Next Conservative Leader Betting: Who Will Succeed Boris Johnson?
- Tom Tugendhat to be the next conservative leader at 20/1 with Ladbrokes
- Grant Shapps to be the next conservative leader at 100/1 with Coral
When I last analysed the Next Conservative Leader betting betting, Boris Johnson had just taken over but his future was highly uncertain. We didn’t know if or when there would be a snap general election or whether Brexit would happen. Barely anybody had heard of the term ‘coronavirus’.
We know what happened next. Johnson secured his place in Tory folklore by securing their biggest majority since the 1980s. Brexit was delivered, although the post-transition agreement implications are yet to play out and remain an issue of profound importance. He contracted Covid-19 and needed intensive care before recovering.
Johnson Unlikely To Be A Long-Term PM
Having won such a big majority and still leading the polls, there is a chance Johnson could be in office for a decade. In which case, the winner of this political betting market may not even be listed. Plenty of time for a backbencher or even a newcomer to emerge.
That long-term scenario, however, is looking less likely. Whereas he gained tremendous public sympathy whilst ill, distracting from failures and his slow response to the Covid-19 crisis, Brand Boris is disintegrating in office.
Over the past week, numerous well-placed Westminster journalists reported deep unease among Tory MPs. Even The Sun’s Trevor Kavanaugh excoriated his leadership, or lack of it. The image of a part-time PM, who misses Cobra meetings and leaves unelected advisor Dominic Cummings in charge, is taking hold.
Johnson’s approval ratings have fallen along with the government’s, regarding management of the crisis. Whereas he owed his job to being an undeniable electoral asset for the Tories, he could soon be a liability.
As we saw with Theresa May, the Conservative Party does not tolerate unpopular leaders. The next election is not due until 2024 but there is a good chance they will switch before then to somebody deemed more electable.
“Boris Johnson's government has the worst approval rating in the WORLD for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic - below even Donald Trump despite the US having the highest death toll” - in the Daily Mail too. https://t.co/YwdDbivTyw— Dr Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) June 11, 2020
Sunak Is The Standout Performer Of This Cabinet
As the market implies, one man is well ahead of the rest. No politician has had a better crisis than Rishi Sunak - the young, telegenic Chancellor who created the popular furlough scheme.
It is dangerous to read too much into approval ratings of non-leaders, because they are much lesser known and many won’t even hold a considered view, but various polls have shown Sunak comfortably outstripping his Cabinet rivals. Moreover, colleagues are apparently very impressed with his intellect, focus and skills displayed in their Zoom meetings.
At 7/2 with Paddy Power to succeed Johnson, the odds on Sunak are short and not without risk. A Chancellor’s reputation can implode during a recession or with one or two mis-steps. George Osborne, for example, was a 2/1 chance to succeed Cameron before unpopular cuts to tax credits damaged him. After picking the losing side in the EU referendum, he didn’t even run and his political career was over.
Beware that before taking short odds about Sunak. As I write, the government is struggling under fire from Marcus Rashford over free school meals for deprived children. This spending decision ultimately goes back to the Chancellor. While he did perform a u-turn over this decision, it might not bode well for him long term.
Senior Ministers Have An Advantage In Near-Term
Nevertheless, the odds are correct. Were Johnson to go before the Tories lose an election, the contest would be for PM, strongly favouring those with senior Cabinet experience. Chancellors, Foreign and Home Secretaries are best-placed.
From that perspective, Dominic Raab (12/1 with Coral) and Priti Patel (25/1 with William Hill) are contenders. Neither could be described as enjoying a good crisis, but both are high-profile and associated with a hard right ideology that will likely appeal to the party faithful. If politics is now driven by culture wars, they are both effective soldiers.
Michael Gove arguably holds a more wide-ranging, senior role in the government. He has never lacked ambition or powerful media connections and is extremely close to Cummings. His problem, however, has always been electability, never polling well with the wider public. 8/1 with 888Sport doesn’t appeal.
Of the two 33/1 chances tipped last autumn, only Gavin Williamson made the Cabinet. The Education Secretary hasn’t been well received at government Covid briefings and doesn’t communicate well. Nevertheless the reasoning stands - he held influence with the last three Tory leaders and has skills that rivals either respect or fear, so he may still be value at 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
Keep Heavyweight Tugendhat onside
Tom Tugendhat has not been embraced by the Johnson administration, but retains leadership potential, is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and respected on the backbenches. He may require a longer timeframe to rise in stock, but I want this former soldier onside.
There must be a chance that Johnson’s government implodes after a chaotic end to the transition agreement, or disastrous Covid numbers and revelations, or recession, scandal. Or all four. Were that to happen, those senior government ministers - perhaps bar Sunak - might well be finished.
In that scenario, undamaged types such as Tugendhat (20/1 with Ladbrokes) or Tobias Ellwood (50/1 with Paddy Power) come into it and there is also speculation about the man who lost the leadership final to Johnson. Jeremy Hunt (16/1 with Betfair) is a former Foreign Secretary and now chair of the Health Select Committee.
Whilst his experience is a big plus, Hunt was the Health Secretary when pandemic planning was slashed, stockpiles of PPE fell and the NHS became more fragmented. Any attempt to distance himself from the mess will be called out by rivals.
One Cabinet minister whose competent briefings have been relatively well received is Grant Shapps - generally a 100/1 chance with Coral. He’s only 51, a good communicator and well-placed for promotion from Transport Secretary.
With Shapps, the negative is a long history of scandal before being excluded from the May administration. However these days we must wonder whether that matters. It certainly didn’t stop the rise of Johnson and Patel.
- Tom Tugendhat to be the next conservative leader at 33/1 with Royal Panda
- Gavin Williamson to be the next conservative leader at 33/1 with Coral
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