Conservative MP Boris Johnson: polls put him ahead in the race for the Conservative Party leadership. Picture: AFP/Isabel Infantes
Conservative MP Boris Johnson: polls put him ahead in the race for the Conservative Party leadership. Picture: AFP/Isabel Infantes

Two dinosaurs stand atop a bluff overlooking a storm-swept ocean. A vessel looking very much like Noah’s Ark is halfway to the horizon.

The dinosaurs look at each other in horror. "Crap!" says one, "was that today?"

It’s an old joke that has appeared in various incarnations over the years, but it seems particularly apt this week as the Tory leadership race kicks off in earnest.

The dinosaurs are, of course, the candidates thrusting themselves into the light as the saviours of the Tory party and, by extension, Great Britain itself.

And what of the ark? Maybe it’s the EU sailing off to its Britain-free future, or perhaps it’s Britain casting off the Conservative Party for good.

Either way, the subtext is that the Tory leadership contest looks increasingly like a race to extinction.

None of the candidates has the gravitas, leadership qualities or even the basic appeal of, say, a Nelson Mandela or a John F Kennedy. All are hamstrung in myriad ways, some by the smallanyana skeletons in their political closets, some because of their actions as the Brexit referendum train wreck unfolded, and the rest, well, because who remembers Mark Harper? (Clue: he used to work for Theresa May at the home office and is now infamous for "Go Home" vans, a 2013 advertising campaign targeting illegal immigrants.)

Fear not: polls put Boris Johnson ahead of the pack, which is making EU leaders nervous. They have long memories in Brussels, where Johnson spent time as correspondent for The Telegraph in the early 1990s, when he seems to have honed his anti-EU fervour.

Meanwhile, the leadership race serves as another, probably welcome distraction from the real threat: the fast-approaching asteroid called "October 31".