THE Conservative leadership contest is brutal. Men who dreamed of being Prime Minister see their careers suddenly terminated on live television.

Nadhim Zahawi was so ambitious that he jumped at being Chancellor in Boris Johnson’s dying moments but hours later publicly called on the Prime Minister to quite. For that extraordinary volte face, he was punished – and now, oddly, we have an acting PM in Mr Johnson and an acting Chancellor, in Mr Zahawi, that the Conservative Party has very little faith in.

Jeremy Hunt was the other loser. Defeated in 2019 by Mr Johnson, his campaign never got going and even three of the people who signed his nomination form failed to support him in the secret ballot.

So six are left in to pursue their dreams, and as they do so, they become more detached from reality. The public knows that the country has to pay for the pandemic, has to overcome an immense backlog in the NHS, has an ambulance service that is creaking, and hasn’t even started to address the funding of a proper social care package.

Similar cases for real and necessary spending can be made for sectors beyond health. For example, Tom Tugendhat, one of the more rational candidates, wants to increase defence spending by £18bn.

And yet all of the candidates are promising tax cuts, National Insurance cuts, fuel duty cuts and business tax cuts.

None of it adds up. We can’t have tax cuts at the same time as we rescue the NHS and turn round decades of slimming down our armed forces. Sadly, reality is going to wake any of the candidates up as they so desperately pursue their dreams.