Before analysing the latest Conservative Party leadership contest last weekend, I am pleased to report that …

Rishi Sunak reappointed Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.

Braverman resumed work late in the afternoon on Tuesday, October 25, on Rishi’s first day as Prime Minister.

More about Braverman follows later in this series.

1922 Committee changes rules

On Thursday, October 20, no sooner had Liz Truss resigned as Party leader than Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee representing Conservative backbenchers and Jake Berry MP, the then-chairman of the Conservative Party, devised a rule change for the election of the next leader.

Late that afternoon, The Sun‘s Harry Cole tweeted:

NEW: Brady and Berry about to announce 100 threshold for nominations… means maximum of 3 candidates will go to vote of MPs. That will happen Monday then likely online voting by membership – with result announced next Friday.

Guido Fawkes had more. Jake Berry said there would be a Party members vote only if there were two final candidates:

Brady is pictured on the left of this photo, with Berry on the right:

Guido’s post announced the timeline (emphases his):

If there’s one candidate, the UK will get its new PM on Monday, if two we’ll know on Friday.

There is one interesting aspect to those rules. They were designed to eliminate Boris Johnson, who had been in Colorado giving a speech and, at the time the contest was announced, was enjoying a holiday in the Dominican Republic.

The chairman — so far, it has always been a man — of the 1922 Committee is one of the most powerful men in the UK.

The committee forced out the formidable Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and made her cry. She called them ‘the men in the grey suits’.

When Conservative MPs want a new Party leader, they write to the chairman of the Committee. The chairman may choose to let the Party leader know that opposition is gathering against him or her.

One thing that the chairman never reveals, however, is the number of no-confidence letters he has received.

During Liz Truss’s last week in office, she and Sir Graham Brady spoke every day.

She knew the men in the grey suits were on their way when she sacked Kwasi Kwarteng the week before:

Shortly before her resignation last Thursday, Harry Cole wondered if their meeting that day would be their last. He had heard that Truss asked to see Brady, rather than the other way around:

Perhaps Truss had seen the column that her fellow Conservative Robert Largan (High Peak) had written for the Glossop Chronicle on Tuesday, October 18: ‘Warning of the danger of dumpster fires’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

I’ve spent a lot of my time issuing warnings this year.

Back in January, I first highlighted the danger of rising energy bills …

In July, I started warning about the precarious economic situation and the Government’s limited fiscal room for manoeuvre, urging politicians to resist the temptation of unfunded tax cuts or unfunded spending commitments.

The subject of this week’s column, however, concerns warning about another important and oft overlooked phenomenon: dumpster fires.

Fire and rescue services attend around 300 significant fires at waste sites each year. The two most common causes of these fires are spontaneous combustion and arson.

Without action, dumpster fires can rage on for long periods of time, spreading quickly and causing major structural damage.

For some, watching these fires rage elicits a grim fascination and the chance to speculate about just how long it will continue to burn.

Extinguishing a dumpster fire is risky business and likely to be messy …

I am deeply committed to protecting our environment and our beautiful country. I firmly believe that we need to tackle dumpster fires when they occur, regardless of how messy or unappealing this may be.

Indeed, the act of extinguishing the flames could well be the end of the skip they originated in. But urgent action is necessary nevertheless.

Guido Fawkes posted a link to the article that day, interpreting it as a dog whistle about Liz Truss:

Guido’s post read:

Chapeau to Red Wall Tory MP Robert Largan who has used a local campaign to warn about the state of the Tory party. His weekly column focuses on the clear and present danger of dumpster fires. Beyond the otherwise ironic headline, it reads like a normal campaigning piece from a constituency MP. Up until the final sentence:

Indeed, the act of extinguishing the flames could well be the end of the skip they originated in. But urgent action is necessary nevertheless.

Quite…

The Telegraph also picked up on Largan’s article on Wednesday, October 19:

He wrote: “The longer the fire is left to rage, the greater the danger to the integrity of the skip, as the metal starts to warp and twist out of shape, beyond all recognition, eventually becoming completely unusable.”

