And the next Tory Leader is…
It was received wisdom that Theresa May is a “dead woman walking”, to use the unfortunately memorable words of the then new Editor of the Evening Standard on the Andrew Marr show the Sunday after June’s General Election. And the conventional wisdom had been that if she could last until this autumn’s party conference – due at the beginning of October – then she would be safe until after any Brexit deal.
The recent flurry of media noise around her replying “yes” to the question ‘are you going to fight the next General Election’ has had the media, Opposition and vehemently anti-May Tories foaming at the mouth. But that is all just media froth because the standard line for any party leader is always to answer ‘yes’ to the ‘are you going to win/fight the next election’ question whenever it is asked, even one hour before the polls close on election day or as you are writing your resignation letter.
In reality there is zero chance she will lead the Tories into the next General Election. There is simply no appetite for that amongst Tory MPs or activists who are all still aghast at the disastrous election campaign and her wooden and robotic inability to empathise with voters. The only reason she remains leader is because (a) no Tory wants a General Election right now and (b) no Tory leadership contender wants her job right now, happy for her to take the Brexit pain until the deal is struck (should any deal actually be possible).
So the political tea leaves seem to continue to suggest this she is safe through conference season and until 2019, when either she will resign or she will be ousted – Tories are very good at regicide, viz Thatcher, Hague, IDS, Howard etc. So who is quietly on manoeuvres?
The first thing to note is that all the polling – should you ever wish to believe a pollster ever again – suggests that the big name, old guard may be past their sell by date with the Tory Party faithful. ConservativeHome, the well-respected barometer of the Tory Party mood, which regularly polls its readership on this issue to gauge the current view of the Party. All the big names – Davis, Hammond, BoJo, Gove et al – have fallen down the rankings. It would seem perhaps that some of the Brexit campaign chickens are coming home to roost and that the real contenders are more youthful Tory MPs of predominately the 2010 intake.
The second point to make is that Ruth Davidson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will not be in contention. Davidson because (a) she is an MSP not an MP and (b) she has clearly stated that her ambitions lie in Holyrood and not Westminster. (But note, due to her considerable popularity in the Tory Party, she is perhaps the most important ‘king maker’; all the candidates will want/need her endorsement). And, thank the Lord, Rees-Mogg has never, is not, and will never be a serious candidate despite his vocal cult of believers who probably also think things were so much better in 1850, still mourn the British Empire and have their very own Thatcher shrine in their cellar.
So who are the dark horses working away to lay the groundwork for potential future glory. Most of them you won’t know well, if at all. But if you’d like our Tory Leadership Contenders’ Guide, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.