It was one of those contests where you wonder “Is there no way they can both lose?” In the excitement of people identifying as belonging to the Rishi or the Liz camp, it’s easy to forget these are two right-wing Tories, both intent on slashing tax. The only thing that differentiates them on policy is when.
But of course last night’s TV debate was not really about policy. Just about everybody with an interest in British politics knows the policies of both politicians and what their strategy is. As Rishi was at pains to point out, when all the shouting is over and a PM appointed, they’ll come together like faithful Conservatives and work for the country they love (no, Virginia, I don’t need the sick-bag, but do keep it available).
What last night was about was seeing what kind of people these two were and how well they performed on TV over an hour. I know many of the Tory newspapers in England say Liz Truss held her own, but they must have been watching a different programme.
Sunak came over as very, very articulate and very, very in charge of his brief. What’s more he delivered his views with some passion, as though he believed in them (which he probably does). In contrast, Truss seemed tentative and rattled, doing her best, but her best not being too awe-inspiring.
I note where several commentators have spoken about Sunak ‘mansplaining’ to her. Mansplaining is a thing, and it refers to men who (wrongly) assume that women don’t understand some issue, and as a man they’ll explain it to them.
The catch with in talking about last night in terms of mansplaining was that Sunak did seem to have a firm understanding of the economics involved and Truss did seem to be comparatively uninformed. Because misogynists engage in mansplaining, you can’t conclude that the woman in all situations understands things very well and it is presumptuous of the male to attempt to set her straight.
I thought Sunak managed to navigate the various danger-areas sure-footedly- his wealth, his shoes, his decision to abandon B Johnson. Truss, on the other hand, wasn’t able to concede that you shouldn’t choose your PM on the cost of his/her shoes, suit or earrings. And there was quite some pussy-footing around before she could bring herself to say she wouldn’t have Johnson in her Cabinet.
Sunak, it seemed to me, was obviously the superior performer; but I’m not – thank God – the Tory party member who will have to decide between the two. It seems to me that if they want to win the next election, they’d be well advised to go with Sunak; but if, as it appears they may, they decide to elevate Truss instead, that’s dandy with me, because that heightens the chance they’ll lose the next general election.
Which would mean Keir Starmer would become PM. ..Virginia – that sick-bag – this way, quick, QUICK!