Those who question the number of candidates in the Conservative leadership election are answered by the claim that it would be unfair to change the rules mid-contest.

But the election hasn’t started yet and the rules haven’t been set – strange as it may seem.  The 1922 Committee Executive meets early this afternoon to decide them.

The committee could insist that any candidate needs ten fellow MPs to nominate him, for example, rather than just  a proposer and seconder.  It could stipulate that more than one candidate is eliminated after each ballot.  It will definitely set a date for close of nominations – perhaps Friday this week.  Penny Mordaunt, Steve Baker, Priti Patel and others who have indicated that they may enter the contest don’t have long to make up their minds.

ConservativeHome can see the case for raising the number of nominators, but suspects that MPs would lend prospective candidates their signatures – see Labour’s 2015 leadership election…and Jeremy Corbyn.

The number of candidates eliminated in each ballot is quite another matter, however.  We see no reason why the bottom three, say, shouldn’t fall out each time – rather than just the one, as previously.

If a candidate can’t muster at least ten supporters, one has to ask why he is standing at all.  At present, none of the following  who have declared can boast backers in double figures, according to ConHome’s table: Kit Malthouse, Esther McVey, Mark Harper, Rory Stewart, James Cleverly and Sam Gyimah.