Tories’ Not-So-Famous Five offer little real hope for nation

Best that they can come up with: after the latest elimination round of the Tories’ game of musical chairs over who is to be the country’s PM, there’s not much to find encouraging

ANDREW FISHER on the search for a new Prime Minister, and what it could all mean for Croydon

It’s getting nasty: how the cover of The Spectator, virtually the Tory Party’s house magazine, portrays the contest

The ancient Roman poet Juvenal observed that people needed “bread and circuses”.

In Britain today, more people than ever are queuing for bread at food banks, in the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory.

But at least we also have the circus of the Conservative Party’s internal fighting over who will replace Boris Johnson for our entertainment.

The drawn-out spectacle of the Conservative Party leadership race has a final quintet, with the real battle now looking like a contest of who, between Penny Mordaunt or Liz Truss, will face Rishi Sunak in the final two-candidate run-off: a vote of the members of all the members of the Conservative Party, with the new Prime Minister due to be announced by September 5.

It will have taken two months to get to that point.

First, the Tory backbenchers’ committee, the 1922 Committee, had to set the rules of engagement, as it has been left to the Conservatives’ 358 MPs to whittle down the candidates for leader to the final two.

Complete TiT: it’s fair to say that not all the Tory candidates’ multi-media campaigns have gone without a hitch

Nominations opened and closed on Tuesday, with each candidate needing to have nominations from at least 20 Conservative MPs to reach the first ballot. That quickly saw 11 hopefuls reduced down to eight: Suella Braverman (who in 2013 was shortlisted for selection as Croydon South’s Tory prospective parliamentary candidate), Tom Tugendhat, Jeremy Hunt, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

Cut from the starting 11, as they lacked the support of even 20 of their parliamentary colleagues, were Sajid Javid – who at least had the backing of Croydon South MP Chris Philp, not that that will have been much consolation – Grant Shapps and Rehman Chishti, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham.

His campaign was so half-hearted it wasn’t clear whether even Rehman Chishti was backing Rehman Chishti.

When asked by Sky News’ Sam Coates, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me that at any point in the last 48 hours you believed you were going to become Prime Minister?”, Chishti replied: “The honest answer is ‘No’.”

What many might agree is an unusually honest answer from a Conservative MP…

Chishti’s one backer (a Mr R Chishti MP) quickly decided to back Tom Tugendhat for leader.

In the first round of voting by Tory MPs, held on Wednesday, the candidates required at least 30 votes from MPs to avoid dropping out. Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt failed to make the threshold and were out.

Yesterday, Suella Braverman, whose interviews are so bad she’s had more car crashes than a Dukes of Hazzard boxset (the clip from Channel 4 News from a couple of years ago is a good example), also landed on the discard pile. It’s not so much a process of separating the wheat from the chaff, as separating the chaff from the lower grade chaff.

The current crop of contenders to lead the Conservative Party drifts ever further from reality. As more people by the day struggle to make ends meet, this cavalcade of clowns on offer are advocating we spend up to £30billion giving tax cuts to profitable corporations. I’m not convinced the growing number of people tightening their belts will be convinced that’s the priority.

Lot to live down to: how one daily paper captured the impact of the latest Tory PM

Others seem to think the primary question facing Britain is which stick figure is on the toilet door. Again, I’m not sure it’s a widely held view that the next Prime Minister’s priority should be to focus on more discrimination against one of the most discriminated against groups in society.

And will all this mean for Croydon?

Last week, Croydon’s part-time Conservative Mayor, Jason Perry, announced that he had “bid for almost £20million of levelling up funding, which would firmly put town centre regeneration back on track”.

Yet it’s not clear whether the goal of “levelling up” will survive in the Conservative government post-Johnson. Michael Gove was sacked by Boris Johnson from the expensively rebranded Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the interim Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, has announced that he wants cuts of 20per cent to every government department.

The bigger problem for Mayor Perry’s ambitions for town centre regeneration is the fact that after years of misery for the country’s high streets, retail sales are collapsing.

It’s also not clear how far £20million – just 1.4per cent of the abandoned £1.4billion Westfield scheme – is going to regenerate anything.

Whether or not Croydon’s funding bid is successful, retail is in real trouble (hence why Westfield pulled out). The covid lockdowns accelerated the shift to online retail, while falling real wages and high inflation have fed through into reduced consumer demand. The British Retail Consortium has recorded falling retail sales for three successive months, and the decline is accelerating.

