Conservative Party leadRishi Sunak against a backdrop of worms
Rishi Sunak: How likely would he eat a worm? Image: Owain Anderson

Tory Leadership Candidates, Ranked By How Likely They Are to Eat a Worm

The most important question of the 2022 Conservative leadership race, answered: Would they eat a worm?

It has been many years since I pondered whether a human being would eat a worm. Premier League football managers, Love Island contestants, members of the last doomed England World Cup squad: would they eat a worm, I wondered, and if so with how much élan? All of this because, in 2018, a now sadly-departed gravel-voiced former Burnley manager (who once scored a penalty with such no-nonsense Brexitness that it is forever ingrained in my memory as if etched there with a laser) had to publicly admit he didn’t actually eat worms, as accused via a translated-from-Danish podcast, he actually only ever pretended to eat worms by putting them in his mouth and theatrically chewing them.


Years have whipped the stones down to pebbles. I have gone to the caves and stared at myself in the clear deep pools. “Hey mate you’re that— what’s the name. You’re the VICE guy, aren’t you?” people ask. “You’re that— no you are!” They’ll get a mate over. “It’s that VICE guy!” they’ll say, and the mate will go: Clive?

“No, not Clive. The other one.”

“What’s the other one?”

“There was… there was Clive—”

“I’m not Clive.”

“Yeah and there’s. I swear there was another one.”


“It’s not Alhan.”

“Bish! Joe Bish.”

“No it’s—”

“I’m not Joe Bish.”

“Yeah anyway, the other one, the other one. Yeah I know you. Yeah. Yeah I like the stuff you do about worms.”

“Oh! The worm guy!”

“Yeah and he did that documentary about the football hooligan. Yeah. And then literally nothing else for four years—”

Is This the Most Cringe Government Ever? 

“I did other stuff. I did loads of other stuff. The Ronnie Pickering stuff, stuff like that. Peugeot Dad. I mean these are the tips of the iceberg. I had a book—”


“Yeah nice one. Worm boy! Worm boy! Hey: does he look like he’d eat a worm?”

“I’d have to talk to him, get to know him. Assess him via a brief bio, a skim of his Wikipedia page—”

“Does he look like he’d eat a fucking worm or fucking not?”

“... yes.”

Anyway! The Conservatives need a new leader, again (“Be worse under Labour! Imagine how bad it’d be under Labour, though!” — your dad, 900 times a year, whenever something bad happens) and now the country will be ruled by one of these flagrantly ambitious personality voids who think businesses deserve more human rights that humans, for about two maybe two-and-a-half years until another inescapable scandal ousts them and Michael Gove gets to pretend they might finally run out of Tories enough for him to have a go. And the question on everyone’s lips is: Which Of The Conservative Leadership Candidates Would Eat A Worm?

As ever, my methodology for this is simple: I look at a photo of them and decide whether I could bully them, either as an adult or as a child. Worm-eating isn’t a logic puzzle: it is, simply, a vibe, and some people have the vibe that they would eat one and some people have the vibe that they wouldn’t.

To say most of these shysters are running on an “anti-woke” agenda – it is funny that you think we live in a relatively well-read and psychically intelligent country, and then you see that about 60 percent of the voting bloc can be distracted away from the mismanagement of COVID and the economy and the deep-rooted corruption that runs riot through the party and the petrol and energy crisis and how bad Brexit has been, and also the fact that pound-for-pound their lives have only gotten harder and more expensive under years of Tory rule, and then be distracted by somebody going “Yeah but they have to say ‘they/them’ in schools now!” enough to vote the Tories in all over again – but if you did want to bisect the population into two very distinct categories that you cannot move between no matter how much you want to, worm-eating could be a good guide.


There are exactly two types of people: those who would eat a worm, and those who wouldn’t. Let’s figure out what our — can’t believe I’m typing this — next Prime Minister would do when faced with a worm on a plate. 

