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Who should be the next Tory leader? Our panel responds

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Polly Toynbee: Behind Michael Gove’s facade lurks a threatening rightwing ideologist

Choosing from this gallery of rogues, fanatics and non-entities is like playing the children’s game: would you rather be burnt at the stake, hanged drawn and quartered or squashed by a steamroller?

In the weird world of the Tory leadership stakes, Boris Johnson has almost certainly won the race already. The victor will be essentially illegitimate, our prime minister chosen by 100,000 eccentric, elderly and extreme Brexiteer Tory party members usurping the right of 46 million electors. The same rotten borough vote took Gordon Brown to No 10: failing to fight for it did him no good.

After Johnson, the next most dangerous contenders are Dominic Raab and Liz Truss, zealots of deregulation and free market. Michael Gove is best placed as the anyone-but-Boris man with Murdoch’s useful backing, but beneath his facade of elaborate civility, party loyalty and token greenery (plastic straws not carbon emissions) lurks a far more seriously clever and threatening rightwing ideologist than any of the above. For the rest, Sajid Javid would be dully ineffective, making stabs at random “popular” policies, his bus-driver dad backstory a pretty thin veneer for a lacklustre financier. Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt won’t get near the final cut.

If some magician’s wand healed the party of its Brexit-mania, Rory Stewart would be more interesting than Matt Hancock or Jeremy Hunt. But Amber Rudd would be best at leading the party back into the realms of ordinary Conservatism – which is why she is out at 66-1. The party’s ill-wishers will be praying for a Johnson win.

• Polly........

© The Guardian