THE Tory leadership race has a bit of everything—good, bad and ugly. One can watch and admire, as new talent emerges.

One can breathe a sigh of relief, as service and duty and honesty and integrity re-enter centre-stage. They have been much missed.

One can wince and cringe at the cardboard inanity of clichéd closing statements and vacuous social media memes.

And one can pull one’s hair out at the superficiality of politics on our broadcast media. I’ve never exactly been a man of the people but, my God, how I loathe television.

Truly, the best and the worst of British politics have been on display this past fortnight. Let’s start with the positives. Three stand out: diversity, honour, and philosophy.

If nothing else, the contest has put front and centre the breadth, range and diversity of talent at the top of the modern Tory party.

There is no white man in the final four. The party that has given us three successive ethnic minority Chancellors of the Exchequer – Nadhim Zahawi, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid – and, of course, the only two women Prime Ministers in British history is about to give us either our first ethnic minority PM or our third woman in No 10.

The Labour party, meanwhile, has never been led by anyone other than a white man.

The watchwords of the leadership debates have been duty, honour and service. Conservatives are supposed to believe that politicians are the servants of the people, and not the other way around.

Conservatives are supposed to believe in service and duty and they—we—are at our best when we remember that and do not allow ego and self to trump them.

I have written before on these pages about how Boris Johnson was never really a Conservative. He was a showman, an asset to the party when he was an election winner but someone always likely to be jettisoned at the first opportunity once he became an electoral liability. So it proved.

And the shadow of Boris has loomed large over this race, all the leading participants seeking to distance themselves from his style of politics. This is not in the least surprising but it is none the less an unambiguously good thing.

The other key positive is that there has been a genuine battle of ideas in this race. Over both domestic and foreign policy, the contenders have indicated that more than one approach is possible from a centre-right perspective.

Do we cut taxes now in order to stimulate growth, or do we maintain our current sky-high levels of public spending because that is what people got used to during the pandemic and now seem to demand and expect even as we emerge out the other side?

On the one hand, Sunak is right to say that the Conservative thing to do is to ensure the soundness of the public finances, cutting tax only when it is safe and prudent to do so.

On the other hand, Liz Truss and the others are also right to say that Conservatives believe in low tax and a small state, even if Conservative governments have been slow to put those ideals into operation of late.

Likewise on foreign policy, it is not our relation to Europe that has dominated as much as it is our relations with Russia and China, to both of whom we have wrongly cosied up in recent years.

A foreign policy that puts strategy and Western integrity first, rather than craven appetites for new markets no matter the cost, has been long overdue. Tom Tugendhat will not be our next Prime Minister: but I would love to see him as our next foreign secretary.

Where the leadership contest has been less impressive, however, is in the testing of how these basic philosophical stances may be turned into hardcore, practical policy.

Particularly in the ghastly televised debates, there has been too much emphasis on personality and too little on policy.

I would like to have seen the last five contenders spend an hour or more debating a single issue: say housing, or climate change, or China.

That would have told us a great deal more about their fitness (or otherwise) to serve as our country’s Prime Minister than the nonsense we were served up by Channel 4 and ITV.

Sunak and Truss were quite right to pull out of other such programmes. Our politics are ill-served by our broadcasters, especially so by our television channels. Their brand of politics-as-entertainment does no one any favours.

There is still some way to run in this race before we find out who will replace Mr Johnson. But, as things stand, my biggest worries are two-fold.

First, the side-lining of climate policy and the housing crisis will serve only to alienate even further the young (and especially the urban young) from the Tory party.

It should be fundamental to Conservatives that we have to fix the economy so that people find it easier and not harder to get onto and climb up the housing ladder.

And yet housing gets shunted down the agenda and filed under the “too difficult” pile. This will cost the party dear, as will its deep-seated preference not to talk seriously about the climate.

Second, the treatment of Scotland (and, indeed Northern Ireland) in this race has been dismal.

The question for the contenders is not how hard they would be on SNP cries for a repeat referendum on independence. The question is what they would do in office to make the case for the Union more appealing.

Unionists need not merely to say no to and ultimately to defeat the SNP. They—we—need to make the Union we believe in fit for the future. Thus far in this debate, I’ve heard nothing on this front.

Given that we are talking about the leadership of the Conservative and Unionist Party, that’s a woeful omission.