With the power to hire or fire, albeit with only two options, now transferred from MPs to the Conservative Party membership, we have reached a watershed in the Tory leadership election. Since it is notoriously the case that the grassroots’ leadership preferences differ considerably from the parliamentary party, this inevitably implies a change in priorities and in the whole tone of the campaign, with many questions demanding an answer.

The two most basic questions relate not to the candidates, but to the process itself. The first is one about which many people feel a certain unease: the individual who emerges victorious from this contest will become not only the leader of the Conservative Party, but also Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But that victor will enter Number 10 not with a mandate of 14 million votes, as Boris Johnson did, but a simple majority out of 160,000 Tory electors.

Is there a question mark of legitimacy hanging over an internally elected premier? That was a question that bedevilled Gordon Brown during his three-year tenure of Britain’s highest office, to which he was never elected and from which he was ejected as soon as the electorate had an opportunity to give its verdict. Theresa May governed for a similar period without even the limited endorsement of the party membership. Incoming prime ministers usually intimate their intention of going to the country to seek a mandate at the earliest opportunity; but political reality dictates that, for a Conservative leader to do so in the current climate would be to court disaster.