Ready Rishi: Sunak’s campaign for leader was ready long before he resigned as Johnson’s Chancellor

Whoever wins the Tory leadership is likely to impose a new round of austerity, and that will mean even less money for Croydon’s beleaguered council, even longer waits at hospital or for a GP, longer delays to renew a passport or driving licence, and even more local services cut back.

Lord Barwell (the former MP for Croydon Central and ex-chief of staff in Downing Street to Theresa May) has seemed exasperated by the leadership contest, criticising his former colleagues for pledging to ditch our net zero commitment and expressing his wish that candidates would “tell the truth rather than what some Conservative MPs want to hear”.

Most of all, the various unfunded tax cuts commitment have irked Barwell, provoking the admonishment that, “You can’t have Thatcher levels of taxation and Johnson levels of public spending – particularly given damage Brexit has done to economy and increased demand for public services post-covid.”

So who do Croydon’s Conservative luminaries back to sort this out?

Part-time Perry has so far been tight-lipped.

Philp and Baron Barwell were backing Sajid Javid for leader, with Barwell tweeting on Tuesday, “Sorry to see my friend Sajid Javid withdraw from the leadership election. It was his decision to resign from the Cabinet – while others continued to defend the indefensible – that finally brought Boris Johnson’s premiership to an end.”

In the case of Philp, who had held on to his position as a junior minister under Johnson for longer than many of those who resigned their government jobs last week, he seemed a little conflicted over whether or not to defend the indefensible, first by offering to continue working on DCMS legislation in his resignation letter, and then by seeming to “un-resign” live on air in a TV news interview.

In an interview with Channel 4 News’s Cathy Newman, Philp said, “I’m not un-resigning, no I’m not un-resigning. That’s really naughty Cathy. I’m not looking for a job”, before saying he would be happy to continue serving.

Sadly for Philp, in the week since, there’s been no offer forthcoming.

And the Croydon South MP appears to have gone into hiding since. After Javid’s withdrawal, Philp has failed to state which other candidate for leader he’s backing (it would look unseemly, and wouldn’t help his prospects much, if he were to choose the wrong one).

A dejected figure might be hawking himself around the prospective leaders’ campaign offices, perhaps borrowing Yosser Hughes’ catchphrase: “Gizza job”.

A HEATED DEBATE: Tonight sees the first of three Tory leadership election TV debates, as the Conservatives’ search for the next Prime Minister approaches its final stage.

Tonight’s debate, expected to feature all five of the remaining candidates, will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 7.30pm, running for 90 minutes and hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

The second, on Sunday July 17, will be broadcast on ITV at 7pm and run for an hour. The third and final session takes place on the evening of Tuesday July 19, by which point more candidates will have been eliminated after a further round of voting on Monday.

Some of Andrew Fisher’s recent columns:

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to Tories’ Not-So-Famous Five offer little real hope for nation

  1. They’re touting the tainted! Scary thought that at best 180.000 mainly white, male, elderly people get to choose one of these to lead us for the next 2 years, especially given their identikit extreme right wing views on Tax, state support, Europe, gender rights, etc, etc and their compliance with making excuses for a man who consistently mislead the nation. Whoever Philp grovels to, it isn’t going to make an iota of difference.

    • Thomas Windsor says:

      Interestingly we only have one white male out of the five standing. We have a very good chance of having a third female Prime Minster, or first Asian P.M. We could even have our first black P.M.! All provided without a quota system.

  2. Martin Rosen says:

    George, perhaps you would share with us your source for your “mainly white, male, elderly people” comment? Or is it just something you overheard in the pub?

    • Martin, may I refer you an article in The New Statesman ( not exactly a left wing source) dated 13.7.22 where Anoosh Chakekan cites Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary College London.

      Of the 175,000 Conservative party members – “This is not a very representative sample of the British electorate” – being in fact 80% social demographic AB&C, 63% male, 95% white British and 97% over 50?

      I think this might make them “mainly white, male, elderly”.

      What are your figures and sources Martin? I’d be interested to know them, or are they based on something you might have overheard in a pub?

      Perhaps I shouldn’t say that because I don’t normally assume that everyone who doesn’t agree with my viewpoint is ill-informed.

    • Andrew Fisher says:

      Tory membership is 71% male and 56% are aged over-55 according to research by Professor Tim Bale published in 2019. I can’t find any data on ethnicity though

      • Thank you Andrew. The figures I quote are in the 13.7.22 of The New Statesman editorial by Mr Chakelian. It is available on line. Your 2019 figures however, do seem to support the broad thrust of what I’m saying.

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