Who’s Backing Who: Thursday Morning State of Play

In a few months’ time, what will people remember of Jeremy Hunt’s 2022 leadership campaign? Nothing, obviously. Seemingly just 18 MPs realised he was running one at all, which is odd as he needed 20 to get on the ballot in the first place. As Sky’s Sam Coates asked last night: what exactly does Rishi gain from being endorsed by this competition’s biggest loser? He certainly won’t gain all of Hunt’s supporters – many of them are now angry that Hunt went with Rishi, and not Tugendhat. Mind you, there was already anger towards Hunt from Team Penny, who endorsed him in 2019, as it was very clear he was never considering returning the favour this time around. Et tu, Jeremy…

Today should, in theory, be Truss’s day in the spotlight. Her campaign launches bright and early in Smith Square, in two hours’ time. They’ll be delighted with The Mail splash this morning, which is blatantly campaigning for Liz and telling the right to unite behind her to defeat Rishi. The same front page carries a briefing from someone in the Truss camp accusing Penny of telling lies about her trans stance. Lord Frost has also just taken to the airwaves to slam Penny’s record in government, saying she was so rubbish as his deputy he had to ask the PM to move her during the Northern Ireland negotiations…

Having allowed the dust to settle after yesterday’s first knock-out stage, here’s the media consensus: Rishi cannot be at all complacent, and with just 88 votes it seems to confirm Gavin Williamson’s denial of vote lending to other candidates. In 2019, Boris won the first round with 114 votes; in 2016 May won the first round with 165 – both with a much smaller Conservative Party in parliament. Yesterday, some people with Team Rishi were briefing they wanted to get 200 backers in the first round. The problem is who exactly is his constituency within the party? Truss is continuity Boris, Tugendhat is the One Nationer, Braverman’s the Spartan. Rishi just seems to be backed by careerists guessing which way the wind is blowing…

Penny is in the insurgency and we await to find out whether Suella Braverman will drop out today or wait to lose the vote off. Rather than dropping out to back Liz, there are rumours today she could do so and back Kemi Badenoch. Who knows.

The result today is earlier than yesterday, at 3 pm – because who would want a predictable and consistent timetable…

See the spreadsheet in full here

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