Kemi Badenoch has been knocked out of the race to become the next Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister after the fourth round of MP voting.
Mrs Badenoch, the former equalities minister, got 59 votes. Her spokesman said: “This is a great achievement and demonstrates the support for her honest politics and vision of change for the country and the Conservative Party.”
Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield who backed Kemi Badenoch, said some MPs “got cold feed and weren’t brave enough to back Kemi. I didn’t want a continuity Prime Minister which is what we’re probably going to get now.”
Rishi Sunak came top on 118 votes, up three from yesterday; Penny Mordaunt came second on 92, up 10; Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, came third on 86, up 15.
With three left and Sunak likely to be one of the final two, it’s now a head-to-head between Mordaunt and Truss to be the other candidate in the shortlist of two sent to Tory party members to select a winner. Sunak was polling poorly among members, but as Mordaunt’s wokery and flaws have become more widely known she has been slipping and the latest ConservativeHome poll puts Sunak slightly ahead of Mordaunt. Truss, on the other hand, would wipe the floor with either among members, on the latest poll.
Kemi Badenoch topped a recent poll of members (including having a clear lead in run-offs against each candidate), meaning by refusing to back her and put her through to the final two Conservative MPs have essentially denied members their favourite. As Kemi was also the most clear-eyed candidate on the culture wars swirling around race, gender, free speech and climate (surely central to why members rate her) this is not a good sign that the Tories understand what they need to do to win elections on a robust conservative platform.
Probably the best outcome now is a Truss administration with a key role for Kemi, though Truss’s history as a Remainer will be a weakness. On the other hand, she has been outspoken on opposing what she calls the “woke brigade” in recent years, and has also pledged to revisit the Online Safety Bill to ensure freedom of speech is protected.
It is reassuring to see Mordaunt slipping in members’ esteem, meaning should Truss be denied a spot in the final two (which would be quite an insult to members, denying them their second favourite as well as their first) it may well be Sunak. Not the worst outcome by any means, as he seems to be largely sensible and is understood to have a healthy scepticism of lockdowns (albeit mainly behind closed doors), having opposed Boris’s unforgiveable push for one last Christmas. On the other hand, on wokery, free speech and Net Zero he has hardly distinguished himself in either direction (he was similarly largely absent on Brexit, despite supporting Leave), and unlike Kemi seems reticent to engage in the culture wars, which doesn’t instil confidence given the resolve now needed to counter the constant tide of nonsense. Hopefully a key place would be found for Kemi in his administration as well. However, it remains to be seen how well a rich former banker with an even richer non-dom wife will fare in the country.
Probably the best outcome now is for Kemi’s supporters to rally round Truss and make the best of a suboptimal situation. Whether a Truss-led Government can win an election is a big unknown. If it did, it would surely have to be because of a strong record on policies and competence, rather than a reliance on charisma. No bad thing, of course. But then the policies and competence do have to be there, and plain to see.