The Conservative Leadership Hopefuls On Manoeuvres At Tory Conference

Rishi Sunak has not lost the next election yet, but all eyes will be on his potential successors.
via Associated Press

Rishi Sunak heads to Manchester this weekend to rally the Tory troops one last time before next year’s general election,

The prime minister can be expected to use his big speech on Wednesday lunchtime to set out his case for why the country should give the Conservatives yet another term in power.

But given the polls, many believe the election is already lost and all eyes will be on Sunak’s possible successor as party leader.

A study of the Tory conference agenda shows Kemi Badenoch - the grassroots Tory favourite - will be attending four events over the course of the four days.

The business secretary is due at a series of drinks receptions including one hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank which influenced much of Liz Truss’ thinking.

And rather than lying low, Truss herself will be taking part in a rally during the gathering.

The former prime minister is unlikely to stand for party leader again, but is widely seen to be positioning herself to play a key role behind the scenes in the upcoming contest.

A Labour source said: “Sunak isn’t even in control of his own cabinet, let alone the country.

“He’s in the pocket of Liz Truss and her economy crashing wreckers because he is too weak stand up to them. The country is crying out for change - but all the Tories are focused on is their own internal contests.”

Penny Mordaunt could fancy another attempt at the leadership of the party.
Penny Mordaunt could fancy another attempt at the leadership of the party.
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images

Penny Mordaunt - who came close to pushing Sunak to a vote of the Tory membership in the last contest - is set to appear at three events.

The Commons leader is also attending a book signing and will speak from the main conference stage before Sunak on the final day of the conference.

Fresh from her high-profile anti-immigration speech in the US, Suella Braverman is only down to appear at one event - hosted by the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs.

Suella Braverman is already making a pitch to the Tory right.
Suella Braverman is already making a pitch to the Tory right.
Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images

Michael Gove has a busy few days with five events in his diary. And while, like Truss, the levelling up secretary will likely not run to succeed Sunak, he will be an influential voice in any leadership race.

But Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, is keeping a much lower profile, appearing at just one event.

Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow paymastergeneral, said the events showed “even Tory ministers know the game is up”.

“They’re pitching themselves to Tory members for the next leadership contest because they know weak Rishi Sunak hasn’t got what it takes,” he said. “While the Tories fight among themselves, Labour will give Britain its future back.”


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