More than 20 years ago, during the 2001 Conservative leadership contest, the British Labor Party led the party to believe that Michael Portillo was the candidate they feared most.
It was a trick. Indeed, as Derek Draper, Peter Mandelson’s former advisor, finally revealed in the Daily MailKenneth Clarke was seen as the real threat to the New Labor government at the time.
Today, some might think that Rishi Sunak, another slick frontrunner – who, like “Plotillo,” as he was known in Clarke circles, claims the support of up to 100 MPs – is terrifying the opposition. You would be wrong again.
In fact, there is now only one candidate to succeed Boris Johnson who should really worry Labor: Johnson’s nemesis Tom Tugendhat.
The moderate MP for Tonbridge and Malling has only been a Conservative MP since his election in 2015.
Not only has he fought Johnson, but he has also fought a backcountry that goes far beyond Tory party politics and Westminster hackers.
He served with the Royal Marines in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and was mobilized as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer.
Tugendhat, who was also military assistant to the chief of defense staff, served two years in Afghanistan, completing his last patrol there in 2009.
He would describe the fall of Kabul under Johnson’s watch as Britain’s “biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez”.
A practicing Catholic who is close friends with Jacob Rees-Mogg — despite the two men’s disagreement over Johnson — Tugendhat, who has a French wife and two children, is viewed as a man of honest integrity in a party seeking a Return thirsts normal level of decency in government.
He has already been attacked by The audience as untested and too pro-European after voting to remain. The “Anti-Woke” website Spike has strongly opposed his ascension, declaring: “Everyone except Tom Tugendhat.”
However, there is a fear among serious Labor advisers who follow their opponents that should he reach the last two, the thirst for integrity may prevail even among the Tory party’s idiosyncratic constituency.
A former senior Labor strategist who follows Tory policy closely says: “Tugendhat is Labour’s most problematic candidate as a ‘clean start’ candidate. He impressed MPs in the House of Commons.”
An adviser to Labor leader Keir Starmer admitted: “It would be bad for us if the Tories elected someone from the next generation.”
Unlike Sunak, he failed to produce a slick campaign video for a website registered months ago. Apart from that, however, Tugendhat had an almost perfect start.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes had him at odds of 20-1 last Thursday while he announced his candidacy on Friday The Daily Telegraph with an accompanying caption that said, “I’ve Served Before. Now I hope to answer the call as Prime Minister.”
Until Saturday, when Tugendhat made a positive and decisive argument for retaining the union with Scotland The timeshis chances had been cut to 8-1.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s decision the same day not to run only gave his campaign a boost.
As in 2001, the Tories face a choice: right-wing ideology or eligibility.
Ken Clarke was a country winner whom the party rejected. Labor will hope they make the same mistake again.
James Macintyre is co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labor Leader
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/level-headed-tory-candidate-tom-tugendhat-is-the-most-feared-by-uk-labour-41831920.html Level-headed Tory candidate Tom Tugendhat is the most feared of the British Labor Party