Two serious candidates for the Tory leadership have the opposite problem. Tom Tugendhat has never served in a government. Rishi Sunak did. He was a Parliamentary Secretary under Theresa May. Much more important, he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then Chancellor under Boris.

So opponents see lines of attack. Tom Tugendhat is too inexperienced. As for Sunak, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness.” In both cases, there should be an easy counter. A prime minister ought to have a clear and powerful brain. They should be at ease in their own skin: self-confident, but not impetuous. Far from being uncomfortable with strong subordinates – one of Boris’s many failings – they should seek them out. Yet ultimately, however brisk the debates in cabinet and cabinet committees, they make the decisions.

I think that Tugendhat could do all that. Even if he has not commanded in the council chamber, he has done so in the field where the decisions he took – the orders he gave – had life and death consequences. Those at the top of the Army rated him so highly that he was given an unusual role for a territorial officer: one of the military assistants to General David (now Lord) Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff. No disrespect to Tom, but there were those who argued that such a post should be reserved for a regular soldier who was heading for the heights. By watching his General operate, he would learn how to be one. Tom may not have gone on to the Army Board. He did hone his powers of leadership.

Rishi Sunak’s story is more complicated. It is hard to turn down the Chancellorship, especially when the country is plunged into a pandemic and an economic crisis. He quickly won golden opinions for ability and calmness under fire. He is also likeable.

We do not know when he started to have doubts about his Prime Minister and began to wonder whether Michael Gove had been right back in 2016 when he concluded that Boris would simply not be up to the job. But Rishi Sunak may well have decided that he could not abandon his post during a crisis. Earlier in the year, when he was being spoken of as a possible successor, hostile briefings started to appear. They were anonymous, but you would not have needed Sherlock Holmes’s magnifying glass to identify No.10’s fingerprints. Boris never approved of potential successors.

Serving as his Chancellor would neither have been easy nor dignified. There must have been moments when Rishi Sunak felt like the rear portion of a pantomime horse. But he was right to persevere for as long as possible. “The King’s government must be carried on” said the Duke of Wellington. Today, the same applies to the Queen’s. If the First Lord of the Treasury really ought to be in a pantomime, the Chancellor becomes even more important.

On Treasury policy, there is a debate which ought to take place but could not do so as long as Boris was in charge. As part of reigning in the costs of Covid, the Chancellor had introduced a degree of fiscal tightening. His aim was to raise revenue as painlessly as possible so as not to discourage growth or repress animal spirits. He was also concerned about inflation.

Then came Ukraine. There will surely have to be a Plan B, especially to deal with energy prices, but anyone who thinks that there is an easy answer has not understood the question. Could the Chancellor safely relax fiscal policy in a way that takes some pressure off living standards without stimulating inflation? Might it even be justifiable to take a risk with inflation in order to encourage growth – and thus raise more revenue? Or could that lead to stagflation? 

It is an awesome responsibility, and it would help if the final two candidates had a sustained debate on the matter. The agenda ought to cover other topics, including energy. How do we keep the lights on, the costs down and the economy functioning without abandoning the carbon neutral target for 2050? The UK is potentially awash with energy, much of it clean. There is a route to 2020 which avoids suffering. All that we need is a strategy. This should please everyone except the extinction rebellion crazies. Bent on inflicting suffering, they would howl. Let them.

There is also the question of deploying post-Brexit freedoms, not to mention strategies for European security. There is plenty to discuss and the Tory electorate should have every opportunity to assess the candidates’ moral and intellectual qualities and their electability.

If the two front-runners were Messrs Sunak and Tugendhat, it would not be easy to separate them. Neither man would need to be reminded of the Reagan commandment: thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. So seriousness, ending with a handshake and congratulations, as the loser consoles himself with the upcoming challenge of a great office.

There should be a further consolation. During the debates, the electorate’s respect for the Tory party ought to have been enhanced: a necessary and overdue improvement. This all assumes a Sunak/Tugendhat final which, given the latter’s precarious position, is admittedly unlikely.

Kemi Badenoch is a politician of unlimited promise. She would make an excellent Party Chairman but perhaps not yet a PM. As for Mesdames Mordaunt and Truss, all Tory MPs tempted to support them should read Matthew Parris’s piece in Friday’s Times. Enough said: more than enough.

Post-Boris, it is time for the Tory party to rebuild its reputation for competence and integrity, to reforge its links to the nation: to offer, once again, patriotism and good government. The right leader who discharges those duties ought to win an electoral reward.