With no candidate gaining momentum and the three survivors relatively close in the vote, analysts said it was impossible to predict which two would come out of the next round of voting on Wednesday. After the party vote, in early September, the new leader and prime minister will be announced.
There was a sense, with the uncertainty and shattered heat records, that British politics and the weather are entering uncharted territory at the same time.
Rarely did a political campaign seem less tied to daily reality. Climate change has hardly played a role in the debate among the candidates. To the extent that is the case, the candidates have only offered qualified support to Britain adhering to its goal of reaching “net zero” in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“What it reveals is the divide between politicians and the public,” said Tom Burke, chairman of E3G, an environmental think tank, and former government adviser. “The recent succession of weather events has confirmed the science in the public mind, but politicians, especially on the right, don’t understand that.”
Mr Burke said the Conservative candidates promised a smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation. Any effective climate policy, he said, would require stricter regulation, state intervention and somewhat higher taxes.
Britain is of course not the only county where climate policy has clashed with fears of pressure on the cost of living. In Washington, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, cited rising inflation as a major reason he refused to agree with fellow Democrats and the White House on a comprehensive climate package.