I was reminded of how London-centred the British media is when the BBC’s weekend roundup of the national political sweepstakes on Boris Johnson’s likely replacement at Number 10 contained little mention of Tom Tugendhat.
The backbench Tory MP is chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. He is also a former army officer, has never held a government position and is making rather a virtue of both things.
Mr Tugendhat has been trumpeting his lack of government experience as proof of his being somehow unsullied and his stint in the army as evidence of his manly courage and ability to command.
All of which seems to be going down rather well with the Tory grassroots.
Consider Buxton, a lovely if slightly somnolent town in Derbyshire, with Cheshire to its west and Staffordshire to the south.
On July 9, Buxton had the joy of listening to a conversation between former Conservative cabinet minister Rory Stewart and Julian Glover at the Buxton International Festival (it does exist).
The audience, so goes the account I was given, mostly consisted of the Tory faithful. When Mr Stewart cheekily asked for a show of hands in support of the various candidates running for Conservative leader and prime minister, the results were somewhat surprising. The anecdotal version of the result was as follows, according to my informant: Mr Tugendhat won the largest share of the vote, with Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Nadhim Zahawi etc left forlorn and friendless in the dust.
That says something, no matter how faintly.
As an aside, I find Mr Tugendhat’s stated commitment, along with other leadership contenders, to cut taxes rather alarming because it’s totally the wrong thing to do in an inflationary environment when Britain needs to raise money to pay for public services.
Anyway, on Monday, July 11, London gives Mr Tugendhat a chance to make his pitch for prime minister – he gets to make a metaphorical call to arms on radio and TV. That said, Tories in towns outside the capital seem to have been making up their own minds a while ago. Go figure.
(PS: The end result of Rory Stewart’s visit to the Buxton International Festival seems to have been less than idyllic with a tweet from the former minister about having lost his wedding ring in the town.)