The battle to be the next UK Prime Minister is still raging in the Conservative Party as MPs call for Theresa May to stand down.
And Jeremy Hunt has entered the serious running for the premiership following 24 hours in the spotlight.
Mrs May has already confirmed she will quit her post as PM once ‘stage one’ of the Brexit negotiations have been settled.
But that means she could stay on until the new Brexit date — October 31 — passes. And there are MPs in the Tory party who want her gone now.
Mark Francois and Ian Duncan Smith have been the most vocal advocates of a new Prime Minister.
And after a weekend in which it was claimed there is a Boris Johnson-Michael Gove leadership pact, Hunt’s name has swung into view.
Hunt is now down to the 7/1 fourth favourite with William Hill to be the next Tory leader, down from 12/1 in January.
The swing comes as punters who bet on politics seek another candidate to back over Johnson or Gove, who for so long have been the frontrunners.
So where is Hunt’s popularity coming from?
The Conservative bedrock likes nothing more than a strong leader on the world stage. And this is what Jeremy Hunt achieved over the past few days.
The Foreign Secretary - so derided for his handling of the NHS cuts during his time as Health Secretary - has been in Japan seeking trade agreements post-Brexit.
"Businesses need certainty, businesses in the UK as well as Japan need certainty. People want the issue resolved," he said.
It’s the sort of rhetoric that plays well into the Conservative psyche. And in a government that has failed to get anywhere near its promised ‘40 trade deals by Brexit’ aim, having Hunt talking business in Japan is a strong move.
He also said on Monday that Shamima Begum - the IS bride who is looking to return to the UK from Syria - should get legal aid.
The case has proved controversial. Yet press attention such as this sets Hunt up as a logical Tory, who plays by the rules but who can also reach out to the other side of the divide. The valuable sympathetic Conservative.
Capturing that centre ground has proved difficult in UK politics recently. And where Mr Hunt has an edge over the more right-wing leaning Johnson and Gove is that he could convince centrist voters to back him at the next general election.
He is far less knee-jerk than either Johnson or Gove, and his main rival in the leadership race could well be Dominic Raab, who Karamba have at 25/4 to be the next Tory leader and who doesn’t carry the collateral Hunt does from his time as Health Secretary.
Boris Johnson remains the 15/4 favourite with 10Bet to become the next Conservative leader.
He is playing his own game in Westminster but seems to have the ear of Tory backbenchers as much as voters. Johnson has played his Brexit card far greater than Gove and is now arguably the lead figure of those right of the Tory party.
Staying in power is what the decision makers in any political party think about most.
The Conservatives last weekend fell to a five-year low in the polls and work is well underway to have a new leader sourced and settled once Mrs May calls it quits.
Ian Duncan Smith still reckons that should happen soon, saying on Sunday: “She said she would go as and when the agreement was ratified, which was looking at around about May, June. I think those dates still stand.”
But Theresa May doesn’t appear to be leaving any time soon. And that’s why Coral have her priced at 6/1 to leave her position in the year 2020, instead of 2019.
For that to happen, the Brexit deadline would likely have to be set back a few months from October 31. But as we’ve already seen with Brexit, delaying the UK’s leave date from the EU is possible.
The EU agreed among its 27 other states to extend the Brexit deadline but there were hard words from France warning No Deal could always be an option.
Those who bet on politics may believe President Macron is bluffing on that threat but would UK politicians risk No Deal after all of this?
It seems as though the UK could well request an extension if Parliament again cannot agree to anything. And if that happens, the 6/1 price on Mrs May leaving in 2020 looks a tempting bet.
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