The piece was viewed in Westminster as a not-very-subtle shot across the bows of the Government.

His Tory MP colleague, William Wragg, has now said he agrees with Mr Largan’s assessment of the situation.

Wragg is a vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee.

Last Thursday morning, hours before Truss resigned, The Times reported:

Liz Truss’s government is teetering on the brink after a day of chaos for the Tory party.

Members of the 1922 Committee, in charge of running Conservative Party leadership contests, are set to meet later today to discuss the escalating crisis.

Speculation is growing that Sir Graham Brady, the committee’s chairman, has already received more than 54 letters calling for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister — the threshold for triggering one if Truss was not in the 12 months’ grace period for new leaders.

Last night senior Conservative MPs warned that Truss’s departure may be accelerated. “We could be talking days, not weeks,” they added.

It was early that afternoon:

Polls slipping since November

The Conservative Party’s slide in the polls began when Boris Johnson’s involvement in Partygate was revealed late in November 2021.

Labour’s rise accelerated during the summer. On Friday, October 21, their lead increased to a historic 35 points in this People Polling poll commissioned by GB News, ‘the People’s Channel’:

Guido’s post includes two other polls:

Polling since Liz Truss’s resignation paints one of the bleakest pictures ever for the party. People Polling puts Labour on 53%, with the Conservatives on a miserable 14%. The Liberal Democrats are just 3 points behind. Pollster Matt Goodwin points out it is the lowest level of support for the Tories in British polling history.  He adds the party is “on life support”.

This isn’t the only psephological headache for the Conservatives. A poll from Omnisis, conducted after the resignation, gives Labour a stonking 57% with the Conservatives on 22%. The 35-point lead is an increase of 14 on Omnisis’ previous poll.

Meanwhile, according to YouGov’s Daily Question, 63% of the public, and 38% of Conservative voters, want a general election.

Call for Boris

Most MPs, regardless of party, think that their voters are stupid.

However, it was hard for voters to dismiss what had happened in one week.

On October 19, Toby Young, founder of the Daily Sceptic, wrote ‘Are We Witnessing a Globalist Coup?’:

As listeners to my London Calling podcast will know, I’m deeply sceptical about conspiracy theories

But my scepticism has been sorely tested by the events of the last few days. The reaction of the bond markets and the currency markets to the mini-budget, the U-turn over cutting the top rate of tax, Kwasi Kwarteng’s defenestration, his replacement by arch-Remainer and Zero Covid zealot Jeremy Hunt and now the sudden departure of sound-as-a-pound Suella Braverman and the elevation of Grant Shapps … it all seems like a globalist coup. Indeed, Suella used the word ’coup’ to describe the attempts to discredit the mini-budget at the Conservative Party Conference.

Liz Truss, when she gave her press conference on the steps of Downing Street last Friday, looked as though someone had kidnapped her children and she was reciting from a script the kidnapper had handed her. And now Suella has gone too. It seems every genuinely conservative, pro-Brexit member of the Government is being picked off, one by one. Suella might have actually done something about the boats crossing the channel. She’d already spoken up about the police acting like the paramilitary wing of the Guardian and she is a steadfast Brexiteer who did some work on dismantling the Northern Irish Protocol as Attorney General. Was she really forced out because of what looked like a very minor security breach? Or have her children been kidnapped, too?

it’s getting increasingly hard to persuade the conspiracy theorists they’re wrong.

That morning, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had the unenviable task of doing the morning news round. The Telegraph summarised what he said:

James Cleverly has suggested the same Tory MPs who ousted Boris Johnson are now working to do the same to Liz Truss. 

The Foreign Secretary said it is “many of the same people” who “defenestrated Boris” who are now criticising the new Prime Minister.

Mr Cleverly argued that none of the challenges facing the UK would be solved by “removing another prime minister” as he said the Government must focus on delivery if it wants to reverse dire opinion polls.