Minister for Levelling Up Communities KEMI BADENOCH is seen in Downing Street

Kemi Badenoch: Does not eat the worm. Photo: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire

Kemi Badenoch

Not getting a worm vibe from Kemi. The set-up I always envision with these worm scenarios is: I, personally, have to deliver the worm on a plate, and have a short conversation with them to convince them to eat it. So for instance I could very easily, personally, make Aaron Ramsdale eat a worm: that is not even close to the outer reaches of what my dark charisma can make a person do. I could make quite a lot of the Arsenal squad eat a worm (a lot of them I just tell them it’s “for a YouTube challenge” – you will be surprised at how many 20-to-25-year-old men who almost exclusively wear tracksuits will eat a worm for that. “It’s going on JD Sports’ Instagram channel,” something like that. They will deprave themselves.).

What I am seeing here with Kemi Badenoch, though, is this: I bring her a simple clean worm on a small side plate. She looks up from yet another bland uninspiring speech she only makes at business conferences to Tory voters who are already convinced about the Tory agenda to politely half-listen to and clap about, and she says, “What’s that?”


And I say, it’s a worm, it’s for an old— it’s like an old VICE bit we used to do. Like the ‘... On Acid!’ bit but. Not… not as good. And she’ll just say: “No.” I’ll stand there for a few moments. I thought I would be Ant and Dec and she would be Gillian McKeith, but actually I am just offering a worm to a busy woman who has no time for this.

No it’s like— it’s a bit of fun. Nothing. She slowly looks up and makes red glowing eye contact with me. And then I come to, legs splayed at soft doll’s angles across the laminate conference room hall, the taste of worm on my lips and tongue. Kemi Badenoch does not eat the worm.

Ministers attend the first Cabinet Meeting at 10 Downing Street since Prime Minister Boris Johnson's resignation early today. The Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP, Attorney General

Suella Braverman: Weedy Pixar villain energy. Photo: Amanda Rose/Alamy Live News

Suella Braverman

From the list of candidates Suella Braverman has the most palpable “weedy Pixar villain” energy so yes, I think we could make her eat a worm. 

Penny Mordaunt at the launch of her campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at the Cinnamon Club, in Westminster, London

Penny Mordaunt: "Girl in your Halls who is mad about literally everything” energy. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Penny Mordaunt

Anyone who goes on ITV’s Splash! by choice – you did not need to go on an unbeloved Saturday teatime diving show, Penny Mordaunt! Nobody made you do that! You could have gone your entire career without doing that! – could be convinced to eat a worm, yes. That’s just a fundamental fact.

But it’s weird because, from the off, Penny Morduant gives me quite astounding high-vibrating “girl in your Halls who is mad about literally everything” energy, and as a result that makes me wonder whether I could get a worm to her, actually. You move in to Halls on the first day and Penny Mordaunt has already fully moved in the night before and is talking to your dad about Castrol. You go to get your mug out of your designated kitchen cupboard and Penny Mordaunt has moved them all around because “it’s better”. Typed and printed (did she go to the IT lab above the security hut to do that? It’s like a 12-minute walk. Or she… she doesn’t have a printer in her room does she?) letter, anonymous but you all know who, left on top of the modest pile of washing up you’ve all left for an afternoon.


Penny Mordaunt somehow is the head of the Conservative Union within her first week of college, ousting the previous incumbent who has just entered their third year. Penny Mordaunt lurking outside PPE, History of Art and Law lectures to identify and take-down the universities most eligible upward-moving bachelors. “Me and Rory are trying to sleep in there and we can’t because of this guff you’re playing!” Penny Mordaunt is yelling, as you spin a Bloc Party CD at 8.15PM before a Saturday night at Crash.

Penny Mordaunt goes missing for two weeks and you all get a weird firmly-worded letter from the administration saying if the shared areas don’t get cleaned up your grades get affected (???). Penny Mordaunt needs the kitchen all day because five girls you’ve never seen who are all called Clara are coming over that day and she’s making them a big moussaka.

This is a profound energy but it exists in certain members of the population, and when harnessed correctly – as Mordaunt, I suppose, has – it can lead to a certain careerist high. But I still cannot move past the fact that she’d eat a worm, somehow. I mean come the fuck on. She did Splash!.

Rishi Sunak at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London

Rishi Sunak: If I was worth £730 million, you losers would never get a word out of me again. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

 Rishi Sunak

I hate this loser with my entire being but I cannot shake the fact that he will probably win it based on two factors: with all that “Dishy Rishi” crap, he is fundamentally the most recognisable name now on the list, and I’m convinced 50 percent of Tory voters in this country vote solely based on ‘whether they’ve seen someone on the news before’; and, secondly, he’s the most caricaturable out of all of them, and The Spectator or whatever will have an absolute field day with that. One of the reasons I am convinced the Biden administration is doomed to historical mediocrity is Joe is, fundamentally, quite hard to draw in a fun and damning way. 

