If the Tories hate each other so much, how can they be good for our country?

Anyone listening to the criticism of the outgoing administration during the weekend’s leadership debates might get the impression that the Conservatives have been in opposition for the last decade. In some ways they have. In opposition to themselves. The show of unity as ministers flanked the prime minister during PMQs has proved to be nothing other than a flimsy façade.

Of course, it was always thus. Unity is not a feature of modern day Conservative politics, or Labour politics for that matter. But can an administration govern effectively when it is not only so bitterly divided but makes a public show of disunity?

These past few days have been a bit like watching Titus Andronicus, blood and gore galore while onlookers struggle with the plot.

This would be a black comedy and no more than entertainment if it were not an election for the highest office in the land. I fear that the undignified spectacle of so-called leading politicians tearing themselves apart

Briefings against Mordant are becoming too frequent to mention. The Mail is falling over itself to tell its readers about her flaws, real and imagined. Homeopathy, trans rights and Mordant’s military background are just two of the areas of attack.

Mordant told the BBC: “This is the type of toxic politics people want to get away from… We should stop this toxic politics that all of us and the public are fed up with.”

Earlier, as the gang of three – Badenoch, Sunak and Truss – laid into Penny Mordant, she retorted:

“I think this whole thing is unedifying. I will just say to my fellow candidates here, I know why this is being done. But I will say to you that all attempts to paint me as an out of touch individual will fail.”

While the debates have had their fair share of vitriol, much of the nastiness it is occurring through briefings to the media, many of them anonymous.

When Sunak, who seems to be shrugging off briefings against him by allies of Boris Johnson, accused Truss and Mordant of being socialists, I had to grab my dictionary to check I hadn’t been misunderstanding the word for decades.

Addressing his follow panellists last night, Tom Tugendhat said: “I’m finding it very difficult to understand who is disowning and who is defending the record of the last few years when they have been in government.” That is about as aggressive as Tugendhat gets and he stands out as the eloquent Mr Nice Guy, even if he sounds more like he is addressing an accountancy conference than fighting for the leadership. Nevertheless, a snap Opinium poll last night put Tugendhat’s performance second to Sunak:

There perhaps is a message there. That the public are scoring performance in a different way from politicians and political commentators, valuing someone who eschews nasty attacks.

The Tory leadership campaign has become about personalities, flaws and imagined flaws in candidates than about policies. Tory eats Tory.

It is also about how well candidates perform in TV debates. Truss was damaged by her lack lustre performance in Friday night’s debate, though did better last night. The Tory shires will be grumbling that she is unfit for the bear pit of PMQs. But does a prime minister have to have charisma and be fleet footed? Does the prime minister have to have an ego the size of a planet? Boris Johnson had those qualities but look where that has taken us.

Angela Leadsom told Today in Parliament on Friday night that this leadership election is not as vicious as 2016. She implied all divisions will heal the moment a new leader is elected. That’s nonsense. This has been a squalid and ugly leadership contest focused on issues that matter to the right wing media and the tiny proportion of the electorate that will elect the next prime minister. It would be an irrelevance if it were not an election for the highest office in the land.

This raucous election for the leader of the UK is uncivilised and undignified. The Conservatives are tearing themselves apart. Some will say that is the way of things but it doesn’t have to be the way of things. Surely, we can do better than this.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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7 Comments

  • That is why we as a party need to grab opportunities which are falling into our laps. Climate change with the leaders of the Tory candidates climate deniers. Europe because 65% of the electorate believe it has been a failure.And they are in disarray over the inflation battle , whilst numerous worker groups are considering or have enacted strike action. Come on Ed. Lets make our own newsworthy statements

  • Helen Dudden 18th Jul '22 - 11:40am

    Self interest. For too long this has been the attitude. There have been chances to move into a better space, on the need to safe energy but this has not happened.

  • George Thomas 18th Jul '22 - 1:39pm

    If 4 out of 5 candidates want to radically change government policy, do they or their party still have a mandate to be in government without fresh election?

  • James Fowler 18th Jul '22 - 5:14pm

    The contest is very personal because there’s a shortage of ideas. There’s really only two in play: Brexit Britain as Singapore on Thames, or Brexit Britain as Walmington on Sea.

    The country at large is frightened, sullen and febrile. The tendency to constantly catastrophise means that one sensation follows another to a point where few can distinguish between what’s solvable and what isn’t, let alone agree on what to do.

  • @James Fowler. As good a summary of the state of the nation as I have heard in a long time. Well said, Sir.

  • Chris Bowser 19th Jul '22 - 9:23am

    For me the Conservatives have always been a hotpotch of disparate groups, we had the euro sceptics, we have the free trade, low tax liberalists, we have the right wing hang em and flog em brigade, we have the dingy pointers, all of whom can coalasce around the idea of ‘not being socialist’
    Meanwhile on the other side we have blarites vs brownites, we have corbynistas all talking each other down. What we need in the UK is a ‘not the tories’ alliance

  • Jason Connor 19th Jul '22 - 5:19pm

    Exactly the same applies to this party with Social Liberals and Orange Bookers. In the coalition some of the latter more to the right than the majority governing party. So the Conservative and Labour parties are not the only ones with disparate groups or ideologies.

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