The race has begun between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to become Prime Minister after Penny Mordaunt was eliminated from the contest on Wednesday. Our fate is now in the hands of some 160,000 Tory Party members who will elect the winner.   

 We have a hot summer of heated hustings ahead, with 45 days to go until the new leader is announced. But with Parliament in recess, WTWN will be taking a short break for a few weeks – see you in September! 

Flying High

 Liz Truss portrait

Liz Truss

has become the bookies’ (pork) market favourite to be the next Prime Minister, so it’s difficult to deny that she is ‘flying high’ this week.

Since the race began, Truss has declined broadcast interviews, apart from the TV debates, focusing on honing her message to MPs who were the only audience for getting onto the final two. She has managed to convince “red wall” MPs that despite her past as a Remainer, she is committed to the Brexit cause, evident through trade deals signed during her time as International Trade Secretary.

The race to the final two was unpredictable, but Truss has appealed to the right wing of her party through her libertarianism, trumpeting the value of free markets, backing immediate tax cuts and repeatedly railing against the “nanny state”.

And it’s not only the bookies that have placed her as favourite, polling of party members by YouGov suggests she’ll soundly defeat her opponent in the runoff vote among the party grassroots. The contest isn’t only between 2 personalities, but also between two contrasting economic visions – we will soon discover if the Tory grassroots accept the need for Rishi’s fiscal conservatism or if their heads are turned by Liz’s tax cuts now.

Middle Ranking

 Rishi Sunak portrait

Rishi Sunak

may have got support from 137 MPs, compared with 113 for Liz Truss, but the former Goldman Sachs analyst, pandemic chancellor and self-described coke-addict is the bookies’ second favourite to become the next PM.

Unlike his opponent, Sunak has been finding himself having to defend his record in Government, after he pledged to do “whatever it takes” to help people through the pandemic in the spring of 2020 – and unveiled support worth £350bn. He clearly feels he has a point to prove, after critics within the party suggested his tax rises as chancellor made him a socialist. In response, Sunak describes himself as a “Thatcherite” four times in three sentences in an article in The Telegraph published on Wednesday and branded Truss as the “socialist” for her unfunded economic plans.

This has been a grubby contest so far and it will only get worse over the summer. One of Sunak or Truss will emerge as Prime Minister in September, but they risk collectively ripping the Conservative party apart in the process with one of them left with the unenviable task of picking up the pieces, dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and preparing for a general election in just two years’ time. The other defeated candidates may well end up seeing this contest as a good one to have lost.

Sinking Quickly

 Mr Tobias Ellwood portrait

Tobias Ellwood

had a rough week after being suspended from the parliamentary party after he missed a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s government. The former minister and current chair of the Commons Defence Committee had a meeting with the president of Moldova on Monday and had been “unable to secure return travel due to unprecedented disruption both here and in the UK”. But Culture Secretary and Boris loyalist Nadine Doyle said that he “could have voted like everyone else”.

As a result of having the whip suspended, Ellwood was unable to back Penny Mordaunt in the fourth round of the Conservative leadership contest. He did, however, have the whip temporarily reinstated to vote in the fifth round.

The now independent MP also had a rough start to the week after The Sun and The Mail both reported that he ran over and killed his cat earlier this year and is now being pursued by vigilantes. One person from Ellwood’s village claims that his house was pelted by eggs and croquet mallets. A less than purrrrrfect start to the summer recess for Ellwood.

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