YOU can pretty much put a bet on anything happening in politics. The next UK Government being a Labour/SNP coalition (9-1); Angus Robertson becoming First Minister of Scotland (2-1); even which television show Boris Johnson might appear on (Dancing on Ice at 28-1, Strictly 7-1). As long as the bookies, famously accommodating sorts, are happy, you are on.

Respect to anyone who foresaw that the latest live, televised debate between the contenders for the Tory leadership would end with the moderator spark out on the studio floor. Sympathies and best wishes to Kate McCann, the political editor of TalkTV who fainted 30 minutes into the Rishi Sunak/Liz Truss clash.

The word later was that the excellent McCann was doing fine.

If a writer had suggested such a twist in a drama they would have been laughed out of the room. Yet it happened. It is not the craziest or most important event in the last five years. At best it is a footnote.

It is significant, though, in that it took place during one of the most vicious leadership fights in memory. A tussle that, in turn, fits right into a political era that has seen some ugly habits come back into fashion, starting with our longtime pal, misogyny.

Misogyny has never of course gone away, but every now and then you can forget for a moment that it is still out there, lurking. Look at how far we’ve come, the progress that has been made. No turning the clock back now. Then it happens. The Taliban back in charge in Afghanistan. Roe v Wade overturned. The unthinkable made real.

In comparison with such things, an outbreak of sexism during a Tory leadership contest is small fry, but it still matters.

First it was Penny Mordaunt who found herself pilloried in the press. She was variously described as lazy (“part-time Penny”), lightweight, incompetent, promoted above her ability, and generally lacking in the sort of mental firepower required for the job of Prime Minister. None of this was said about the male contenders.

Once Mordaunt had been eliminated it was on to Ms Truss. The other woman in the contest, Kemi Badenoch, was not seen as much of a threat due to her age and inexperience and so was largely spared. Now it was Ms Truss who was lightweight, over-promoted, lacking in mental firepower, etc.

By the time she and Mr Sunak appeared for the BBC1 debate on Monday night the tone had been set.

The former Chancellor did not say anything sexist about Ms Truss. It was his behaviour that was the problem. Aggressive, interrupting her at every turn, mansplaining the arguments. Every woman watching at home had been in that meeting.

It was not as bad as Donald Trump following Hillary Clinton round the debate stage during the 2016 US presidential election. That was plain strange and menacing.

You could say Mr Sunak was just putting his points a little too exuberantly. But it looked terrible, it sounded worse, and it will have gone down badly with the party members he was trying to impress.

Someone had clearly had a word by the time Mr Sunak arrived at the TalkTV studios on Tuesday. This time he was more restrained and polite, as was his opponent, and the debate zipped along amiably enough, until Kate McCann fainted and the programme was taken off the air.

Both contenders are up for a rematch, and they will meet again at a Sky News debate next month and at hustings around the country.

We are not done yet with the macho fun and games, however. Mr Sunak has said yes to a sit-down with expert kebaber Andrew Neil at 7.30pm tomorrow on Channel 4, but his opponent has so far declined and taken the flak on social media accordingly.

Elsewhere, in this very newspaper in fact, Ms Truss has been accused of not knowing her own mind. Yes, that old line. Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP for the Glasgow region from 2016 to 2021, wrote this week: “She is preferred by the right wing of the Tory party because they think they will be able to run and control her. She will be a puppet prime minister, on strings pulled by the most wild-eyed of the lunatic fringe.”

To be fair to my comrade-in-comment he is not impressed by Mr Sunak either, but at least he is not casting him in a remake of Gaslight by way of Pinocchio.

Short of emigrating to Mars I could not be further away from Ms Truss and her politics. I believe the next Prime Minister should arrive via a General Election. But do I think she deserves the same treatment and respect generally afforded to her male opponent? Yes.

Sexism can work both ways, as could be seen in the coverage of McCann’s fainting. The camera was on Ms Truss at the time and we watched as the incident played out across her face. She was shocked, horrified, and rushed to help. One commentator observed the next day: “Liz’s instinct to run towards the disaster did her credit, a reminder that whatever her job, she is first and foremost a mum.”

We could not see how Mr Sunak, out of shot, was reacting. Did he too rush to help because he was first and foremost a dad? What if neither of them had children? Could they not be expected to act like basically decent human beings in this situation? While I am not saying the race was decided there and then in Ms Truss’s favour, these things have an impact.

Barring some upset, it is looking like Ms Truss will be the next Prime Minister. If what she has experienced in the past few weeks is any guide she is not in for an easy time of it, not least from her own side.

As such, she inevitably calls to mind a previous Prime Minister whose time in power ended in tears.

Not Margaret Thatcher, though the description fits, but Theresa May who, in hindsight, never stood a chance once the powerful men around her decided her face did not fit. Again, you don’t have to agree with anything she stands for to believe that she deserved to be treated fairly.

Too many girls and young women already think politics is not for them, that it is a nasty, brutish business they should avoid. This leadership campaign, and politics in general recently, is hardly proving such assumptions wrong. Think of all that talent going to waste. Now that is a crying shame.