OVER the decades in which I have covered politics, I have frequently found the accompanying discourse to be infantile or, at best, a few grapes short of a vineyard.

Politicians seem to feel they need to sustain every comment with a burst of bogus indignation at the stance adopted by their opponents.

Perhaps it is the fault of the mischievous media who tend to lap up lambasting oratory.

Perhaps it is the fault of the populace who say that they want the full story but get a little exasperated if the harsh realities of future choices are ever truly set before them.

Another facet of this is that politicians seeking support resort to platitudes; to buzz-words which they know, from experience, produce a positive response.

There are many such examples. However, perhaps the most facile is to promise “bobbies on the beat”.

I understand. I get the concept. Increased police numbers.

However, it sometimes occurred to my more cynical self that there was little point in bobbies pounding the pavement if the crooks were escaping at pace in a stolen BMW or thieving online.

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Political choices, in short, are somewhat more complex than the simplistic slogans would allow. Which is why most Ministers in my acquaintance are in an honourable lather of private uncertainty much of the time.

For facile debate, the prize must go to the Conservative leadership contest. Perhaps they should make it an event at the Commonwealth Games.

Liz Truss offered a version of “bobbies on the beat”, promising to cut back on police paperwork. Tedious stuff like preparing evidence for the Crown, presumably?

But Rishi Sunak was up there on her shoulder, as the race progressed.

Without any trace of embarrassment, he announced that he would scrap VAT on energy bills if prices kept rising.

A policy he had opposed outright earlier this year. And his job then was? Just remind me. That’s right, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He was, understandably, lampooned by Team Truss. They said it was a “screeching U-turn”, reminding Mr Sunak that he had described rival tax cutting plans as “fairy-tales”.

Even Boris Johnson joined in with a few Delphic comments, indicating he would prefer his current Foreign Secretary to his previous Chancellor as his successor.

If, that is, there has to be a successor….. Ok, let us deal with that. Do I believe Boris Johnson resents being ousted? Yes.

Is he still playing house at Number 10, stretching out his term? Yes, again. Is there any chance he could hang on somehow? Or return? No, and no. Just no.

The problem for Rishi Sunak is simple and blunt. He is losing this race – and he only has a matter of days in which to devise a strategy for catching up.

That is because this is now a postal ballot in which 160,000 Tory members will choose from the shortlist of two set down by Tory MPs. And ballot papers will be arriving with those party members around the 5th of August.

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Some may wait until they have absorbed every platitude and promise from the contenders. Many, however, will have made their minds up and will return their votes immediately.

Rishi Sunak cannot afford to wait. He has to work on the assumption that voting will very soon be under way – and that he has to close the gap.

He faces a series of problems in that regard. Firstly, his personal and family wealth. Tories, instinctively, might be inclined to applaud his success.

But they know that their party will have to appeal to the broader electorate soon. To voters who have endured the hideous plague and are now suffering a real economic crisis.

Not some vague, indefinable problem which troubles Threadneedle Street and the IMF. But massive energy bills, soaring inflation, strikes – and attendant population anxiety.

Team Truss are not crass enough to say that Rishi Sunak is too rich to be PM. Instead, they draw attention to his elegant suits and shoes, contrasting it with her shopping mall accessories.

Then there is his demeanour. Politics is a rough game. But some Tories seem to feel that Mr Sunak has gone too far in his “blue on blue” interventions when Liz Truss was speaking in televised debates.

Of course, there is taxation. Liz Truss is offering around £30bn in tax cuts without explaining, in any real detail, how these would be funded or implemented.

Perhaps understandably, the erstwhile Chancellor feels a mite irritated. Remember that he was on the verge of a significant dispute with Boris Johnson because the PM seemed unwilling to be blunt with folk about the state of the economy.

Liz Truss is, potentially, going further still. As Rishi Sunak noted, she cited one economist in support of her plans – who promptly said they would result in interest rates rising to seven per cent.

Volubly and passionately, Mr Sunak pleads for a hearing over the economy and tax. Some will heed him. But many unhappy, disquieted Tories want some good news for a change. Hence the Sunak switch on VAT.

Then there is another issue. Liz Truss is a Remainer. No, nothing to do with Brexit on this occasion. She did indeed campaign for Britain to remain in the EU – while now blithely announcing that she was wrong.

Rather, she is a Remainer in another way. She remains in the surreal Cabinet, mustered and chaired by Boris Johnson.

Yes, Prime Minister. Good point, Prime Minister. Thank you, Prime Minister. No, Prime Minister, that is in mid-September. One for your successor, I think.

Several of Liz Truss’s key supporters, such as the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, are also Ministerial Remainers.

By contrast, Rishi Sunak’s resignation helped precipitate the end for Boris Johnson.

Some will regret that departure. Some, like the questioner at the candidate hustings in Leeds, will blame Mr Sunak directly. Others may distrust Mr Johnson’s character but may feel he was owed loyalty.

Either way, Rishi Sunak is losing to Liz Truss. Each accuses the other of an “immoral” stance on tax.

All passion spent, each then offers to serve in the other’s Cabinet. Told you this contest was surreal.