The Tory leadership race keeps on giving

With hindsight, it was a mistake not to join the Conservative party once I realised Boris Johnson wasn’t going to make it through to the end of the year. It’s not that I want to join any political party, it’s just that the leadership contest has become increasingly about dangling carrots before members. And with another month to go, well, every day is Black Friday if you’re a party member. Even now, I can picture what might have been if only I’d had the foresight to sign up.

“Who was that on the phone?” asks my wife.

“It’s only bloody Rishi Sunak again,” I reply.

“What did he want this time?” she enquires.

“He’s worried his last offer on our energy bills didn’t seal the deal,” I say, shrugging.

“I thought he didn’t want to load debts on to our children,” she says.

“Well, it turns out they aren’t party members,” I say. “Very shortsighted of them, but that’s the younger generation for you.”

“Well, you can’t deny he’s making the effort,” she says cheerily. “We didn’t get one call from anyone at the general election. So what’s he offering now?” 

“A cut in VAT on energy and a plan to take 4p off income tax.”

“I hope you told him Liz Truss is going to wipe out the green levy on energy bills,” she says.

“I thought we liked the green levy,” I say plaintively.

“We do,” she says, pulling out a bag of red lentils from the zero-waste store. “But you want to bid them up a bit. Anyway, Liz was round last week offering to insulate the house. Apparently, she knows a few people who could fill in the cavity walls. Although…” she pauses, “I didn’t quite like the glint in her eye when she said it. The phrase she used was she had ‘a few spare bodies’.”

“Still,” I say, “I like the way each candidate is attuned to our concerns. I mentioned that planned extension opposite and both said they are opposed to all house building that upsets party members.”

“You don’t think you could get one of them to fix the dripping tap in the bathroom?” she muses. “I mentioned it to Liz but she said it was blocked by Treasury orthodoxy.”

I am suddenly smug: “I asked Rishi about it when he called. He’s got a 10-point plan for the tap coming out this week.”

“I think it just needs a new washer,” she says. 

The phone rings. I answer it. “It was Rishi again,” I tell my wife. “He says to forward him the gas bill and he’ll take care of it.”

I can tell she is impressed: “Now that’s real help for hard-pressed families. Still, you might tell him Liz offered to pay the water bill too.”

“Did she?” I ask credulously.

“Nah,” says my wife, “but she has promised to take on the Whitehall blob and get someone to mow the lawn. Apparently, there’s a great British gardener ready to exploit the growth opportunity of Brexit. Oh, and if there’s anyone we want denounced for wokery, she says to let her know.”

“There’s that annoying couple at number 52,” I say. “They’ve got a Japanese water feature in their front garden…” I think for a moment. “You don’t think this is all going a bit far?”

Suddenly, my wife looks worried: “It does seem a bit too big statist.”

“No,” I reply, “it’s only big state when other people benefit.”

It’s at this point I let slip that I’m pleased with both candidates’ endorsement of fracking provided it has local support.

“It’s not going to get local support,” she retorts.

“I think it will be very popular in this locale,” I say.

“Yeah, but only because the actual fracking will take place in Blackpool,” she counters. “I think the local support has to be in the location it will be taking place.”

“How will that work?” I wonder.

“I think the assumption is that you can bribe local voters with cheaper energy,” she replies.

“Come on,” I say, “no one falls for that kind of thing.”

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at

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