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The Conservative Party leadership contest now has three candidates.

The big three, according to MPs

Kemi Badenoch lost in the vote held on Tuesday, July 19, 2022:

Every one of Guido Fawkes’s tweets and posts since she lost has laments that ‘the only Conservative’ is out of the running. More on that below.

These are the votes from Tuesday:

Rishi Sunak just missed getting the ‘magic’ number of votes — 120 — to propel him automatically onto the ballot to be sent to Conservative Party members. It should be noted that although Tobias Ellwood lost the Party whip for not participating in the vote of confidence in Boris’s government on Monday and was unable to vote on Tuesday, the whip has been temporarily restored allowing him to cast a proxy vote.

Not a lot happened, although people at home watching this contest unfold wonder about the incongruity of MPs casting their votes for certain candidates.

A case in point is Sir Desmond Swayne, normally associated with common sense, who is now backing Rishi. He had backed Kemi.

However, Tom Harwood explained on GB News on Tuesday that it all depends on what sort of relationship MPs have with each other.

I’m not sure what Sir Roger Gale is on but he’s clearly out of touch when he says the electorate want Penny Mordaunt:

He got a lot of replies. No one agreed with his assessment:

Furthermore, voters still want Boris back. One of Guido’s readers wrote (purple emphases mine):

On GB News last night they were split over woke Penny or mad Liz, they were united that Blairite Rishi should not be given the job. But and a big but they all believed Boris should still be there (except Nigel). Dan Wootton also held a poll of 40,000 voters and the overwhelming support was to reinstate Boris.

Kemi — a nation laments

Kemi received many supportive replies to her thank you tweet:

The Times‘s political editor discovered that, in a poll of Conservative Party members, Kemi Badenoch would have beaten all the other candidates:

It was similar on Conservative Home, going back to July 16 and 17, when they had polled their readers:

The order of play is different from the result of our survey yesterday.

There, Badenoch was top with 31 per cent, Truss second with 20 per cent, Mordaunt third with 18 per cent and Sunak fourth with 17 per cent.

Here, Badenoch wins all four head-to-heads. Truss wins three and loses one. Sunak wins two and loses two. Mordaunt wins one and loses three. Tugendhat loses four.

So Camp Truss, third in the Parliamentary ballot, can argue on the evidence of this survey that she could beat the top two runners in a membership ballot – so her supporters should stick with her.  And not desert to right-of-Tory-centre alternatives such as Badenoch.

… And Camp Badenoch, fourth in that ballot, can say that on the evidence of this survey she can trounce all comers – including Sunak. So right-of-Tory-centre MPs should switch to her if they’re not backing her already.

Sadly, MPs have ignored both Conservative and conservative voters.

Many readers voiced their support for Kemi in the comments on another Conservative Home article, ‘Which candidate has the most public support and is the most likely to win the next election? And is that even the right question?’

No one likes Rishi.

In ‘It should have been Kemi’, Tim Dawson, writing for The Critic, said:

Kemi Badenoch was a golden ticket. Conservative members — who, according to Conservative Home, favoured her by a massive margin in any “final two” run off — could see it. The media could see it. The Labour Party most definitely could see it. Tory MPs, sadly, could not.

I am not quite sure what possessed them. Perhaps it was fear: the fear of handing over to someone they regarded as inexperienced. “We need a safe pair of hands,” they told each other, in between sipping pints on Parliament’s sweltering terrace; Badenoch’s “not ready”. 

Both main parties have been here before: rejecting more attractive leaders in favour of tried-and-tested old war horses. More recently, this approach yielded Gordon Brown and Theresa May. Further back, Jim Callaghan and Alec Douglas-Home. And what of “leaps of faith”? Well, they produced Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron. Only Conservative MPs could consider this history and plump for the don’t-rock-the-boat option.  

I suspect the Right’s somewhat eccentric notion of hierarchy will have had something to do with it, too.

It was “Liz’s turn”. Truss is foreign secretary and it is inarguable that she understands high office. But, she is also … well, weird. The nasal voice; the maladroit presentation. The Margaret Thatcher cosplay. As Tory Twitter worked itself into a frenzy over the last week it became obvious who supported Truss because they kept noting that “charisma doesn’t matter”. 

But charisma does matter. A Prime Minister must be able to communicate — to connect — and the harsh reality is, as we saw in both TV debates, Liz Truss has nothing on Badenoch. She is May 2.0; in fact, I give it a week before the Trussbot starts dancing.

Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are also flawed. Sunak is slick, yes, and better known but he is intimately embroiled in Johnson’s car crash, and there are serious concerns over the optics of his wealth

Mordaunt, meanwhile, is the worst of the lot. She may on the face of it present herself as a traditional jolly hockey sticks Tory – a kind of Hattie-Jacques-on-shore-leave type – but her politics are quite different. Culturally, she is more extreme than many Labour politicians, viewing harmless sitcoms such as Dad’s Army as “racist” and deploring the colonial legacy of Britain’s honours system. 

Her views on sexuality and gender are even more controversial. She is gaining a reputation as worryingly “economical with the actualité”, and it is likely that – if, God help us, she did win – a significant chunk of the “conservative family” simply would not accept her, viewing a period in opposition as preferable to propping up her agenda.

A Kemi Badenoch premiership would have freed the Conservative Party, and the country, of every one of these problems. She offered intellectual ballast, ideological commitment and a history-making fresh start. The other candidates are all, to some extent, continuations of the old regime. Badenoch would have blown apart the consensus and opened up new road.

