Guido’s caught wind of significant concerns among Tory MPs, not least some supporting Rishi Sunak, about CCHQ’s intended timetable for membership hustings and voting. Word reached Guido after new Party Chair Andrew Stevenson told MPs via WhatsApp yesterday that the “current plan is to send [ballots] out asap”:
“the currently plan is to send them out asap given that many people may be on their summer holidays, possible Royal Mail strikes etc. It will then be upto members if they want to vote immediately, or wait until after they have watched a TV debate or attended a regional hustings etc.”
One Sunak backer told Guido this could be especially damaging to their preferred candidate should he make the final two, given he knows all too well he faces an uphill battle among members to win over support – not least proved by this afternoon’s YouGov poll. Sunak’s key strategy is to win members over with his ability to perform during the regional debates and hustings, as his team believes he proved he could do during the TV debates. The fear is that if CCHQ sends ballots out at the very start of the debate – and opens electronic voting at the same time – the vast majority of members will return their forms immediately, not giving Sunak time to win over doubters.
Even MPs supporting rival camps worry that while their candidate might benefit from this CCHQ timetable, there’s an essential need to “kick the tyres” on the final two candidates to make sure there isn’t a repeat of only discovering Theresa May’s inability to communicate come the election. Expect this row to take off the moment the final two are confirmed on Thursday…