Conservative leadership contest: How the Tories' own words are destroying the party's reputation – Scotsman comment

Before Boris Johnson was forced to resign, Nadine Dorries apparently warned the contest to replace him would “unleash the hounds of hell”.

Much of the rhetoric between the Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak camps has been brutal (Picture: PA)
Much of the rhetoric between the Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak camps has been brutal (Picture: PA)

On this point, at least, the Culture Secretary has been proved: the campaign to become the next Conservative party leader has been a spectacularly brutal affair, bombarding the public with messages about how unfit both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are to lead the country.

As they prepare for a hustings in Perth, the Foreign Secretary and former Chancellor, once Cabinet colleagues, and their chief supporters appear oblivious to the inevitable use of their own words by other parties to destroy the Conservatives’ reputation.

More importantly, it speaks volumes about their lack of vision and ideas – so badly needed as the cost-of-living crisis grows – that the most notable moments of the contest have been relentlessly negative.

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According to Sunak, Truss's talk of major tax cuts is just “comforting fairy tales” and her “something-for-nothing economics isn’t Conservative, it’s socialism”.

And Truss claimed her rival’s decision to raise taxes “to the highest level in 70 years… will choke off economic growth”, and dismissed his attack on her policies as “the new Project Fear”.

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Amid concern over Truss’s rhetoric about not giving “handouts” to people despite soaring energy bills, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab warned that failing to provide sufficient help would be “electoral suicide”.

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But, echoing Johnsonian language, the current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi insisted “we need a ‘booster’ attitude to the economy, not a ‘doomster’ one”, while railing against the “stale economic orthodoxy”.

However, it is Dorries who has done the most to self-fulfil her own prophecy, accusing Sunak of staging a “ruthless coup” against Johnson and saying that his “assassin’s gleaming smile, his gentle voice and even his diminutive stature had many of us well and truly fooled”. To the horror of many Conservative colleagues, particularly given the murders of David Amess and Jo Cox, she even retweeted an image of Johnson as Julius Caesar about to be stabbed by a knife-wielding Sunak.

By 2024, a general election must be held. Will the public back a smiling assassin whose doomsterism is to blame for our economic woes or an uncaring fool who believes in fairy tales?

Before either’s show has hit the road, the wheels are lying broken in the gutter.

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