Who could lead the broken Tories after Sunak?

Conservative party politics is broken.

The latest betting scandal engulfing the party has starkly reminded the public of “Partygate” and has once again bought to the fore questions about trust.

This once great party of law and order is increasingly seen at best indifferent to law breaking, at worst complicit in it. The inevitable general election defeat may please many, but it worries me for what comes after.

Talk of the runners and riders for post-Rishi Sunak leadership is rife. Colleagues have spoken to me about who to align behind and two ex-donors have sought a steer about funding potential leadership campaigns.

My single question has been- what do we want to stand for in 2029? That’s the year we will likely go back to the country and ask them to trust us again. Who we see ourselves as in five years’ time should determine who we chose to lead us to take us there.

We cannot start dreaming of being back in government until we have dealt with the nightmare of who we became and why the electorate is likely to punish us.

Much will depend on who survives the 4 July election. Some of the latest and most depressing polls put many of my colleagues who fancy themselves as a future leader out in the cold. We could be left with a very small pool to choose from and many that will remain unfortunately come with baggage.

As a Conservative Party we have made policy mistakes. Most political parties do after a decade and a half in charge. But what has been particularly gut wrenching is how we have damaged our reputation by increasingly appearing arrogant, callous and out of touch. Exuding an air that somehow the rules don’t apply to us. And taking a hammer to our institutions and principles.

It breaks my heart.

Our country should have been safe in our hands, and we should have been uncompromising in our absolute belief and respect for the rule of law.

We vacated the space on law and order, on sound public finances, on delivering public services and on compassionate Conservatism and the Labour Party have been all too happy to step in. Vacating more space in the centre ground of politics is not the answer. A coalition with Reform is not the answer. More of the same or depressingly a more extreme right version of it is not the way forward.

Being swallowed up by Farage-ism will simply delay the rebuilding of the party and make the journey more painful.

Leadership hopefuls need to think about who they want to lead; a rag tag of ever extreme rabble rousers or a small but steady group who are prepared to put in the hard yards to thoughtfully rebuild our party, one capable of once more running the country.

A sensible, moderate, law abiding, one nation party.

Individuals accused of being law breakers, sensitive information leakers, holding unauthorised meetings with foreign governments, racists or bullies cannot be the future.

Law breaking, playing fast and loose with rules and protocols and a lack of respect for our nation and its institutions has got us here, the next leader cannot be mired in this. The party needs someone with a clean record, a fresh start, a break from the past.

Someone brave enough to act in the national interest rather than populist rhetoric.

The UK is a very different place to 2010 when we first took power. Years of austerity, stagnating growth and post-Brexit wilderness years have left us divided. Politicians have fed this division in a bid to deflect from dealing with the real and difficult economic challenges facing all communities. Culture wars have been popular because they have appealed to narrow but powerful section of the media and think tank world.

But that is not our country.

Sunak was booed last Thursday during the leaders Question Time debate in York when he suggested a Conservative government would leave the European Court of Human Rights. He was met with cries of “shame" when he referred to an institution we helped establish, resource and promote as a “foreign court” The country is crying out for optimism and hope and we can play our part post an election defeat by being the loyal opposition.

We have a serious job to do, to hold Labour's feet to the fire, prevent them from the bad behaviour that often follows large majorities.

But to hold others accountable we must be led by someone who is beyond reproach.