Tory Leadership debate: They’ll get personal, but when will they get with the programme?

As if the sweltering temperatures weren’t enough – many of us were put through the excruciating task of tuning in to Sunday night’s Tory leadership debate. Five candidates. One goal. But, close to zero idea of what it’s like to have a grip on reality. 

They blamed, dodged, and most worryingly – lied their way through an hour of what was at times, painfully awkward questioning. Tory voter or not (and in this case, most definitely not), the debate was a good chance to sit down, take stock, and bite the bullet before taking a clear view at a future that still looks full of uncertainty. 

One of the five people on our screens are about to lead the country into some of the most turbulent times in our existence. The economy. The Climate. Foreign policy. Not to mention a nation full to the brim of disgruntled workforces.  These issues all hang perilously in the balance, and they all require a safe pair of hands to steady us towards more stable shores. Hardly asking for too much, is it? 

Mud slinging 

As much as the usual ‘it’s politics’ rhetoric can be applied to Sunday’s Tory leadership debate, the willingness from each of the five candidates to throw their colleagues under the bus was telling really. Damaging too. Soon after Sunday’s car crash, former chancellor, Rishi Sunak and current foreign secretary and early favourite Liz Truss have pulled out of the next scheduled debate. 

How well does that bode for the rest of the country? Two of likeliest names thrown in the hat to be the next PM, shying away at the first sign of scrutiny. Not sure that sits right with me, to be honest. 

Back to the matter in hand. A double-edged sword. While most of us welcome the fact that all five hopefuls said they wouldn’t include Boris Johnson in their potential cabinets. You can’t help but allow your inner scepticism to build-up in response to the seemingly performative newfound set of moral compasses on show. 

Triple threat

Five has quickly become two, with Tom Tugendhat, Kemi Badenoch and Penny Mordaunt eliminated from the running since Sunday’s clash. What’s become clear with this leadership contest though, and politics more broadly, is that policy has been replaced with personalities. Both when it comes to our politicians selling their ideas to the electorate, but also when their counterparts are looking for a stick to beat their opponents with. 

Personal attacks have become more important than holding policy to account, while good spin has been prioritised at the detriment of the truth. This cannot continue. All it’s done is land us in a situation where the key decision makers – from both ends of the spectrum let’s be clear – would rather save face than present us with the cold, hard facts. 

Two to tango

Rishi Sunak is the clear front runner. And although Liz Truss might have overcome Penny Mordaunt for the second and final spot, she’ll have a much tougher task derailing the former chancellor. Sunak comes primed and ready to take the top spot off someone who he once considered a close ally in Boris Johnson.

The next few months are vital for the Tories. This is a hugely precarious moment for the self-proclaimed ‘most successful political party in history’. What will this continued success come at the cost of though? Between Brexit, the pandemic and one of the most divisive leaders in its history – it feels like the Conservative Party has never been more split. 

And while the tussle for leadership, and ultimately power rumbles on – why does it feel like the biggest losers will continue to be us? 

Previous article:
New hire alert: Hannah Clarke