PM Tea

As the nation buckles in for another grippingly gaffe-riddled Tory leadership contest, there’s no real telling which scandals and secrets will shake loose (and which will stay covered). So it looks like it’s time for Popbitch to do its national duty and give you a proper rundown of the candidates.

Over the next few weeks, the UK will get a brand new prime minister. So as the Tories try to figure out who among their rag-tag bunch of hopefuls is the one least likely to snap the country’s neck as they drag it from the wreckage they’ve caused, we’ve pulled together a quick Popbitch guide to each of the potential candidates, so that you can keep tabs on them as the drama unfolds.

Who will prevail? The plucky unknown backbencher? The dependable shit-eating workhorse? The cold, calculating backstabber? The high-flying liability?

Only time will tell.

What happens from here is fairly straightforward, with ten MPs now officially involved in a gradual elimination process.

• To get this far, the candidates have all had to secure nominations from at least eight of their Conservative colleagues.

• Then, on Thursday 13th June, candidates who wish to progress to the next stage will need to have doubled that number and found at least 16 colleagues who are prepared to underwrite them. Anyone who doesn’t meet that threshold is knocked out. (Or, failing that, the candidate with the fewest nominations goes.)

• Then there’s another round on Tuesday 18th, in which the number doubles again to 32. There are then daily ballots to knock out any straggling candidates until only two remain for a final bout.

It’s always possible that a string of gaffes, screw-ups and scandals will torpedo a candidate’s chances before they even get that far though. That’s what happened last time – and with a more febrile political atmosphere than ever before, it’s not as if the claws aren’t out.

So we’ll be updating this page as and when it becomes necessary…

Still In The Running

Jeremy Hunt

Back when he was Culture Secretary, broadcasters on TV and radio were constantly slipping up and accidentally introducing Jeremy Hunt on pre-watershed shows as “Jeremy Cunt”.

It made sense, of course. The ‘Cu-‘ of Culture and the ‘Hu-‘ of ‘Hunt’ are very easy to spoonerise. But the strange thing is that even though he hasn’t been Culture Secretary for well over six years now (having first moved to Health and now to the Foreign Office) the newscasters of Britain can’t seem to help themselves from still calling him “Cunt”.

Fun though it would be to live through an era where everyone is accidentally calling the Prime Minister “Cunt” on live television, we’re not sure Jeremy Hunt is particularly well suited to the task. In fact, it’s a mystery he ever made it as far as the Foreign Office, such is his lack of interest in international affairs.

Someone who used to work under Hunt before he became an MP remembers the day of the 9/11 bombings. The staff were all hugely concerned about the breaking news and were huddled around the radio to hear the latest developments as the World Trade Centre was attacked.

Hunt too came out of his office. To inquire about what was happening? To gather with his rattled staff and provide support and leadership? No. To tell them to turn off the radio and get back to work…

(PS: Jeremy Hunt is a huge karaoke fan and keeps his own karaoke machine in the back of his car.)

Michael Gove

Of all the candidates in this race, Michael Gove is – by far and away – the one that we’ve heard most about. A little too much, if we’re being honest.

Partly this stems from his previous career in media where he was rubbing very close shoulders with the sorts of people now reporting on him. Whether they met him while he was acting, while he was a TV comedian, or while he was a conservative, coke-snorting columnist – Gove’s got some pretty well-connected former colleagues.

It doesn’t help matters that he is quite the exhibitionist either. We’ve spoken at length before about the many legendary stories involving his penis. His nickname among certain colleagues (“Donkey”). His nickname among certain journalists (“Big Dick Mick”). Accounts from multiple eye witnesses at party conference season where Gove would be seen unzipping himself in the gents long before he reached the urinals, sauntering across the floor with his chap already out – then taking an equally long time to rehouse it while walking over to the sinks.

There have also been a lot of rumours surrounding his private vices. Not just the coke-fuelled Christmas parties of his ‘youth’ (i.e. his 30s). We’re talking about parties of a more, ahem… adult nature.

Now, you may tell us that people are entitled to a private life. That people are entitled to make mistakes with drugs before they enter public office and not have it held against them. That people are allowed to engage in all manner of sexual debauchery, provided it’s consensual. And there is some debate to be had there, certainly.

But the most egregious Gove scandal? The one that he conducted out in the open, for all to see, while women and children were present?

The time that Michael Gove wore wellies to the beach…

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid’s most notable public humiliation came in 2016, when – as Business Secretary – he was called back from a trip he had taken to Australia with his daughter while the UK’s steel industry was plunging into crisis, facing the prospect of thousands of job cuts on his watch.

Javid was duly dragged back to a plant in Port Talbot, Wales to help quell the disquiet by proposing a series of measures to help solve the problem, including discussions of the government buying a stake in the industry, offering commercial support from the state and implementing robust new tariffs.

And what exactly was he doing in Australia? The day before he’d been giving a talk at the Annual Sydney Institute Dinner entitled “Innovation, Capitalism and Europe” in which he extolled the exact opposite virtues: bigging up the vital importance of free enterprise and free trade.

