Eight contenders in the fight to replace Boris Johnson. But it was a day defined by one particular second round of the competition; a spat between leading Rishi Sunak and the Stop Rishi campaign.
It’s a drama that has everyone in Westminster reaching for the popcorn as loyalists Boris Johnson make a very public target against the politician who seems to be most blamed for the death of the current prime minister.
Mr. Johnson could have told me on Monday that he did not want to engage in speculation about the treason for fear that it might hinder the race for some, but his supporters are doing it on his behalf in a bad-tempered, vicious and vicious contest. ugly
Leading from the front is Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who made the conflict clear on Tuesday night when she publicly weighed in on reports that: Team Rishi Jeremy Hunt helped get on the ballot, describing them as “dirty tricks/stitch design/dark arts” designed to get Mr Hunt into the final two.
It was an accusation that forced pushback, as a supporter in Sunak’s camp told me that such behavior was not how Mr. Sunak ran things; “
Jacob Rhys-Mogg, Mrs Dorris and James Kellerley, a trio of Johnson loyalists, fell into the Truss camp on Tuesday when the foreign secretary became the anointed pick for the Johnson operation.
Mr Rees-Mogg told me he was backing Ms Truss over Mr Sunak because of political issues, around Brexit and taxation, rather than crude politics.
Then he said: “It is very interesting that someone should start a campaign, according to reports, in December of last year.”
No doubt Boris Johnson’s supporters believe that Mr Sunak was instrumental in bringing him down.
What is less clear is how this will happen. At the moment, it looks like Mr Sunak will most likely make it to the final two, with Ms Truss and Penny Mordon battling it out for second place.
For Ms Truss, the party’s right and Mr Johnson’s supporters are expected to join her campaign against Ms Mordaunt and Mr Sunak.
But it is also true that there is a “stop Liz Truss” campaign, perhaps fueled by Johnson’s animosity, on the backbenches that could benefit Ms Mordaunt in the run-up to the finals.
This is because a number of MPs are concerned that while Ms Truss may appeal to party members, she will not appeal to the wider public. Then Ms. Mordon is a safer bet.
But on the other hand, and this is where the dark arts come into play, Sunak’s camp knows that Ms. Truss is easier to beat in the final two than Ms. Mordon.
A poll of members on the Conservative Home website on Tuesday showed the trade secretary leading the former chancellor by 58% to 31%. So could Sunak’s team try to thwart a Sunak/Mordant runoff by giving votes to Liz Truss?
These are all questions to which we will get answers in the coming days.
But what stands out the most in the early stages of this race is how bitter the divisions in the party have become and how wide the battle to become prime minister is now.
The conservative leadership race is already turning ill-tempered, vicious and ugly Political news
Source The conservative leadership race is already turning ill-tempered, vicious and ugly Political news