By Nick Clark
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Tory civil war—worst people in world vie for ‘best job in the world’

Tories have begun their campaign to choose the next prime minster—now is the time for workers to fight back
Issue 2813
An image of Boris Johnson cabinet from 2021

Tory leader hopefuls vying for Johnson’s old post as prime minister (Picture: Number 10)

Tory MPs have begun deciding who the next prime minister will be through a process of backstabbing, mud-slinging and scapegoating. Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt and Suella Braverman make it through into the first round on Tuesday. 

Days of anonymous ­slander and briefing since Johnson announced his resignation last week set the tone for what one MP called “the dirtiest campaign in history.”

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that at least two ­leadership campaigns had sent the Labour Party dossiers containing “lurid ­allegations” about their rivals.

“The documents include a ­catalogue of claims about the likely ­runners and riders, including allegations about their private lives and financial arrangements, among them the use of tax dodges and loans,” the newspaper said. 

“At least one private investigator has been hired to dig into some of the candidates’ financial arrangements. Details of alleged extramarital affairs are also being widely shared with Labour by Tories desperate to discredit their opponents. Hostile briefings between the rival camps raises the prospect of blue-on-blue attacks escalating during the course of the contest.”

That’s just a glimpse inside the murky and vicious methods that the tax dodgers, cheats and millionaires of the Tory Party will use to choose who next gets to rule us. It’s about more than simply ­personal nastiness.  It’s a bitter fight over who the Tories think can stitch back together the support that Johnson lost, and lead them out of crisis.

As one unnamed “senior MP” said, “Everybody is desperate for this sordid period of our party’s ­history to end and for us to elect a new leader with bags of integrity who can draw a line under this disastrous episode.

“But that does mean that scandal now has a currency in the forthcoming leadership elections, which will likely make this the dirtiest ­campaign in history.”

Some of the candidates still ­standing as Socialist Worker went to press hoped to win over Tory MPs and big business with promises to manage the economic crisis in their interest. Others preferred to lean more heavily into the racism, homophobia, transphobia and bigotry—­so-called “culture war” issues—that Johnson used to prop his ­government up.

Those two broad, warring factions were set to whittle themselves down to two candidates with a series of ballots by Tory MPs. 

In rules only decided on Tuesday morning, candidates needed to get the backing of 20 other MPs by Tuesday evening to get on the ballot. A vote of Tory MPs was then set to take place on Wednesday of this week, where anyone with less than 30 MPs votes is knocked out. The final two candidates—the ones left standing after a series of knockout ballots among Tory MPs—then stand for election in a vote of Tory members.

A survey of party members by the Tory blog Conservative Home on Monday showed overwhelming support for Penny Mordaunt, and Kemi Badenoch whose campaign focussed heavily on attacking anti-racism and “identity politics.”

Whoever emerges from the ­quagmire, the election process means the next prime minister will be chosen by a tiny group of some of the worst people you can think of. That’s unless we can wreck the whole government with strikes, ­protests and resistance big enough that none of the Tories can handle it.

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