Last night’s Tory leadership debate was an illustration of where the wider party has ended up: fractious, confused, and without a clear plan for what to do next. Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions showed the damage that these blue-on-blue attacks are doing to the Conservative party.
A number of the candidates have criticised the policies of their own government particularly when it comes to spending. It was inevitable that this was going to get picked up by the Opposition as an attack line. Labour’s Paul Williams pointed out that Sajid Javid had pledged to reverse Theresa May’s police cuts, while other MPs either made bids for the spending review or warned the Prime Minister not to make commitments which would bind the hands of the next leader. May is reported to be planning a huge boost to the schools budget, which has infuriated both her Chancellor and leadership contenders who worry that they won’t be able to fulfil their own campaign pledges.
The session also gave us a glimpse of what the House of Commons might be like if Boris Johnson does become the next Prime Minister. The SNP’s Ian Blackford quoted some of Johnson’s own columns to May, and said he was a ‘racist’ who was ‘unfit for office’. It naturally caused a huge stir on the Tory benches, with many MPs trying to dismiss Blackford’s question, and others looking hugely uncomfortable. Afterwards, Tory MP Bill Wiggin complained in a point of order about the accusation that Johnson was a racist, but the Speaker merely advised MPs not to impugn the honour of their colleagues. Chances are there will be a lot more impugning over the next few months. What’s less clear is whether the Tory party knows how to weather it.