The renowned political sketch writer for The Times Quentin Letts has penned his assessment of yesterday’s TV spectacle on Ch4. It’s not just about the performance of the candidates in the ‘Tory leadership Race’. The title alone shows that he’s got a better grip on the reality that is Westminster MPs and Westminster MSM, or rather: the TV presenter in yesterday’s show: “Quentin Letts: Tory leadership candidates outpranced by a Channel 4 peacock” (link paywalled). “Outpranced” is the correct word! There’s not one TV presenter after all, wherever one looks, who isn’t trying to out prance their victim, who doesn’t firmly believe they know best, better than a minister and certainly better than a lowly MP. Let’s jump straight in:

“They billed it the first great debate between the Tory leadership candidates but the presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, had other ideas. It was all about him! Channel 4’s hustings were less than entirely informative. That peacock kept butting in with views of his own. […]

Initial impressions: Rishi Sunak, awkward about Boris Johnson, benefited during talk about the economy. The others sounded worryingly airy about taxation and spending. Being at the central lectern helped Sunak. He could swivel both ways, creating an air of smooth consensus. Liz Truss was as stiff as whisked egg white. The Thatcherite pussycat-bow on her blouse did her few favours. Penny Mordaunt physically towered over Sunak to her left and Kemi Badenoch to her right. She radiated a certain aloofness, too, putting Guru-Murthy in his place a couple of times and donning a cool pair of glasses for her closing statement. But she got into some trouble over the trans women question. Badenoch took lumps out of her on that.

Badenoch stood out not just for her jolting yellow dress but also for being the least hackneyed. Her background, not least as a former burger flipper, gave her an unusual slant. Having lived in Nigeria she knew what it was like when the electricity failed. On NHS care she talked about her chipped tooth and started showing it to the viewers.

Tom Tugendhat, token white male, was introduced as being “the son of a High Court judge”. In modern Britain, that is a major disadvantage to overcome. During the painfully long opening sections about trust in politicians, Tugendhat said “I’ve been holding a mirror.” He meant it figuratively. Perhaps. […]” (link paywalled)

I love the precise little pinpricks, from ‘svivelling’ Sunak to ‘token white male’, to ‘eggwhite stiff’ Truss with a Maggie-inspired pussy-bow to ‘aloof’ Mordaunt – did Letts mean ‘boring’? – and burger-flipping Badenoch. 

Letts then gives a resume of what the five plus that Ch4 peacock really produced. It’s far more entertaining than the guff written by ‘political editors’ in the rest of the papers:

“Channel 4’s desire to attack the prime minister who wanted to privatise it wrecked the first half hour. If the programme had allowed more debating and done less audience consultation, it would have been a lot better. “We should talk less and do more,” said Sunak. Was he talking about Krishnan?

Earlier in the day the candidates zoomed in for online hustings on the Conservativehome website. Speaking with a computer’s lens aimed up your nose does not suit all of us. Truss, noticeably pallid, sat too close to the camera and was having a scraped-hair, flat-fringe nightmare. She looked like Andy Warhol.

Persil-laundered Sunak — “hi, everyone!” — was creamily unaware that the device behind him had a spelling mistake (“Join The Campiaign”). Wykehamists are often bad spellers.

Mordaunt, even at that lunchtime hour, was doing her best Catherine Deneuve impression and stressing the words “responsible and capable”, giving each adjective a little smack on the rump. HMS Mordaunt had come under prolonged shelling in some of the morning prints but she was steaming ahead, ensign stiff in the sea breeze. “I want a positive contest. I don’t want mud-slinging.” (link paywalled)

Ah yes, they had a sort-of dry run for the Ch4 hustings on ConHome earlier that day. You can find those videos at the ConHome site if you cannot possibly live without knowing what they said. Moving on:

“Sunak massaged the names of a few Tory backbenchers and went out of his way to praise Truss and Badenoch. Kemi herself recalled sacking her husband as a Conservative parliamentary candidate when she became the party official responsible for that list.

Blimey. Are they still married?

Mordaunt, from her upper decks, announced that “we need to crowd in the independent sector and drive down power locally”. Shameless populism.

One of the questions was “what is your greatest weakness?” Most of us would reply “chocolate biscuits”. Being politicians they came up with self-analytical guff about team-building and leadership and “not making the perfect be the enemy of the good” (that from Uncle Rishi). Mordaunt did, mind you, admit to owning four Burmese cats. A pitch for the pussy cat vote. She was unsure how they would get on with Larry the Downing Street tom.

Now that really would be a cat fight.” (link paywalled)

Earlier today I mentioned in “Your Daily Betrayal” that there was a snap poll of 1,000 viewers. This had Tugendhat as the front runner and La Truss in last place. Fun-poking aside, I found it quite interesting that Letts mentioned Tugendhat only once. Does his political instinct tell him that the dreadful people outside Westminster, even though they are Tory Party members,  might conceivably have a different idea of whom they’d vote for as PM? That they’d prefer not to have to choose between pussy-cat owner Mordaunt and pussy-bow wearing Truss? Hm …

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