It was Karl Marx, who said "History repeats itself, once as tragedy and twice as farce". Well when it comes to Tory Leadership contests we had Theresa May deliver us a tragedy, Boris Johnson delivered us a farce. What follows Farce? Maybe we should add that "and a third time as a Hanna Barbera cartoon. In this case, the competition has become Whacky Races, with Dick Dastardly (AKA Rishi Sunak) plotting and scheming to stop Penelope Pitstop (AKA Penny Mordaunt) from strolling into number ten.
Anyone who ever watched Whacky Races knows the ending. Dick Dastardly spends so much time plotting and schemeing how to stop his rivals, that he doesn't concentrate on the racing so always loses. I suspect that even if his efforts to derail the wonderful Ms Pitstop fail, all he'll do is damage his reputation and open the door for another contender, most likely Liz Truss. Given that Ms Truss has decided that being the "Boris continuity candidate" is a smart move, I can see this all going rather Pete Tong for the Tories. The problem with being the Boris continuity candidate is that the only real asset Boris ever had was his massive power of personality. Saying you are the new Boris whilst being as dull as dishwater strikes me as just about the worst strategy in the world to convince voters that you are Prime Minister material. It seems to me that the Tory MP's have decided that they want Rishi Sunak, but know he's going to lose to whoever comes second in the contest. The Tory Membership think his Dick Dastardly style shenanigans to shaft Boris and crown himself leader are inforgiveable.
I've been talking to quite a few people of all different political parties about the contest. What is difficult for me to fathom is that just about everyone seems in a sense of complete denial about the reality. Whoever wins the leadership has a large majority and is very unlikely to call an election until they have a realistic chance of winning. This means that whatever happens, the new leader will be running the show for at least a year or two and will have to build a credible platform to bring back the Tories who didn't bother to vote in recent elections. For the rest of us, we need someone who is decent, credible, honest and competent. I'd urge any Tory MP's and members who may read this to set this benchmark. It seem to me that there are only three serious candidates. Sunak, Mordaunt and Truss.
How does each of these fair when we measure them against these tests
Decent - Do decent people who are the chancellor exploit Tax loopholes in the way Sunak has? Do they shaft their boss to further their own career? I think Sunak should have disqualified himself and I suspect that the Tory membership will agree with me in the final battle. The way his team are trying to shaft Penny Mordaunt is not exactly what passes for decency in my books, but sadly that is politics.
Credible - Sunak has a degree of credibility as a serious contender as he was chancellor through the most difficult period in modern times.
Honest - Do I trust Rishi Sunak? I think he's been tainted by his association with Boris Johnson. His failure to resign when he go a fixed penalty for being at a Boris No 10 party makes me doubt he has the moral gumption for the job. He's got a history of being evasive about his personal financial affairs, which is not what I want from a Prime Minister.
Competent - I have no doubt he'd be able to manage the economy. He had held a big government job and we know what we'll get. Does he have the wider perspective to be PM though? Tory MP's who know him best seem to think so.
My verdict - I think he'd be a competent Prime Minister, but after the Boris debacle, we need someone a little bit more trustworthy.
Decent - I can't say Liz Truss isn't decent. I've felt for the last two years that she'd be the next leader and I suspect she'll be the beneficiary of Sunak's shenanigans. I googled Liz Truss Scandals and the best the Daily Mirror could come up with was that she had a fling with a married Tory MP in 2009. If that's the worst she's done she's probably decent enough.
Credible - She holds the post of foreign secretary and so has held a major office. She hasn't exactly excelled as a foreign secretary but she hasn't made the disasterous gaffe's of the scale Boris did, which should have alerted us to his poor judgement.
Honest - I've seen no evidence that she isn't honest. There are not reams of stories of her dodgyness circulating.
Competent - She seems a safe and steady sort of person. She doesn't leave a trail of scandals and cock ups in her wake. I suspect that she'd be operating above her level as PM, I think she's an OK minister, but being the boss is a different matter.
My verdict - I suspect Liz Truss will win and I suspect the Conservative party and the country will regret it bitterly. I just don't think she has the gumption and backbone to do the top job. I may be wrong, but when I see her, I get an air of the Theresa May's.
Decent - As with Truss, she doesn't have a track record of causing scandals. I think the fact that she's associated with the military indicates that she is a team player. Generally people who are a bit shifty get weeded out
Credible - This is where she scores badly. Unlike the other two, she's not had a big job. Is she credible? I think she is. She's been prepared to go out on a limb over issues such as Trans rights, which shows me that she is not afraid to take a principled stand. Even if you disagree with her position, I think you have to accept that she's shown she is not afraid to swim against the tide of opinion.
Honest - She is responsible for one of the biggest porkies of the Leave campaign. The claim that the EU was about to let Turkey join. For me that is a problem. Even if you are a staunch leaver, do you really want someone who tells massive whoppers to be PM? On the other side of that coin though, if you want someone who is going to win elections, she's shown she will be a bit unprincipled when required, which sadly is a key quality in politicians.
Competent - This is a hard one to judge. She's not really been tested. Many Tories will say "neither was Thatcher before she became PM" as she'd only been a rather unsuccessful Education secretary.
My verdict - If I was a Tory I'd want Penny Mordaunt to win. Her miliary background shows she has a bit of backbone. She has shown she will use the dark arts to win. She doesn't appear to have a closet full of skeletons. She's rattled Rishi Sunak and has seemingly come from nowhere to put herself in a prime position.
My view overall. As someone who wants to see the Conservatives lose the next election, believes in decency in politics and who recognises that we need competent government until we get the chance to vote, I want to see Liz Truss win. I think she'll be dull and competent and lose the next election, wiythout destroying the economy. I don't want to see a shifty sausage in charge, which for me rules out Sunak. I don't want to see Mordaunt win, as I suspect she would be more dynamic and more likely to re-energise the Tory party. As for Rishi Sunak, if he does win, something I really can't see happening, I think his policies will bring about a very deep and difficult recession. The guy does not seem to understand that the only way the UK can get out of the mess it's in is to invest in infrastructure, improve productivity and to encourage dynamic activity in the economy. As a business owner, I think he'd be a total disaster.
Just one final, rather off the wall note. Whilst researching this blog, I watched quite a lot of Whacky Races. I'd never really realised it, but there are real anti semitic tones about it. If you watch it, Dick Dastardly definitely gets a very raw deal. Most of the contestants were cheating, but Dastardlys disqualification after winning for extending the nose of his car was clearly a case of anti semitism. My favourite character was always Muttly, who reminds me of Ed Balls.