A barrister tweeted that Dawson’s assessment is correct:

Aris Roussinos, not someone with whom I normally agree, wrote an excellent article for UnHerd, ‘Kemi Badenoch has saved the Tories’.

Roussinos states his dislike for the top three candidates and is particularly scathing about Penny Mordaunt:

Hostile to everything conservatives — if not the Conservative party — hold dear, lambasting even Civilisation’s Sir Kenneth Clark for scoring lowly on the identity politics scoreboard, Mordaunt is the barbarian within the gates of British conservatism. She may, in time, make Labour a perfectly adequate junior minister, but a Tory leader she is not.

Of Rishi Sunak, he says:

a party ready for Rishi, in these circumstances, is simply one desirous of death.

Roussinos says that Kemi Badenoch understands Britain’s current malaise and could fix it, given a chance:

of all the candidates, she was the one who was willing to address the fact that Britain is not working, and cannot suffer more of the same. The central thrust of her platform was that “it’s time for change”, and that we are held tight “in the grip of an underlying economic, social, cultural and intellectual malaise”. The very first sentence on her campaign website observed that “in 2016 and 2019 our country voted for change, yet still a sense that things aren’t working remains.” Distinguishing herself from her own party’s policies, she declared that “We’ve had a poor decade for living standards,” as while “inflation has made the cost-of-living crisis acute… the problems go back way further.” Twelve years into a succession of increasingly lacklustre Tory governments, Badenoch was the only candidate offering the possibility of an upward path. Within the narrow parameters of political speech acceptable within the party, she promised to reform the state rather than just offering fantasies of shrinking it, observing that “the machine is not working”, and pledging that “as an engineer, I know how to strip things down and get them to work”.

Knowingly or not, she has voiced a national wish list:

Kemi was the only candidate to address the state’s incapacity rather than merely its size, railing against a cumbersome machinery which “can’t deliver passports and driving licenses on time” and in which “We are spending more than you have ever done, and yet people’s satisfaction with the quality of their day-to-day services is falling.” 

Her argument was that the state should reduce itself to its core priorities, which would “require schools to concentrate on effective whole class teaching of rigorous subjects rather than allocating tight resources to superfluous support staff and peripheral activities” and in which “we should get the police to focus on neighbourhood crime and not waste time and resources worrying about hurt feelings online”. Whatever her rationale for getting there, to achieve a tighter, more competent state on slimmer resources would entail reform of British governance at almost every level: whether or not you liked her framing, this remains a desirable goal in itself.

And indeed, on the multiple domestic crises we face she showed a willingness to use the state, even if only cautiously, that marked her out from the competition. Where Sunak always seemed to be held captive in a small cell underneath the Treasury rather than its master, Kemi proposed to break the Treasury up, creating a new department for economic growth directly answerable to her: a thrilling dash of dirigisme in an otherwise stale debate. On the central issue of housing, she stressed that “I have seen the housing crisis from both the housing department and from my constituency, and I know that supply and delivery [my emphasis] is the problem. We must tackle this in the round to ensure more people can own their own home.” On the cost of living crisis she promised an emergency budget, distinguishing her variant of tax cuts from the competition by stressing that they must be “focused” on “those working hard on low and average incomes”. On the wave of strikes that will follow us through this year’s hard winter, she declared, in a conciliatory tone alien to the other candidates, that “We need to work better with the unions. We need to show them respect.” 

The case made for Kemi by various Tory outlets as a rampaging culture warrior, it must be added, always seemed mistaken in its emphasis. The culture war, tiresome and interminable as it is, is simply a battle for control of the state’s largesse, kept pointlessly alive in the nation’s discourse only as a convenient source of attention and income for the news industry and its roster of tame talking heads. Instead – and this was a major argument in Kemi’s favour – she understood that the culture war is downstream from government funding, and therefore that the only means of finally laying it to rest is by withdrawing the state’s inexplicable subsidy of its identitarian enemies. As she observed, the government has over the past few decades “piled into pressure groups and caved in to every campaigner with a moving message”, draining the state’s budget on sustaining a parasitical caste of activists who frustrate governance at every turn

Her argument that she supported, simultaneously, “free markets, limited government [and] a strong nation state” suffered from the same internal contradictions of almost all modern conservatism, the first two being antithetical to the survival of the third. Yet of all the candidates seeking to square this impossible circle, Kemi always seemed the one with the greatest possibility of success, who, at least by aiming for reform, may just have brought good governance in her wake.

The party may not have been persuaded by the case for Kemi, at least this time round, but the enthusiasm she summoned up from the party base, and from conservative commentators of wildly differing stripes, left the Tories with a vision, only partly formed but still powerful, of a successful future. She exits the contest as a strong candidate for the years to come, having made the party listen to a message it must heed if it wishes to exist. As Kemi said, in what we must hope will not become one of the great missed turning points in British history, for the Tories as for the country as a whole, “this is no time for steady as it goes, sinking into decline. It’s time for change.”

Guido’s post on Kemi’s defeat garnered 456 comments, all of which are on topic.

One person wrote:

Badenoch – the only one with true Tory values, her background would close down nearly any potential Labour attack lines, no association with previous regime, massive support in the party membership and excitement in the more trustworthy media outlets – she represented a genuine prospect to turn the party around. And now she’s gone. I feel quite sad about it.

So do I.

To make matters even more poignant, today is Boris’s final PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions).

There is one good thing, though. Everyone now knows who Kemi Badenoch is.

Many of us hope that she will get a good Cabinet post. Failing that, I hope that she is vocal on the backbenches.

May God bless this lady, her husband and her family.

I will have more on the leadership contest tomorrow.

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