DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Tory MPs must go for substance over style

For the avoidance of doubt: The Mail believes this Tory leadership contest should not be happening.

In our view Boris Johnson was and remains the best choice for Prime Minister, and his political assassination shames the tawdry plotters who wielded the knives.

The charge sheet against him was largely trivial and grossly exaggerated by his enemies, choreographed by his malicious former aide Dominic Cummings.

If his MPs had a fraction of the courage their leader showed over Ukraine, he could easily have weathered the storm of confected outrage and continued his mission to make this country a better place.

Instead they suffered a fit of collective hysteria, defenestrating their best electoral asset. A herd of lemmings would have shown a better sense of self-preservation.

In our view Boris Johnson was and remains the best choice for Prime Minister, and his political assassination shames the tawdry plotters who wielded the knives

On Wednesday, as the pretenders were scrabbling for his crown, he showed why we will miss him so much. In a stellar Commons performance, he made his opponents look small and irrelevant – defusing their puny attacks with his customary wit and flair.

Meanwhile, having shown appalling misjudgment in rejecting Boris, Tory MPs are looking just as clueless in their search for his successor.

An astonishing number have plumped for Penny Mordaunt, with no indication that she would be remotely up to the job. Indeed evidence is mounting to the contrary.

In a devastating critique, her former boss and Brexit champion Lord Frost said he had been forced to replace her because she lacked grasp and application.

Now it emerges she left an earlier job as head of PR at Kensington and Chelsea Council amid claims of incompetence.

There were already concerns over her support for trans rights extremists and external regulation of the Press. Tory MPs should take a long, hard look at her record before convincing themselves she’s capable of running the country.

An astonishing number have plumped for Penny Mordaunt, with no indication that she would be remotely up to the job. Indeed evidence is mounting to the contrary

Not all is gloom, however. In Kemi Badenoch, the contest has thrown up a star of the future. Clever, down to earth and engaging, she would make a brilliant addition to the next Cabinet. For the top job, her inexperience counts against her.

This paper believes two candidates stand head and shoulders above the rest – both having proved their credentials at the highest level of government.

Rishi Sunak was an excellent Chancellor and will always be admired for the way he guided the economy through Covid.

Some of his more recent decisions have infuriated traditional Conservatives, especially raising national insurance – a kamikaze decision which the Mail campaigned hard against.

On his watch, we now have the highest tax burden since the 1940s. And many will never forgive him for sliding the stiletto into his leader’s back.

The other candidate of proven ability in a range of Cabinet posts is Liz Truss.

As she showed in last night’s debate, she’s not as polished a public performer as some others. However, call us old-fashioned but at this paper we value substance over style.

In that department, she has consistently shown her mettle. She has negotiated trade deals around the world, stood up to the EU over Northern Ireland and has been unfailingly resolute on Ukraine.

Today she unveils imaginative plans to ease the financial burden on hard-pressed families and carers with targeted tax cuts. Along with pledges to reverse the National Insurance rise, hold down corporation tax and scrap some green levies, she offers true Tory solutions to real-world problems.

Not only is she the candidate with the most impressive CV, but also the one who most embodies the Conservative principles of aspiration, family values and low taxes. To exclude her from the final ballot would be an unforgivable breach of trust.

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