Today was a day when Meg and I were going to treat ourselves to a day out and we had chosen to spend the day in Stratford. Our domestic help had helpfully given us the postcode for a central car park in Stratford and having collected our newspaper and then filled up with petrol, we made our way there with no difficulty. When we were navigating Stratford today, although we had visited it previously, it seemed both enormous and teeming with tourists. The car park was attached to a huge leisure centre and it was not immediately evident to us whether to navigate to the north, south, east or west out of the car park. Fortunately, we seemed to head off in the right direction and we walked in the vague direction of the river. We found ourselves in an Italian type coffee bar and here we had some elevenses and enjoyed an indifferent cup of coffee and an equally indifferent pastry. But then we got into conversation with the couple on the next table and enjoyed an exceptionally stimulating half hour of chat. We started out with politics (trying to discern who might be forced out of the Tory leadership campaign in today’s vote when the results will be announced at 5.00pm this evening). We then chatted over a whole range of issues as our chatty ‘coffee neigbour’ was a business studies graduate so we had quite a lot in common swopping some of our industrial experiences and a few stories and jokes from our collective memory. Eventually we parted having exchanged business cards and as it was 1.00pm by this time, Meg and I went in search of a suitable place to lunch and found a Cafe Rouge which is rather a conservative choice of place in which to lunch but we did not feel like trailing about too much. We had a middling type of meal after which we were quite happy just to retrace our steps and return home.
The really big political news this afternoon was the result of the first round of voting for Conservative MPs to choose their own leader. Of the eight remaining candidates it is perhaps interesting to note that that the candidates split equally male and female (4 apiece) and are equally split in terms of ethnicity (again, four ‘white’ and 4 BAME candidates) But this round is going to be particularly interesting because after all of the protestations of support, this is the first time that in a secret ballot it may become apparent who has real support from fellow MPs and who does not. In some ways, it reminds me of the ways in which the Pope is elected from amongst the cardinals in the Catholic Church as some candidates evidently gain ground through the rounds of voting and some fall back. At 5.00pm the results were announced and the eight candidates were now reduced to six as Jeremy Hunt failed to reach the required threshhold of 30 votes as did Nadhim Zahawi. Personally, I was surprised to see that Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, just crept over the line into the next round and even the Times was saying today that nobody thinks that she will come close to success. But the real ‘dark horse’ of this round of voting was Penny Mordant who was a former defence Secretary, sacked by Boris Johnson (perhaps on the grounds that she was a bit too competent to be in his cabinet and might have stood up to him). For reasons that are not entirely clear, she has become the darling of the members of the Tory party out in the constituencies, replacing Liz Truss who used to hold the No. 1 spot. In today’s round of voting, Rishi Sunak retains the pole position but Penny Mordant had established a real momentum, rapidly improving the numbers of committed supporters and endorsements and taking the number 2 slot quite convincingly. There will be hustings tomorrow morning and then a further round of voting tomorrow afternoon but I do not think it has yet been announced what the threshhold of successful votes will be – this is in the hands of the 1922 committee who decide it round by round. Penny Mordaunt has kept a fairly low profile hitherto. Her promotional video may have seemed rather ‘naff’ to the media professionals and started off badly by showing Johnny Peacock, the paralympic champion, winning one of his contests but the video clip was not included with his permission and he insisted that he be removed from it in case it might appear that there was a degree of endorsement. The rest of the video was full of Churchillian rhetoric and rousing patriotic music reflecting Penny Mordant’s close military associations and this probably appealed to the ‘blue rinse’ brigade back in the ranks of the Tory party faithful. But I suspect that her real appeal is that she was not part of the Johnson cabinet and could therefore distance herself from the current administration all of whom were complicit in the Johnson lies and often defended them in public. Tomorrow’s results will again prove interesting.