Now step forward if you can truly say you knew who Penny Mordaunt was before this week. This political lark has been paying the bills for me longer than I care to admit, but honestly all I could have told you was that she was “something in the British Cabinet”.
Suddenly she’s a media darling and the bookies’ favorite to succeed Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister. Part of the reason for her rise as a genuine contender is that old allies of Johnson’s – even those who firmly fired him earlier last week – are now seen as “toxic”.
The ruling Conservative Party is trying to remake its image in hopes of avoiding being slaughtered in the next election, which is expected in late 2024.
The ‘toxic’ label will remind many Irish political anoraks of what happened to key Fianna Fáil figures after the 2008 economic crash and the subsequent entry of the feared EU-IMF-ECB troika to govern that country.
It is also a reminder of what happened to Fine Gael and Labor luminaries after they signed the austerity measures in the coalition for five years in 2011-2016. This underscored the accuracy of former EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker’s summary that “we know what to do to fix the economy – we just don’t know how we’ll be re-elected afterwards”.
This mad British Tory leadership race, caused by the reckless behavior of Johnson that eventually caught up with him, is keeping politics students on this side of the Irish Sea on the mind, not least because its outcome affects us for a multitude of reasons, and not just over Northern Ireland.
Fortunately, pro-Brexiteer rhetorician and recent Attorney General Suella Braverman failed to clear the 30-vote exclusion threshold.
We also have to stress that comparisons between British and Irish politics are becoming more and more limited, and that’s pretty good overall.
As of yesterday, the original 11 declared candidates, many of them with serious delusions well beyond their abilities, had been mercifully reduced to five after two rounds of voting by the 358 MPs. Fortunately, pro-Brexiteer rhetorician and recent Attorney General Suella Braverman failed to clear the 30-vote exclusion threshold.
The next round of voting is on Monday – expect the two lowest to fall soon. It could well be a three-way battle then, with surprise front-runner Ms Mordaunt so far sandwiched between the other two heavyweights, former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and former Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the former Remainer who is very strident these days Brexiteer.
Rishi Sunak is still in first place after finally surpassing triple digits yesterday with 101. Many pundits pointed out that the last two Conservative Party leaders, Johnson and Theresa May, did so in the first campaign in 2016 and 2019, respectively. The real point here is that Ms Mordaunt remains in second place with 83 votes to Liz Truss’ 64.
There was more bad news yesterday in a YouGov poll of Tory members which showed Rishi Sunak losing in a neck-and-neck race with one of the top two.
The former Chancellor’s toxicity relates to revelations about the tax status of his very wealthy non-resident wife. That he pulled the rug out from under Johnson last week may not have completely erased people’s memories of it, and his prolonged association with the ousted leader is still a liability. Political toxicity is easier to acquire than to banish, and turning around takes time.
A series of televised debates starting tonight and continuing through the weekend will be a major test for all candidates, particularly Penny Mordaunt. Even the meek ones financial times‘s political writers say ‘the knives are on Ms Mordaunt’ so the coming days will be a big test.
As it stands, the final choice between the final two candidates will be made by postal vote among the party’s 200,000 paying members, representing 0.29 per cent of the UK population. Most of them are white males over the age of 60 living in south-east England.
The question lurking in the shadows is whether Tory activists are ready for a party leader drawn from the Asian community.
We can expect a result by September 5th, with the winner probably becoming British Prime Minister the next day.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/britain/why-this-crazy-race-to-be-the-next-tory-leader-is-a-reminder-of-our-own-political-past-41841203.html Why this mad race for the next Tory leader is a reminder of our own political past