The failures of Boris Johnson to ignite a base of rank-and-file MPs to join his rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal highlighted what has been increasingly clear in recent months – that the Conservative right is looking for a new standard-bearer.
Plenty of MPs have been willing to defend the former prime minister over the Partygate probe by the Commons Privileges Committee.
But several of those who have been vocal in the media, and even some who flanked him at recent speaking engagements, including his former Cabinet consiglieres Nigel Adams and Nadine Dorries, failed to follow him through the “no” lobby in Wednesday’s vote on the Windsor Framework.
That fellow ex-prime minister Liz Truss, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and recent home secretary Priti Patel also appeared to struggle to bring many followers with them further underlined the point that the Tory right is changing.
The Windsor Framework vote showed that Brexit no longer divides the Tories like it did in the days when the once-powerful European Research Group (ERG) brought down a prime minister in Theresa May.
Meanwhile, the number still willing to make the kind of low-tax libertarian ideals promoted by Ms Truss their guiding light has almost certainly shrunk after her premiership imploded on arrival, and with it her ideology.
That’s why many in Westminster are tipping Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Home Secretary Suella Braverman to be at the forefront of the battle to be the Tory right’s candidate going into the next leadership election, which looks likely to be defined by the question: who is the best culture warrior?
The Spectator has reported that Mr Johnson’s supporters are already launching attacks on Ms Badenoch, sharing text messages where she appears to encourage colleagues to resign in the final days of his government.
But given the lack of support for Mr Johnson’s Brexit rebellion, this may have little impact on Ms Badenoch’s ambitions.
Moreover, it suggests the former prime minister is still keen for a comeback when Mr Sunak falls, after what is still a likely election defeat.
But MPs question whether he really wants to lead the party in opposition.
Ms Badenoch is meanwhile seen as the frontrunner because many on the right feel that Ms Braverman will inevitably fail to curb Channel crossings.
It was this kind of overpromising and underdelivering that meant Ms Patel was overtaken by the pair as they battled it out with Ms Truss for the right-wing in last summer’s Tory leadership contest.
However, if Ms Braverman does manage to “stop the boats”, it would likely propel her to frontrunner status if she can avoid other mis-steps at the Home Office, known as the graveyard for political ambitions.
Whether the right can anoint the next leader will meanwhile depend on how many Tory MPs are left after election defeat, and whether that faction of the party remains as strong as it is now after polling day.