Rishi Sunak is the leaver of the two, but Truss tells Tory members the right fairytales – and they may reward her for it
There’s a conundrum at the heart of the Conservative party leadership election, and I don’t mean the question of who will win. The more intriguing riddle is this. We know that Tory party members are overwhelmingly pro-Brexit: 79% of them voted leave, according to YouGov. We also know how important “Europe” is for the Conservative faithful, especially when choosing a leader: it’s why they were ready to overlook all considerations of experience, qualifications and electability when they picked an obvious dud like Iain Duncan Smith over Ken Clarke in 2001.
Now consider the choice facing the Tory selectorate. Liz Truss campaigned hard for remain in 2016, warning, presciently as it turned out, “just how difficult it would become to do business” if we were outside the European Union, having to “fill in 50 boxes on a form every time we wanted to export something”. Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, was an ardent Brexiteer, not just in the referendum campaign but for decades before: he was writing jeremiads against Brussels when he was 16. Given all that, leaver Sunak should be miles ahead of remainer Truss. And yet YouGov has Truss beating Sunak among Tory members by 24 points. How can that be?