Today’s Tory leadership race devolved into irate claims of “dirty tricks” and “dark arts,” with one candidate’s supporters even being accused of “hijacking” a rival’s campaign slogan.
Before the first round of voting among Conservative MPs this afternoon, tensions have risen between opposing groups.
Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, is the front-runner among the eight remaining candidates for prime minister, followed by Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt, and Suella Braverman.
But after his spectacular resignation last week, which is seen to have contributed to the PM’s demise, Mr. Sunak is now the target of a “stop Rishi” campaign from Boris Johnson’s backers, who accuse him of betraying the party.
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary and a fervent Boris Johnson supporter, attacked Mr. Sunak’s campaign, alleging that it was supporting Mr. Hunt in an effort to defeat weaker opponents.
In the meantime, it was discovered that Ms. Mordaunt’s supporters had appropriated Mr. Zahawi’s “NZ 4 PM” slogan, with the domain name “nz4pm.com” leading to her own “PM 4 PM” website.
The wider Conservative membership in the country will vote to select between the final two candidates after Tory MPs have narrowed the eight-strong field to a final pairing – with voting set to begin this afternoon.
Ms. Dorries alleged that Mr. Sunak’s team had stolen votes from Mr. Hunt in the early rounds of the leadership race, calling it “dirty tricks,” “a stitch up,” and “black arts.” You may choose.
Team Rishi wants Jeremy Hunt because they are confident they can defeat him in the final two.
Mr. Hunt, though, instantly dismissed Ms. Dorries’ assertions as “total nonsense.”
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, who recently gave up on his own candidacy for the leadership and is now endorsing Mr. Sunak, refuted the claim as well.
In this instance, that just didn’t happen, he stated. Everyone included on Jeremy Hunt’s nomination form is someone who is very close to his campaign, according to Jeremy Hunt. Therefore, even he has rejected it.
Along with Ms Dorries’ allegations of “dark arts,” Mr. Sunak’s campaign is also under ongoing attacks from Jacob Rees-Mogg, another one of Mr. Johnson’s supporters.
Ms. Truss, who is now being referred to as the “continuity Boris” candidate, has the support of both Ms. Dorries and Mr. Rees-Mogg.
When he was in head of the Treasury, Mr. Sunak, according to Mr. Rees-Mogg, raised taxes to “socialist” levels and “squandered” the Tories’ economic performance.
In a further jab at Mr. Sunak, he has criticized the timeline for the race to succeed Mr. Johnson as Tory leader and claimed it “favors” people who were “disloyal” to Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Rees-Mogg asserted that Mr. Sunak had been “cogitating” a leadership run for at least six months.
There is also ferocious competition among those who are not front-runners in the race, with Ms. Mordaunt’s supporters allegedly “cyber-squatting” in opposition to Mr. Zahawi’s candidacy.
Mr. Zahawi, who took over as Chancellor from Mr. Sunak last week, has not yet unveiled a formal campaign website, although he has been touting his “NZ 4 PM” campaign slogan.
Now, internet users who try to find Mr. Zahawi’s hypothetical website ‘nz4pm.com’ are taken directly to the homepage of his rival, ‘pm4pm.com’.
Voters are greeted by a white screen with the message: “Vote Penny Mordaunt in this 2022 Conservative election” after clicking on nz4pm.com.
Users are then brought to the posh homepage of the Portsmouth North MP shortly after that.
However, whoever was responsible for the domain name ruse said it had nothing to do with Ms. Mordaunt.
Disclaimer: This website is not affiliated with Penny Mordaunt or the Penny Mordaunt campaign, according to a disclaimer on the redirect page.
This is not Penny’s fault, and she is unrelated to it. Nadhim, don’t forget to acquire your domains.
The “pre-emptive cyber-squatting” by Ms. Mordaunt’s supporters to block access to the Chancellor’s website was praised.
The technical ploy was discovered by journalist Rob Minto, who noted: “OK, domain wars are ON.
The domain nz4pm.com redirects to pm4pm.com, Penny Mordaunt’s campaign website, even though Zahawi is using the hashtag NZ4PM!
Digital proficiency: Zahawi 0–1 Mordaunt.
Ahead of the debut of the Stratford-upon-Avon MP’s website tomorrow, some dubbed the prank “comedy gold.”
Lesson one of PR in the digital age, according to one user Register every domain name you intend to use PRIOR to publishing the logos.
Another attentive observer commented, “This is brilliant.”
The battle for the Conservative leadership has descended into cyberwar.
Another user tweeted: “How the heck can you want to be PM if you can’t manage to acquire a domain name?”
However, some people didn’t find the digital trick as hilarious, including the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.
What japes, she wrote. In the real world, people are battling to provide for their families. and the UK government, which has the authority and means to take action, is completely immobilized.
The campaigns of Mr. Zahawi and Ms. Mordaunt have been approached for comment.
It happens at the same time as Sajid Javid, the former health secretary whose resignation last week led to Mr. Johnson’s demise, withdrew from the race yesterday night after failing to receive the required number of support from Conservative MPs—20—to qualify for the first round of voting.
The withdrawal of Priti Patel, the home secretary, and her refusal to declare her support for anyone could help Ms. Truss’ candidacy.
Rehman Chishti, an outsider candidate, also gave up yesterday before the deadline of 6 p.m. for obtaining the necessary 20 supporters.
There were none who openly supported him.