Marr: Kemi Badenoch's votes could change everything in this gripping Tory leadership race

19 July 2022, 18:09 | Updated: 19 July 2022, 18:15

Andrew Marr reckons Kemi Badenoch's votes could be a game changer
Andrew Marr reckons Kemi Badenoch's votes could be a game changer. Picture: LBC

By Will Taylor

Andrew Marr believes this is the tightest Tory contest in modern times.

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The contest narrowed down to just three candidates - Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt - competing for a place in the final two, after Kemi Badenoch was eliminated on Tuesday.

Speaking at the top of LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr on Tuesday, Andrew said: "Here's the easy thing to say.

"There has never been, certainly in modern times, a Tory leadership race so tight, so late, so incredibly hard to call; and therefore for nerds at least, so exciting.

"Rishi Sunak remains ahead, clearly, though he didn't move much overnight. He is still likely to be in the final two-person fight in front of the Tory membership.

"But who's the other one? Despite a savage onslaught from the newspapers, Penny Mordaunt kept her lead over Liz Truss, though Truss got many more new votes. But - and here is the crucial point - Kemi Badenoch, the right-wing outsider who drops out of the race, got 59 votes which are now free to travel somewhere else.

"Those can change everything. Example: if Liz Truss got half of the Badenoch supporters, and Penny Mordaunt got a third, then Truss beats Mordaunt by the narrowest of margins, around two to three votes. She gets second place.

"Now that's just one example and it won't happen in the real world but it shows how tight and difficult the final round of voting is going to be tomorrow.

"A poll of Tory members by YouGov which dropped, helpfully, as the Tory MPs were starting to vote, shows both Mordaunt and Truss easily beating Sunak. He must believe that once the campaigning proper starts in the country, he can turn that round.

"But it's perfectly possible that tomorrow, in the battle for second place, Tory MPs are choosing your next prime minister. And there's a further intriguing twist.

"Overnight there were 31 votes for Tom Tugendhat going begging - in general, rather moderate, One Nation kind of votes, the kind I would naturally expect to gravitate towards Rishi Sunak.

"But he's only gone up by three and Liz Truss jumped by 15. It's almost as If someone is trying to manipulate things to boost Truss.

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"Question: would Sunak, who has no fewer than four, five I think, former chief whips working with him, prefer to fight her rather than Penny Mordaunt? I don't know, but what I do know is that these would be two very different contests.

"Sunak vehemently disagrees with Truss about taxes and the economy and he is very confident in his arguments. He’d relish that fight.

"Perhaps wrongly: the betting companies now have Liz Truss as their favourite. Penny Mordaunt is a different opponent - vaguer and perhaps harder to grapple with on the economy, a friendlier, more empathetic figure in front of Tory audiences.

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"Is vote switching what's going on? Well, all will be revealed tomorrow.

"Then the fur flies. If you're going away in the summer or staying at home don't bother with the traditional box-sets. Before all of that, however, the dramatic climate news from tonight.

"Yesterday I went on a bit of a rant about how different Tory candidates weren't taking climate change seriously enough. If you thought I was over the top can I gently suggest you turn on your televisions at some point tonight and look at the pictures of huge fires burning along the motorways and across East London.

"After a day when temperatures broke all records parts of this country are literally burning hot today."