Perhaps the reason is that some of them were involved in pushing out Boris Johnson. Or maybe it is that others tried to keep him on. Or perhaps it’s simply that yesterday’s candidates are old hat, amidst a culture that prizes sensation and novelty.
But whatever the explanation may be, the two chart-toppers in ConservativeHome’s first Next Tory Leader survey since Ben Wallace withdrew from the contest, aren’t members of the current Cabinet at all.
Penny Mordaunt has sat at the top table – under Theresa May as Defence Secretary – and is a senior Minister of State, now at Trade, previously at the Cabinet Office. She has been a strong performer in this section of the survey recently, coming second to Wallace recently in run-offs, and coming third during the previous outing last year (though with under ten per cent of the vote).
Kemi Badenoch’s ascent is faster. She served until resignation last week as a Minister of State, though she did so for less long: her bag is Equalities. Last year, her support languished at two per cent. Recently, it scraped six per cent – though she performed robustly in the play-offs, coming fifth. “Members clearly like the cut of her jib,” I wrote. So it seems.
Mordaunt has 20 per cent, Badenoch 19 per cent, Rishi Sunak 12 per cent, Suella Braverman ten per cent and Liz Truss ten per too. (Truss was top last December.) Two points follow.
First, these are early days, and among MPs Sunak is currently running first in declarations, though roughly half the Conservative Parliamentary is still sitting on its hands. Much can change – but were the former Chancellor in the ring now against either Mordaunt or Badenoch, I wouldn’t fancy his chances.
Second, much may depend on where the newly-elected ’22 Committee Executive sets any threshold for nominations. This site has called for candidates who wish to enter the ballot to declare 25 supporters; others have cited ten per cent, which would push the requirement up to the mid-30s.
As I write, Mordaunt has 24 declared supporters and Badenoch 13. The former ought to meet any minimum requirement on her present trajectory. I’m not quite so sure about the latter. William Atkinson notes that five members of the newly-elected committee are Tom Tugendhat supporters and one a Sajid Javid backer.
With 19 and 11 declared backers respectively, the camps of those candidates might be resistant to a relatively high threshold. Which raises the question of whether candidates popular with Party members but with relatively little MP support should be excluded from the ballot altogether.
Tomorrow, we will publish the full run-off results – and see what happens when Mordaunt and Badenoch square off against each other, and if there are any upsets further down the chain.
19.30 update The ’22 Executive has decided that each candidate must have 20 named supporters to get on the ballot. On this showing