Tory leadership race is too long, says Liz Truss ally

·3 min read
James Cleverly - Reuters/Phil Noble
James Cleverly - Reuters/Phil Noble

A senior Government minister has suggested that the Tory leadership contest is taking too long and said it would have been better for the process to have been “wrapped up quicker”.

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary, who is a supporter of Liz Truss, said he “would have been very, very happy if this whole process was over more quickly”.

Mr Cleverly said “of course we would like to see this wrapped up quicker”, but insisted that the Government was still functioning.

Ministers have faced accusations of serving in a “zombie government” incapable of making big decisions as the nation waits for the Conservative Party to choose a replacement to Boris Johnson.

The Tories have faced criticism for holding a lengthy contest at a time when energy bills and inflation are spiking and rail strikes are causing significant disruption.

The eight-week contest formally began on July 12, and a winner is due to be announced on Sep 5. Mr Cleverly said he believed it would be “legitimate” to look at reviewing the length of future leadership contests.

Asked why it takes the party so long to choose a leader, he told LBC Radio: “Well look, I am a former party chairman. This is the system that is in place. I do think it is legitimate to look at reviewing that. That is an internal party process rather than a government process.

“But as I say, government does continue, ministers are still working.”

Mr Cleverly was told it was “a bad look” for the Tories to spend so long on the contest at a time when the UK is facing a number of major challenges.

“I would have been very, very happy if this whole process was over more quickly, but as I say, one of the people contending for this is a backbencher, not involved in government at all any more, Liz is the Foreign Secretary, and I know that she is still active on the foreign affairs side of things as well,” he said.

“But yes, of course we would like to see this wrapped up quicker, but we are still working nonetheless.”

Ms Truss and her leadership rival, Rishi Sunak, have now taken part in eight official hustings in front of Conservative Party members across the country, with four more still scheduled.

A ConservativeHome survey of Tory members, published on Wednesday, found that 60 per cent of people who intend to vote in the contest have now voted, while 40 per cent are yet to vote.

On Thursday, another poll showed that Ms Truss was on track to win by a decisive margin but highlighted how Conservative members still prefer Mr Johnson.

The YouGov survey for Sky News suggested 66 per cent of Tory members backed the Foreign Secretary, compared to 34 per cent for Mr Sunak.

But it also showed 55 per cent believe Tory MPs were wrong to force Mr Johnson to resign, with 40 per cent saying they were right. If Mr Johnson were still in the race, 46 per cent would vote for him compared to 24 per cent for Ms Truss and 23 per cent for Mr Sunak.

On Thursday, another poll showed that Ms Truss is on track to win the contest by a decisive margin - although it highlighted how Conservative members still much prefer Boris Johnson.

The YouGov survey for Sky News suggested that 66 per cent of Tory members are backing the Foreign Secretary, compared with 34 per cent for Rishi Sunak.

But it also showed that 55 per cent believe Tory MPs were wrong to force Mr Johnson to resign, with 40 per cent saying they were right.

If Mr Johnson were still in the race, 46 per cent would vote for him compared to 24 per cent for Ms Truss and 23 per cent for Mr Sunak.