His campaign drew cheering media supporters and commentary in inverse proportion to MP votes, and he was eliminated at an early stage.
I then moved on to Jeremy Hunt, in the second round between him and Boris Johnson, fearing the latter would prove a liability for the party. Recent events may have confirmed this opinion, but my support turned out to be no luck for Mr. Hunt.
Having been away for a few weeks, I had the luxury of being able to watch the events unfold in the leadership race from a distance, without feeling the pressure to declare my support for a candidate or, as some might see , to deliver the kiss of death.
Of the original running group, for me the two most interesting candidates were Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch: opposite wings of the party, but both offering something fresh and interesting, and a clean break from the past . Although the two failed to qualify for the second round, I’m sure they will have a bright future and they both gave each other huge credit by stepping forward.
What is striking is the diversity of the candidates proposed. In the bottom six, there was only one white man, Tugendhat, four of the six were women and three were from ethnic minority communities.
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We are now down to the last two, our next prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party will either be another woman, the third the Conservatives have provided, or our first of South Asian descent. It’s a diversity record that no other major political party in the UK can match, and it’s a stark replay for those who claim, absurdly, that the modern Conservative party in the UK harbors prejudices against individuals on the basis of their race or gender.
But now that we’re down to the final two candidates, it’s time to make a choice. Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are prominent figures, who have used the leadership campaign so far to lay out their visions for the future.
I have a high regard for Rishi Sunak, not least because of his track record as Chancellor and the support he has given to businesses, individuals and communities throughout the Covid pandemic. The fact that he is personally wealthy should not matter when deciding the suitability to be the leader of our country.
But, for me, the candidate best suited to take on the role of Prime Minister in these trying times is Liz Truss. Having had a stumbling start to the campaign, she has grown in my esteem, and that of many others, over the past few weeks. Earlier this week, I joined eight other Scottish Conservative MSPs in backing her for the top job.
There are three main reasons why I made this choice. First, Liz Truss has a delivery recording. In the various positions she held in government, she made significant achievements, including signing a wide range of trade agreements while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It was in this role that she was able to work with the United States to remove the high tariffs imposed on Scotch malt whiskey by the Trump regime, a victory that was celebrated by this vital Scottish industry sector.
Second, Liz has a genuine interest in Scotland, partly shaped by her formative years with her family in Paisley. It recognizes the need for the UK Government to play an active role vis-à-vis Scotland, demonstrating the strength of the Union through deeds, not words. And she was very firm in declaring that there is no need to hold a second independence referendum in the foreseeable future.
When I led the Scottish Conservatives on finance and Liz was Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury, I found her approachable and easy to work with. Unlike some colleagues, she was ready to engage with the Scottish Parliament, and I remember her appearance before the Holyrood Finance Committee in the last session of Parliament, where she skillfully handled aggressive questions from MSP SNPs. It was a good indication of the approach she and her administration needed to take towards Scotland.
Finally, Liz has a clear vision of how to move the country forward, help the economy grow post-Covid, and tackle issues with the rising cost of living. It is, I believe, a fair criticism of Rishi Sunak that after he started the campaign arguing against short-term tax cuts, he changed his position considerably.
Liz Truss, on the other hand, has been consistent in the approach she has taken, saying that in these difficult times there must be some relief for beleaguered households who are experiencing high inflation and rising costs, and wonder how they can afford to pay bills.
It is not surprising that, given the qualities on display, more and more of my Tory colleagues, both at Westminster and at Holyrood, are coming out in support of Liz Truss’ candidacy.
As the ballots begin to arrive at the doorsteps of party members across the country, I hope they agree with me that she is the right choice to move the country forward. She has already demonstrated that she is a woman of principle and conviction, and that is what the country needs in these troubled times.
Despite my track record of choosing Tory leaders in the past, polls suggest that this time around I may have gotten it right. But it is now up to members of the Conservative Party to make the right choice for our future.
Murdo Fraser is a Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife