This week the Labour party claimed a 14 point lead over the Tories in the polls, a whopping 45 to 31 advantage. That pushes Labour into Blair landslide territory for the next general election. Yet most political pundits seem to assume that the Tory leader to follow Johnson will help them regroup and attack Labour better than they could have done under Boris.
While I’m sure a Johnson-led Conservative party would have lost the next general election anyhow and a new leader could improve their fortunes, I believe the Tories are actually in a lot of trouble here. Labour might do better at the next general election than even the current polls suggest – and again, they are now telling us Labour are on course for a landslide victory.
Given that, which of the runners and riders in the Tory leadership race has the best chance of staying in power by defeating Keir Starmer at the next general election? Let’s start by analysing the most obvious contenders: Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid.
Sunak: ‘People who run Conservative associations up and down the country don’t like him very much’
Sunak has many issues to contend with. The biggest is that people who run Conservative associations up and down the country don’t like him very much. The main reason for this is that Sunak is 42 years old and extremely wealthy. Most of the people who run the associations, the backbone of the party throughout the country, are older than that, 55 and up, and it is safe to say are nowhere near as wealthy as Rishi Sunak is. They find him grating as a result. If he was younger, say 35, they could view him as a precocious upstart; if he was older and slightly less rich, he’d be one of them. As is, he’s in a zone of perfect annoyingness.
Yes, but what if he overcame all that and took the mantle of leader anyhow? I think Sunak is not actually that great a politician and Starmer probably should beat him if they went head-to-head. It’s clear to me that he would have no great ideas for how to revive the Conservative party post-Johnson and would almost certainly sound mushy and ineffectual. I think he’d lose a general election.
All right, so what about Truss? I truly believe that she’d be the one out and out disaster as leader amongst the bunch I have picked out. If she gets the nod as Tory leader, I would put all thoughts of a progressive majority out of your minds because Labour will win a landslide majority, as in 50+. Truss will come to pieces in the midst of a general election campaign – imagine Theresa May in 2017 times five. But it doesn’t matter, I’m pretty sure she won’t get it anyhow either. I mean, if she does, the Conservative party is more forgone than even I could have ever imagined.
Mordaunt: “Likened Brexit to the American Revolution and overthrowing the chains of dictatorship”
Penny Mordaunt is one of those politicians who people think are very competent simply by dint of the fact that she is articulate and outwardly confident. Yet Mordaunt has shovelled some extreme rubbish during her time in government. You don’t even have to go back to her “Turkey will join the EU any second now” moment during the referendum campaign to get to some gold, there’s so much that’s more recent.
Like her speech in America likening Brexit to the American Revolution and overthrowing the chains of dictatorship, which was painfully awful; or the more recent articles for right-wing publications she has authored, in which she has allowed the most outrageously stupid things to go out under her name. I ask you, would you like the next prime minister of this country to be someone who would be happy to have the following said in her own voice about those she happens to disagree with:
“What we believe matters and there are too many that want us to fail just to satisfy their only vanity – that they were right all along. They seem to hate our country and want it to fail, maybe it’s because they have failed themselves. You hear this from many over-educated, under-achievers.”
That should hammer it home: Mordaunt isn’t the sane one. She has in fact been happy to play to the maniacs for a long time running and I severely doubt she would stop once she got inside No. 10. However, I think she’s got a much better chance of winning the leadership contest that the previous two.
Sajid Javid is probably my favourite of this bunch – as in, he is not quite as repulsive as the rest – if only because there are elements of his story that you can’t help but like unless you’re a racist, added to the fact that I think somewhere in there exists someone who means well. However, there is lots to tell you Javid is not the man to lead the Tories back to the promised land. I can summarise why very easily: he’s a boring guy with no ideas. Those are large impediments to overcome.
So, is that it? Is the next general election in the bag for Starmer? Well, there was one chap I think could have really threatened him. One out the current Tory parliamentary party who I think would have sent chills up the spines of everyone in the Labour leader’s office: Ben Wallace, the current Defence Secretary.
Wallace is the manifestation of the perfect Tory PM to battle the next election against Keir Starmer, as if he had sprung from the collective imagination of CCHQ itself. An ex-army captain, Wallace entered the radar for most people not politically obsessed when, as Secretary of State for Defence, he spoke in the media about his sadness around what had happened in Kabul when it fell to the Taliban. It was magnificent – he managed to convey disappointment and heartbreak around what was happening without either implicating his own government or the US, which under the circumstances was impressive.
Ben Wallace is basically the anti-Boris Johnson: serious, thoughtful, caring, patriotic in a genuine sense as opposed to just indulging in bullshit flag-waving nonsense (rare in Britain in this day and age), with a real, heartfelt feeling for the western alliance and what underpins it. If it sounds like I’m in love with Wallace, I in fact disagree with him on loads of things, but I cannot deny his integrity – in sharp contrast to the clownish, still serving prime minister of this country, to take a relevant counter example.
Wallace: impressive in key moments as Defence Secretary, there’s just one problem …
There’s just one small problem: Wallace has decided not to run. He was their best shot at winning the next general election by miles and for whatever reason, he’s decided to stay out of it all.
The Conservative party leadership contest that is just getting underway will be ugly, brutal and disfiguring for them and further, will demonstrate all of the worst elements of the Tories along the way. I feel their worship at the altar of Brexit and their misguided idea that your average Briton is a hard right UKIPer will mean they are likely to pick someone who will then lead them into oblivion. I can look to Suella Braverman as someone who is remarkably ill equipped to do the job and yet might well get it, squeaking through to the final two and then winning with Conservative members. Braverman would be crushed by Starmer in a general election.
In summary, I think in Wallace not standing to be leader, the Tories missed their one chance to pull everything back together again. He was their one shot at pulling the trick they did with May and Johnson of selling the new prime minister as a fresh dawn for the country. I don’t see anyone left in the race who can turn their fortunes around in the same way. If Labour can utilise the amazing opportunity all of this brings them, I think they can win the next general election outright.
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