But would Rishi Sunak eat a worm? The argument against this is: No, because he’s worth £730 million. But the argument for it is: Yes, because he’s worth £730 million. His being worth £730 million makes me profoundly wonder about him: Why, Rishi Sunak, do you want to be Prime Minister? You’ve already got £730 million, which is beyond the end-goal you might need for a lifetime: you’ve already got the power and the rarefied dinner party invites that that warrants.


In fact, why do you even want to be an MP? Why do you want to deal with this shit when you’ve already got the ultimate amount of money to live a good life? If I was worth £730 million, you losers would never get a word out of me again. I’d be on a yacht and I’d strangle exactly one person a year and get away with it because I’m friends with the mayor. But given that much wealth, that much freedom, given the ability that maybe only 1,000 people on earth have to never do anything but enjoy life ever again: Rishi Sunak chooses to be an MP who maybe occasionally tries to be Prime Minister. That is so pathetic – so small time! – that a small part of me does actually think I could get him to eat a worm. 

“OK, so,” Rishi Sunak is saying (in the time it took him to stutter that out with affected, bought-and-paid-for charm, his overall wealth rose by my entire annual salary), “OK, so, the worm. Do people— do this country’s people, who make this country so Great, do they— are they worm partakers? Do they partake in worms?” He has no idea. He has no idea what we eat.

Yeah, man, I say. Worms are like… you know fry-ups? It’s a bit like fry-ups. When you’re a lad, and you’re on a hangover, and you really need it… you eat a worm.


“Wow, OK,” he says. He eyes up the worm on my plate. “So I just— gulp it down?” I nod. Gulp it down, Rishi. Gulp the worm. He forms both lips into a huge succulent O and suckers them onto the plate (this is how he eats). He sucks the worm down like a hoover. “Thanks, guys,” he says, shaking everyone’s hands as he leaves. “Vote Conservative, Vote For Our Country.” You see it now, don’t you? Rishi Sunak would inhale a worm. 

Foreign Secretary LIZ TRUSS is seen in Westminster after completing morning media round

Liz Truss: Somehow taunting a brave little girl. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Liz Truss

Liz Truss always looks like she’s staring directly down the camera because she’s somehow taunting a brave little girl who is doing some sort of intricate battle with her. The girl’s name is Leila, or something. She lives with her nan. She’s the hero in a series of three or four children’s books where Liz Truss is the villain. CBBC dramatisation a couple of years later but it’s not as good.

“Not sure we can afford this place much longer, Leila,” her nan is saying (her nan is frail). “Liz Truss has bought all the buildings above and to either side of us, and that empty lot that you like to play in.” Leila won’t give up: She has moved around from foster care to foster care, and she finally found a school she liked with a lovely young teacher who gets her. She won’t let Liz Truss win this time. She won’t!


She turns on the news. Liz Truss is being interviewed. “And what will you do when you buy up all this decrepit, useless, no-hope land, Ms. Truss?” the interviewer says. And Liz Truss turns to the camera and looks right down it and smiles like a crocodile. A voice in Leila’s head, suddenly: I see you, Leila. I always do. I will— and the noise is close to getting too strong! The screaming of the wind around her is fluttering the curtains! — I Will Crush You! The voice goes evil like a demon’s does: I! Will! Crush! You! Child!

No. Liz Truss would not eat a worm. 

Tom Tugendhat speaking at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader

Tom Tugendhat: "Lord of the Rings" ass name. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Tom Tugendhat

Lord of the Rings ass name. For a former soldier, he’s one of the least-threatening looking men in the UK, and I know what I look like so that really is saying something. Imagine you’re at war and Tom Tugendhat comes screaming over the dunes at you. “Switzerland actually really bloody nice this time of year!” Tom Tugendhat is yelling, loads of clip-on canteens clattering against his thighs, tactical wraparounds glimmering tactically in the sun. “Yeah and the tax rate out there means it’s really bloody affordable, pound-for-pound!” You’ve already won. I’ve already won. Tom Tugendhat eats a worm. 


