If the spectacle of last Sunday’s bitter Tory leaders’ debate is repeated across the country in the hot humid days of August, the Tory Party will be in serious danger of losing the next election.

It is not just the sight of Cabinet “colleagues” tearing into each other but the way they disowned policies they had supported as ministers. One thing is certain, if they secretly disagreed with higher taxes, we still had to pay them!

The Sunak-Truss contest will be a test of whether the Conservative members want to give themselves a fighting chance of winning a fifth term or indulge their ideological longing for tax cuts.

The country is focused on a host of problems which the chaotic Johnson government is failing to deal with. Inflation and rocketing energy bills are hitting the standard of living. There are huge labour shortages caused by Brexit. Action on the green agenda, housing and levelling up has stalled. Yet all you heard about in the first part of this leadership election was tax.

Rishi Sunak is the only candidate to tell the truth about it. We are paying north of £80bn in national debt interest charges. He’s right, that can’t be wished away by fairy tales. I am disappointed with Liz Truss. Ever since she attended a Downtown event some years ago, I saw her as potential Prime Ministerial material. But now she is going out of her way to distance herself from voting Remain, and while houses were burning up and down the country, promised to cut the climate levy from energy bills.

There is widespread disappointment among northern Tory grassroots that a candidate, not associated with the Johnson regime, isn’t on the ballot. Some are petitioning for Johnson to be included, angered as they are that once again MPs have taken away their champion. They are no doubt encouraged at Johnson’s hints that we have not seen the last of him. The Trumpian comparisons continue. It is unlikely he’ll remain a backbench MP for long, but we are all familiar with what damage disgruntled Tory leaders can do. The long sulk of Ted Heath was followed by the back seat driving of Margaret Thatcher during John Major’s years.

Egged on by the Daily “what have they done “Mail, Johnson will be incapable of shutting up and will have a vested interest in seeing that his successor doesn’t get anywhere near his 80-seat majority. Instead, he could be secretly hoping for a short Labour government during which he could return.

It is expected that Tory Party members will return their ballots early so the candidate’s performance in the Leeds on July 28th will be important. By the time Truss and Sunak rack up in Manchester on August 19th and Birmingham on August 23rd, most votes will be returned.

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