A talk which is still available as a podcast.

Boris Johnson

Still the bookies’ favourite, despite deeply unpopular with huge swathes of the public (and about as obvious a disaster as they come), Boris Johnson really needs no introduction.

Johnson is clearly eager to make it to Downing Street – not least because he recently moved his new girlfriend (the one who broke up his marriage towards the end of last year) into a flat in Vauxhall, just over the river, so that she’s nice and close when he moves in.

However, he still faces one major hurdle. Namely: that everyone fucking hates him.

Some of the party’s grandees have been unequivocal in their condemnation of him, both in public and in private. Even Sir Alan Duncan – who has always gone to great pains to give a nuanced and balanced critique of Theresa May’s ailing leadership whenever asked – was happy to sum up his opinion of Boris in a single word.


Fallen By The Wayside

Matt Hancock

Back in 2006, when he was Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron went out canvassing in Dunfermline in support of his candidate standing in a by-election there. While doing so, he made a textbook political error. He was photographed on the high street standing outside a branch of Peacocks.

Peacocks’ distinctive “thought bubble” logo made for a perfect Kodak moment…

Photos like this have long been a standard part of campaigning and canvassing.

Unfortunate crops and unflattering signage appear all the time.

However, you’d think that if anyone was going to be wise to these sorts of dangers, someone named Matt Hancock would be your man. But, no. He’s not just managed to get snapped at an inopportune moment. He walked headlong into a trap of his own invention.

Obviously trying to capitalise on the success of the Brexit Party in last month’s EU elections, Matt Hancock clearly had his people design him something that combined the colour turquoise with a big arrow point to the right (to indicate his political leaning).

They came up with this.

Trouble is, just like Cameron’s Peacocks photo, it’s awfully easy to crop…

Esther McVey

Of all the battle stories in politics, having your leadership bid derailed by Lorraine Kelly has to be one of the funniest.

McVey (who was a former GMTV host in the late 90s) was snubbed in an absolutely spectacular fashion by former GMTV colleague Kelly when she was asked if she remembered working with her…

This, we should say, is the same Lorraine Kelly who famously got out of paying a £1.2million tax bill earlier this year because she managed to convince a judge that presenting her daytime TV show requires a degree of theatrical performance, so that she doesn’t let her true feelings be known.

To quote the tribunal’s ruling: “For the time Ms Kelly is contracted to perform live on air she is public ‘Lorraine Kelly’; she may not like the guest she interviews, she may not like the food she eats, she may not like the film she viewed but that is where the performance lies.”

So even though £1.2 million is at stake here – a six figure sum attached to Lorraine Kelly’s ability to put on a smile and pretend she doesn’t loathe her guests – even then she couldn’t manage to find a nice word to say about Esther McVey.

Which sounds about par for the course, given what we’ve heard from other former colleagues.

Rory Stewart

In 2006, Brad Pitt bought the rights to make a film about the life of Rory Stewart. Orlando Bloom was supposedly in the picture to take the role of Rory, but the film never ended up happening.

A shame Eddie Redmayne wasn’t so well known back then – as the thing would have been a slam dunk otherwise.

Andrea Leadsom

One of the returning cast from the 2016 leadership race, you may remember Andrea Leadsom as the candidate who dropped out at the 11th hour leaving an uncontested path to No.10 for Theresa May.

Leadsom uttered the most costly gaffe of the contest, taking a fatal amount of flak for implying in an interview that May wouldn’t make as good a prime minister as her because she didn’t have children. But before that, Leadsom had been the surprise success of the race, managing to draw enough support to start a minor march on the streets of Westminster in her name.

She hasn’t been especially popular this time around though, despite having maintained healthy odds in the betting markets. Industry insiders are wondering if that has anything to do with her team placing strategic bets on her to stop her odds from drifting too far out, and therefore halting any momentum to the whispers that she’s struggling to get any support from any of her colleagues. (And, lo and behold! She was knocked out with just 11 nominations in the first round…)

Probably for the best. When she was at DEFRA, visitors noticed she kept a book on Donald Trump quotes on her desk…

Dominic Raab

Coverage of Raab frequently draws attention to the fact that he has a black belt (third dan) in karate.

He is also very well known for having been involved with a mysterious non-disclosure agreement, which was the a result of a claim of bullying brought against Raab in 2007 by a woman who worked for David Davis when Raab was Davis’s chief of staff.

It’s no surprise then that Raab is a real favourite with the users of notorious troll site 4Chan – who famously came out hard and heavy for Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections.

Mark Harper

Just before David Cameron was made prime minister, he was asked by readers of the Brighton Argus who he thought would win in a fight between a baboon and a badger.

Cameron ducked the question (coward that he is) but it gave us a decade’s worth of content trying to find out how hundreds of other celebrities answered the same question.

When he launched his leadership campaign, Mark Harper was asked at the press event who he thought would win in a fight between a lion and a bear. Mark answered. He said a lion would.

That’s probably about as much as you’ll ever need to know about Mark Harper though. So don’t bother wasting any more time on him.