One is a “traitor”, the other “incompetent”: The closer the decision gets to who will succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the uglier the tone among the Conservatives in Great Britain becomes.

Now they can be counted on one hand, at least that much is certain. But who will finally cross the finish line as the winner of the so-called leadership race is difficult to predict, despite initial preliminary decisions. Only so much: The race is in the hot phase – and should be even dirtier. But one by one.

The race began with a head of government who ran out of breath. Boris Johnson, who after numerous scandals was attached to the image of a breakdown Prime Minister, had to admit defeat after just as many protest notes against himself. He announced his retirement, albeit in installments: he would give up his post as leader of the Conservative Tory party, but remain in the prime minister’s office until his successor is chosen.

Johnson provided his remarkable near-resignation with an equally remarkable sentence that could be read as a reckoning or a warning: Johnson said in front of his seat of government at 10 Downing Street that nobody is irreplaceable, the “Darwinian system” will produce a new party leader .

In other words: Only the fittest survive.

Well, to stay with the martial metaphor, five survived. After the second vote by the conservative faction on Thursday, which votes according to the knockout system, so to speak, the field around Boris Johnson’s successor has shrunk from the initial eight applicants. are left:

The next votes are scheduled for next week. On Wednesday it should then be clear between which two aspirants the party members will decide in a runoff. The result – and thus the new party and government leadership – should be known by September 5 at the latest.

It is uncertain who will come out on top in the end. On the other hand, it is obvious that the fight for the “best job in the world” is being fought with tough drums, as Johnson mourned after the office.

“Anyone but Rishi”

Just three days after Johnson’s resignation speech – and before the start of the official selection process – the “Sunday Times” reported “dirty dossiers” circulating about applicants in Westminster. It is said to be about questionable financial arrangements, but also “widespread rumors about candidates” would find their place, the paper quoted a senior Tory politician as saying about “sado-masochism”, “bondage”, “inappropriate relationships” and “explicit photos ” spoke.

In general, all sorts of things could be read about the candidates in the British media, often under the guise of anonymity. For example, in the “Financial Times”, according to which former Finance Minister Sunak is a “treacherous bastard” who planned his protest resignation from Johnson’s cabinet from a long time ago. Or in the Daily Mail, where Secretary of State for Trade Mordaunt was described as so “incompetent” that she couldn’t even organize a tea party. Because of: how is she supposed to lead a party?

The calculation behind the ugly comments is obvious: the rival camps throw dirt in the hope that some of the dirt will stick – and the chances of success for the competition will be reduced. Prime Minister Johnson was allegedly forced out of office for dishonesty and a lack of noblesse. The aspirants to succeed him clearly have no interest in setting a better example.

Against this background, the focus of the mudslinging are also those names that are currently being traded most in the polls for the Johnson successor.

Good chances are attributed to Secretary of State for Trade Mordaunt, who is ahead of the Conservatives according to the latest poll by Convervative Home. A survey by YouGov even puts them way ahead in the field of applicants. The current front runner is being dealt with correspondingly harshly: In the “Sunday Times” she was denigrated as a “Penny Dormant”, so to speak, as a sleeping pill that “moved absolutely nothing” in the government and also left it to others to saw off Johnson. A so-called insider was quoted in the “Daily Telegraph” as saying that Mordaunt would go to the diving station as soon as she was needed. Message, that is: Mordaunt is incompetent.

Other surveys, such as for the “Evening Standard”, put Sunak ahead. The former Treasury Secretary was among the first to announce her resignation from Johnson’s cabinet in protest and emerged victorious in the first two Conservative votes. Obviously to the displeasure of the Johnson camp: The entire team at 10 Downing Street hates Sunak for bringing down Johnson, the “Daily Mail” reported. Since then, Johnson himself has been spreading the credo: “Everyone, just not Rishi”.

To name just two specific examples.

Who will be standing at the end of the mud fight?

But the different survey results also show that the Tories do not (yet) know who or what they should want. The turbulent Johnson years have left their mark, and the Tory party has massively lost popular support. If you ask all Britons, as the Times did, most will come to the conclusion: none of the candidates should hold the post of prime minister.

With a view to the next general elections in 2024, this should certainly cause some Tories to worry, so things are likely to shift. Because the applicants are not too far apart on many topics.

Nobody doubts Brexit, and there is consensus on the Johnson government’s controversial plans. All announce tax cuts, as demanded by the majority of the party. Only who can give the party a boost – and prevent a possible Labor victory?

Your party leader attested to the conservative Tory party “no longer making sense” of “what it stands for.” That’s why the candidates would now “scratch each other’s eyes out,” as Keir Starmer told the Guardian. Maybe he’s right. Either way, the “Darwinian system” Johnson spoke of will produce a successor. Let’s see who is still standing at the end of the mud fight.