boris's undoing was his frivolous lies and constant misdirection. Still, it's fun to watch Sunak pretend he's had nothing to do with the economy for the past years now he's broken from Boris. His honesty line is coming close to the sort of outright deceit that felled Boris
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, displays the indolent smirk of a teenager who believes she knows everything. In truth, she's a cosplay Thatcher; she wants to be part of the gang; to be accepted and allowed to play. But don't be fooled; she is clueless. Early in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Truss encouraged untrained young men from the UK to take up arms and fight the Russians.
This inducement suggests she does not comprehend international law. Either that or she is reckless in not considering the outcomes of such people getting captured. As a result, many have suggested she should stick to curating her Instagram channel, leaving foreign affairs to the adults. But still, she enjoys a degree of support on the right wing of the Tory party, although her appearance at the recent candidate debate was lacklustre.
Penny Mordaunt is seeking to position herself as an outsider. She enjoyed an early surge in support but struggled in the debates, given her lack of knowledge of fiscal matters. However, with rampant inflation hitting the UK, someone with a basic understanding of the economy is a must. Mordaunt falls in that domain.
Further, Mordaunt's past support for self-identification by transgender people won't favour her with the membership. She sought to fudge the issue when challenged and looked shifty. Also, her service in the Royal Navy Reserve has come under scrutiny with the suggestion she rather over-stated her role. I suspect Mordaunt is out of the running.
Kemi Badenoch is an exciting prospect. A British-born black woman with Nigerian heritage, she was elected to parliament in 2017. She soon gained a reputation as a robust politician. As a black lady, Badenoch confounds the accepted doctrines of liberal woke types by attacking 'critical race theory.' She is already proving a competent operator with several ministerial posts under her belt. Further, she didn't flinch from confronting her more experienced colleagues in the debates. Badenoch is someone to watch
The only white man on the list is ex-soldier Tom Tugendhat. Yet, despite these antecedents, and his ‘establishment’ profile, he is polling the lowest amongst the candidates. He lacks exposure and governing experience beyond chairing the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Described by some as a 'hawk', Tugendhat has leveraged his military career and cited Ronald Reagan as his political hero.
Interestingly, Tugendhat holds dual British and French citizenship. His wife is a French judge and senior civil servant. Of all the remaining candidates, he looks least likely to win.
I'll say Sunak will win, while Badenoch will strengthen her standing. She is a possible future PM. Beyond that, Liz Truss is a diminished figure, while Mordaunt and Tugendhat will also take a hit.
Rough business politics.
Update - 19 August 2022. As predicted, Tom Tugendhat is out of the race.
Update - 21 August 2022. Now only Sunak and Truss are left in the running. And, OMG, Truss is the bookies favorite!
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.