Blog: The Tory leadership race

These live debates have given us an unusual close-up of the Tories’ division, chaos and incompetence, and a front row view of their dying days in Westminster

Portrait of Christina McAnea

Today, there are still five candidates left standing in the race to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister. The third round of voting is today and follows a weekend of campaigning and embarrassing TV debates.

Each one of the candidates is a part of the ruling Tory party that’s been in power for the past 12 years. Most have served in Boris Johnson’s government as either a cabinet or junior minister, and all propped up and voted through a Tory agenda that has led us to where we are today – a deepening cost of living crisis, and an integrity vacuum at the top of British politics.

Yet the debates over the weekend would make anyone think they’re all from different parties, tearing chunks out of each other personally, and on their weak manifestos. Liz Truss claimed former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plans would drive the country into a recession, Penny Mordaunt had no economic plan at all, and Kemi Badenoch made some alarming comments against green policies, despite historic red warnings being issued in the UK.

Tom Tugendhat lacked any enthusiasm for the top job and, as the candidates rounded off the debate with their closing speeches, Liz Truss had to look at her notes to remind herself that she thinks the big issue at the next election will be the economy.

Each tried desperately to distance themselves from Boris Johnson, and all admitted, in their own way, that the country needs change and can do better. Well, yes, they’re right to some extent, the country does need a change. But that change shouldn’t include anyone from the party that has been in power for the last 12 years.

And there was something starker, more troubling – not only for our public services, but for the future of our society. As they try to out right-wing each other, paying homage to Margaret Thatcher and pledging a smaller state, it’s clear our NHS, schools, local councils and policing are not safe in any of their hands.

This is a crucial time for our public services and public service workers, but they’re all determined to stick to public sector pay restraint, warning that pay rises will turbocharge inflation. We know this isn’t true, because there’s been low inflation over the last decade, at the same time as real terms pay cuts in the public sector.

Tory party members alone will get to decide who our next prime minister will be. They number just over one tenth of the total UNISON membership, no more than that, and are not representative of the general population. But these live debates have given all of us an unusual close-up of the Tories’ division, chaos and incompetence, and a front row view of their dying days in Westminster.

The final debate has been cancelled, because the two most senior politicians, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, have pulled out. I guess they finally realised that when, the gloves are off, and the public gets a glimpse of their real characters, they damage their chances of winning the next general election.