After the mass resignations, the allegations of treachery, the Weakest Link-style TV quizzes, some poisonous briefings, and an utterly uncontrite farewell from Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party has to decide who will be its new leader – and the UK’s prime minister.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss were both graduates of the Groucho Marx school of politics: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

With the Tory selectorate thought to consist largely of ageing, white, middle-class inhabitants of the South-East, right has appeared to be very much the right direction for a wannabe PM.

And in the battle to be righter than right, Sunak and Truss have adopted an “Anything you can do… I can do better” approach to policy-making. Who will deport more people to Rwanda? Who will create more grammar schools? Who will be more unremittingly anti-woke?

And who had the tougher childhood? Mansplaining, slick, rich Sunak? Or ex-Lib Dem, ex-eco warrior, born-again Brexiteer Truss? They have even tried to outdo each other on that.

The real dividing line, away from all the back and forth about tax cuts, seems to be between anti-Boris (Sunak) and pro-Boris (Truss). And the fact that large numbers of voting Tory members still think Johnson was unfairly defenestrated suggests the way the result might go.

The biggest question of all seemed to be: why would anyone want to be party leader and PM at this point? The “winner” has to face the cost of living crisis, inflation, an NHS meltdown and the Northern Ireland protocol, not to mention climate change – which so far neither of them really has.

And then there is Boris “Hasta la vista” Johnson, the man whose biggest success so far has been the long period in which he played the part of prime minister in waiting. Speculation has increased as to if – or even when – he plans to reprise that role and then make a comeback.

His successor (who will most likely have to immediately break promises) looks certain to fail, and unkind commentators have suggested that Johnson will relish that. But can anyone rescue the Conservative Party? Is it even the Conservative Party any more? It has shed so many of its old mainstream politicians (and heavyweights) that it is barely recognisable as the home of Thatcher, Major, Cameron and May.

Whoever is at the helm, the party seems to be steering right and right again and perhaps risks losing sight of what people are actually most concerned about at the moment.

One certainty is that the UK needs a leader of vision and courage, but cometh the hour, cometh who? Keir Starmer seems so keen not to frighten the electoral horses that it’s by no means clear what he and his version of Labour really stands for. And unless things change, that may play a huge part in rescuing the Tories from themselves.

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