• Development Intelligence

The future of Boris (or lack thereof) and who’s next?

All governments eventually run out of steam. Thatcher did. Blair did. May did. (Cameron more accurately fell over a cliff edge). And typically, long running governments tend to run out of steam at around the 10-12 year point. It’s the natural cycle of things. Two terms in office tends to exhaust the ‘ideas bank’.

All governments get blamed for the problems that arise on their watch, whether fairly or unfairly. The longer you are in office, the more those problems pile up. The current cost of living crisis has little to do specifically with the Tories. It’s the same situation in every western country.

All governments get consumed by scandals, often of their own making. And Boris seems to have a magnetic attraction to the bullets he regularly fires into his own feet. We surely must be approaching the point when no more self-fired bullets can fit into his size 10s.

Boris is likely doomed…sometime

Remember the process to get rid of Boris has three steps: first, a simple confidence vote amongst Tory MPs; if he wins he cannot be challenged for 12 months, but if he loses then there’s a hustings process, again amongst just Tory MPs, where he and any other Tory MP can throw their hat into the ring. Those candidates are quickly whittled down to just two, via back to back revotes where the last placed drops out, and those final two are then put to a vote of all Tory Party members.

At some point, all things being equal, the requisite 50-odd Tory MPs will most likely have had enough and Boris will probably face a vote; poor election results (Wandsworth and Westminster, anyone?) or more partygate fixed penalty notices or a yet unknown drama or a combination of some or all of these and more, will likely end the blonde floorshow.

Boris's schtick has always been simple: ‘yes I am a rogue, but I win elections and reach voters other Tory politicians cannot reach.’ So when the second half of the previous sentence is no longer true, Boris’ time will be up.

And on a wider level you can see the grains of sand slipping through Tory fingers. There seems to be no discernible Government agenda, no coherent vision and no big idea. They ‘got Brexit done’, were then absolutely consumed for two years by Covid, have recently been completely distracted by various scandals, and are now being inevitably sucked into fighting the fire no government can put out, the cost of living crisis. You know a PM is doomed when they begin to enjoy foreign rather than domestic affairs too much, enjoying the accolades from foreign peoples and governments with streets being named after them in foreign capitals; it happened to Cameron in Libya and now Boris in Ukraine.

It's just a hunch, but the DI team cannot immediately conjure up a credible list of companies which will be queuing up to put the newly retired Boris on their boards. After dinner speaking, more journalism and yet more very bankable historical biographies seem to beckon.

How history will judge Boris is an interesting topic all of its own. The chancer? The gambler? The Brexit hero? The man who squandered an 80 seat majority? We will have to wait and see.

The next Tory leader

So who’s next? And this is the main problem for Tory backbenchers, as they survey the mediocre cadre of political Lilliputians they see before them, hence much of their reservation from pulling the rug from underneath Boris. An allegedly right wing headbanger like Truss seems too scary for some. She also has the whiff of Theresa May about her: much photogenic tough rhetoric wrapped around a charisma-less vacuum? Sunak and his non-dom problems have weakened his chances but in truth many Tories are sceptical about him anyway. He's about 12 ½, has been around Westminster a little less than 20 minutes and all he's done is give away taxpayers’ money. Is he really a Tory, they ask?

Our guess is that Javid or Hunt could possibly squeak through the middle, desperately grabbed onto by a slim majority of Tory members as a much-needed safe pair of hands after the chaos of the Boris era. It would be the re-enactment of the John Major compromise from the November 1990 Tory leadership contest.

However this plays out, it seems a reasonable assumption at this stage that the Tories will likely face into the next General Election with a new leader. The crucial questions are who will it be and can they win? Let’s see how this evolves…