“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” – so read President Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment from 1966. Expanded to include any conservative around the world, its basic philosophy argues any in-fighting only benefits their opponents: the left. The Conservatives have completely discarded this commandment, with Team Sunak and Truss’ criticism of the last decade of, er, Conservative government providing Labour’s Party Political Broadcasts for them.
For perhaps the first time, the campaigns have got truly personal. Truss’ camp, despite being far ahead, is showing no signs of complacency, never easing off on the accelerator. It has now said, on the record: “Sunak wouldn’t know how people benefit from a tax cut because he has never cut a tax in his life”.
In response, Sunak has tried to land a blow that can only be viewed as personal. His team said today that “twice now, Truss has made a serious moral and political misjudgement on a policy affecting millions of people”.
The opposition to such personal attacks is growing among Conservative MPs. Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon since 2010, photographed a dozen Labour canvassers fighting to win back his seat. “For those ‘enjoying’ blue on blue, scorched earth tactics … This is my Labour opposition in my strongest area, enjoying us trying to hand them the keys to No. 10” he stated in the Tory WhatsApp group.
Alberto Costa is among the Tory MPs chosen to sit on the Privileges Committee investigating whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament over Partygate. With its Tory members facing demands from Johnson-supporting media to quit, Costa has been at the forefront of criticism. In the same WhatsApp group, Costa remarked “having been the recipient yesterday of appalling, abusive remarks from some ‘colleagues,’ all this does is give strength to the opposition. Standards, conduct and integrity matter.”
That some Tory MPs have fallen short of integrity and conduct would be an understatement. Nadine Dorries was condemned for tweeting a picture of Rishi Sunak wielding a knife at Boris Johnson. The Culture Secretary also criticised the former Chancellor for his choice of expensive suit. It seems the contest reducing from five to two contestants did little to reduce the vitriol.
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Liz Truss herself had originally stayed out of personal attacks, not commenting on Sunak’s former green card status. Similarly, Rishi Sunak originally focused on attacking Truss’ plans – labelling them ‘clear as mud’ – while avoiding personal jibes. This afternoon, that changed. Increasingly, the pair clearly detest each other.The chances of either serving in a cabinet led by the other look very low indeed.