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Rishi Sunak won both televised hustings of the leadership race. In a snap Opinium poll of the public following the second debate last night, he finished ahead of the rest. Tom Tugendhat, whose performance in the first debate ranked highest out of all the candidates, is almost certain to be eliminated in today’s leadership ballot.
Sunak has had a very good weekend indeed. His parliamentary operation did very well to stem the bleeding in the second ballot and to get him over the psychologically important 100-vote margin. The very real possibility of MPs panicking and deserting him in droves has been seen off.
Added to that, Penny Mordaunt, the only candidate with a plausible route to keep him out of the final vote of Tory members entirely, has seen her momentum stall in recent days. She still has a good chance of taking the coveted second spot alongside him, and it will be very tight at the top between the first, second and third-placed candidates.
But it’s really the race on the right of the party that is going to matter over the next few days. Some thoughts on that and more in today’s newsletter.
Truss the two of us?
Where do Conservative party members get their news? The answer can be found in the excellent book Footsoldiers by Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary University of London. Way out in front as the preferred choice of 33 per cent of Tory activists is the Telegraph, then the Times with 21 per cent, closely followed by the Mail on 17 per cent (the remainder are split in the low-single digits between the rest of the papers).
Those are the three publications — along with the Spectator magazine, which in addition to having more than 100,000 subscribers is a vital mood-setter in Tory circles — that really matter in internal Conservative party contests.
Think of it that way, and you begin to realize what a quietly effective campaign Liz Truss has had. She has had excellent coverage from all three of the papers that matter in this contest, plus a pretty good interview with the Spectator’s Katy Balls.
She has seen off two candidates, each arguably with better credentials to lead the party’s right wing, thus far. Truss’s success in locking up early endorsements helped her knock out Priti Patel before the contest began. She has since defeated Suella Braverman and gained her backing in the process.
But Kemi Badenoch, former equalities minister, is a much more dangerous opponent for Truss. Unlike Patel, she is not tainted by a record in government that disappointed many Conservatives, and unlike Braverman she isn’t. . . well, she isn’t Braverman. Neither Truss nor Badenoch have any fear of going out in today’s ballot, because there aren’t very many votes left for Tugendhat to win. So it’s really the battle between the two of them for third place that matters today, as Tory MPs continue voting this week to whittle down the five remaining candidates to a two-person shortlist.
The most important thing about last night’s debate was that Truss’s improved ranking from the debate poll and her better performance means that she has probably done enough to see off the threat of Badenoch today.
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Now try this
I spent a lot of yesterday at my local picture house, because I really like cinema, but also because I’ve discovered I really love air-conditioning.
In the morning I saw Chiara, an Italian language film about a teenage girl whose life is changed forever when her father is revealed to be a criminal boss and is forced to go on the run. A very strong bit of neo-realist filmmaking, although the plot’s actual resolution felt a bit messy.
In the afternoon I saw the Spanish language flick The Good Boss (Danny Leigh’s masterful review is here). A perfectly tolerable dark comedy: as Danny says, the humor was subtle as a brick and it would have been a better film if it had been pared down to a cool 90 minutes. But worth seeing if you’re on a plane, or looking for somewhere cool to spend your time during the summer.
I must admit though, I am baffled as to how it did so well at the Goya Awards, where it clocked up a record-breaking number of nominations. It’s not even the best Spanish movie this year — that’s the excellent Parallel Motherswhich also inspired one of my favorite Danny Leigh sentences of the year:
It may also remind you of the strange rhythm of seeing children grow up: glance away from a newborn, turn back and find yourself at an 18th birthday party.
Parallel Mothers is available on Netflix and as a physical release. I can’t recommend it highly enough. At three hours it is quite a time commitment but every minute feels worthwhile.
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