Jeremy Hunt is interviewed for Sophie Raworthís 'Sunday Morning' at BBC Broadcasting House in London

Jeremy Hunt: Resting scandal face. Photo: SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Jeremy Hunt

I don’t know what it is about Jeremy Hunt, but he always looks like he’s been caught and stricken by a high flashbulb photograph that is later relied on in court and ends up printed on the front page of a number of newspapers, gets its own Wikipedia page, that sort of thing. Why is that? He just sort of has “resting scandal face”: even at his most leisurely and relaxed, he looks like he’s accidentally reclining in the background of a child-smuggler’s jet, or eating pizza with Prince Andrew, or just emerged blinking into the daylight after an all-nighter where someone “fell” out of a “window”.

Jeremy Hunt always looks like he’s slicked with the sweat of other people who had all the more troubling nights than he did, but also he’s slippery and evasive as a Tory MP – his six years in charge of the NHS was historically disastrous, he keeps trying and failing to be Conservative leader but fundamentally he is still there, always carrying a dossier under one arm, always posing in The Times in checkered shirt sleeves and hugging alien-ly on to his wife.


I do not think Jeremy Hunt would eat a worm, then: He always seems to emerge unscathed from the career plane crashes he orchestrates around him. I think he’d turn worm-eating into a long filibuster-y debate, then hire a team of lawyers to make me apologise to him for even mentioning “a worm” and “Jeremy Hunt” in the same paragraph. If you see me on Instagram acting like I’m homeless over the next couple of months, that’s why. Jeremy Hunt decided to sue me so hard I can no longer pay rent. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, one of the candidates for Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, attending the Conservative Way Forward Relaunch at the Churchill War Rooms

Nadhim Zahawi: Both spiritually and physically bald. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Nadhim Zahawi

Much like worm-eating, baldness is an energy. Crucially: I do not think being bald is a moral position. It is, fundamentally, a biological fact. But some people have a vibe that eclipses their baldness – Ross Kemp, for example – and some are spiritually cowed by their baldness (think: William Hague). It is possible to be physically bald but not spiritually bald: baldness and baldness are separate things. You know bald men who you hardly think of as bald. And you think of some receding men who you think of as really bald.

One of my maddest theories is: it is possible to have a full head of hair, but still have a completely bald vibe. Wayne Rooney, though medically augmented many times, has this. Another bald man with hair is Lembit Öpik.

Nadhim Zahawi is bald, spiritually and physically, and that means he can never win an election, which means he won’t win this. From The Times, in 2000: “In the past century no bald party leader has won a general election against opponents sporting a full head of hair”. Clement Attlee was bald but beat a balding Churchill, then lost to a fully bald Churchill. We haven’t had a bald leader since. William Hague had a go, but look how that went. Americans haven’t voted in a bald President for close to 70 years. And I do not think it is because of the baldness (physical). I think it is the baldness (spiritual). 

Would Nadhim Zahawi eat a worm? Yeah. “Nadhim, you bald prick. Eat a worm.” Done. He mumbles a load of shit about how he’s cycling to the office now. He’s trying to eat healthy, he got a new pair of glasses. Classic mid-fifties bald man behaviour. “I follow Rapha on Instagram!” Eat the worm, Nadhim, you bald prick. He looks at me with his wet bald eyes. He sighs a big bald sigh. I look down at the plate. The worm is gone and Nadhim’s chewing. 

Grant Shapps, Sajid Javid, Rehman Chishti

I could make anyone who pulled out of a Conservative leadership race three days after it started eat a worm, yeah. Why would you even waste the time drafting up a letter and converting it to JPEG to tweet it? Complete and utter loser behaviour. Imagine announcing your leadership bid – then withdrawing it! – in a race that still has Tom Tugendhat in it. Unthinkably wormy. 

So Grant “five men’s foreheads in one man’s skull” Shapps, I could make eat a worm. Rehman “Rehman Chishti, a backbencher, pulled out on 12th July after failing to gain a single public endorsement” Chishti, I could make eat a worm. And obviously I could make Sajid Javid eat a worm. It literally goes without saying that I could make Sajid Javid eat a worm. All of these men have proven themselves to history that they are losers. I would make all of them eat worms with my eyes closed. 

What have we learned?

As ever: absolutely nothing.