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Stir Brexit stew, add pinch of white powder ... who will win ToryChef?

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Lynton Crosby, the election guru who propelled Boris Johnson into City Hall (twice) and continues to advise his reclusive protégé in the Tory leadership race, was once described to me as the campaign version of a chef in a TV cookery contest. The winning campaign team has to figure out the best combination of dishes from a restricted choice, conceal which delicacies are missing, and present a palatable result to the largest number of voters.

The Conservative Party leadership race is a skimpy buffet because the main course is Brexit with a few trimmings of set leaving dates and possible extensions, and some spicy pledges of a renegotiation, which will leave those who offer it feeling queasy the morning after. At the extremes of the field, softly scrambled Brexiteer Rory Stewart would fangle a special “assembly” to bring warring parliamentary tribes to their senses, while hard-boiled Dominic Raab and Esther McVey rashly pledge exit from the EU at any price.

Most other candidates are seeking some vague alchemy that would skirt no-deal without ruling it out, and hope desperation and a new face at the top will secure a Brexit-without-tears that eluded Theresa May.

Because that is vanishingly hard to achieve, we are treated to noisy distractions. Johnson created a big flambé fuss with the copper pans, vaunting a flashy tax-cut for higher earners. Jeremy Hunt told me in an interview last week that he wanted to replicate a Trumpian GDP rise in Britain (there was less talk of trade tariffs and investors’ fears of a bumpier ride........

© Evening Standard