Told that a poll of Tory members found 55 per cent want Ms Truss to resign, Mr Cleverly said: “We have gone through quite recently a situation where lots of people were saying Boris has got to resign and at the time I said okay, you might not be happy, but what is your plan for what happens next?

“For those people who defenestrated Boris, they didn’t have a plan for what’s happening next, they are now criticising the new Prime Minister, many of the same people, and I just say again, look, what we need at this point is we need to get focused on delivery, delivering those minimum service agreements so communities can get to work, delivering the infrastructure so that we can grow the economy, deliver calm, confidence to the markets. I don’t think any of those things would be served by removing another prime minister.”

The next day, Thursday, Toby Young wrote, ‘It’s Got to be Boris’:

I can see a lot of readers balking at that headline

But my gut says that Rishi would be worse

It’s true that the Tory Party will look absurd if it makes Boris leader again six weeks after defenestrating him. But it’s going to look absurd whatever it does. Would it be any less ridiculous to appoint a third leader in as many years?

Suppose you think Rishi would be preferable to Boris. Maybe so, but would Keir Starmer be preferable to Boris? On lockdowns, vaccine passports and Net Zero he’s even more of a zealot than BoJo, and with Rishi at the helm Labour’s victory at the next General Election is almost inevitable.

Finally, just think of how angry all the Boris-haters will be. As I’ve written about before, the reason Boris is so unpopular with the Establishment – the reason he brings certain members of the ruling class out in hives – is because he’s the embodiment of Merrie England. They detest his devil-may-care attitude, his disregard for conventional morality, the fact that he has three wives and god knows how many children. He’s Sid James and Falstaff and Benny Hill rolled into one. He’s a saucy seaside postcard come to life … It would be like the restoration of Charles II, except the Interregnum will only have lasted six weeks.

I’m sure many people are unconvinced and Boris hasn’t even said he’s going to run yet. But I expect he will and if he does I’ll be holding my nose and backing him.

That afternoon, Guido tweeted a YouGov poll from that week showing most Conservative Party members thought that Boris should be the next leader:

Guido added that, if Boris became leader again, Labour would have no grounds on which to demand a general election:

A short time later, Guido heard Boris was returning to the UK:

The news also circulated from other sources.

At 4 p.m., Boris loyalist and Red Wall MP Marco Longhi tweeted, showing the Black Country flag from his part of the Midlands:

Fifteen minutes later, The Telegraph‘s Ben Riley-Smith tweeted the names of Longhi and seven other loyal MPs who were backing Boris, who, it should be noted, had not officially declared:

Shortly afterwards, one of them, Brendan Clarke-Smith, made an articulate case as to why Boris should be the next leader. Guido has the video:

Guido and his team started a new leadership contest spreadsheet, which the BBC referenced that evening. The Boris backers had a clear lead, with Penny Mordaunt in third:

Some Boris backers also came from the 1922 Committee, rather surprisingly. That said, many of the MPs wished to remain anonymous:

An Opinium poll showed that Boris in charge would save the most Conservative seats were a general election held. It is worth noting that, in this contest, only Rishi, Penny and Boris were in the running. Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch were not:

Conservative Party members began contacting their MPs with ‘strongly worded’ pro-Boris emails:

Millions of British voters rejoiced at the prospect of Boris’s return:

The Sun put the news on Friday’s front page:

The Telegraph reported it, too:

The BBC’s Newsnight referenced Guido’s spreadsheet in their coverage that night:

The morning of Friday, October 21, a fishmonger in Birmingham told a BBC Breakfast reporter that Boris needed to succeed Liz Truss. Look at her facial expression:

Guido mentioned the interview as well as another pro-Boris one from the evening before, in Rushcliffe, also on the BBC:

Stanley Johnson told Good Morning Britain that he thought his son was on a plane:

The enthusiasm for Boris was palpable.

Friday saw more developments, which I will go into tomorrow.

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